Well known as being the pioneer for cloud computing services, Amazon has released the beta version of its latest initiative -- a content delivery network. Amazon's CloudFront CDN is cheap enough that SMB web publishers are now able to serve their more popular content to their customers quickly and easily.
CloudFront is Amazon's web service-based content delivery service. It is integrated with Amazon's other services such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and is a no-commitment way for businesses to distribute their content to their end users.
When we first brought you the news, this new CDN hadn't yet been named. Werner Vogels, CTO for Amazon.com cited the benefits of their CDN as being: cost effective, easy to use, efficient and interoperable.
The new CDN is primarily targeted at small to medium sized businesses and developers who can't afford, and don't necessarily need, the more well-known, expensive CDNs like Akamai and Limelight.
CloudFront Does Not Stand Alone
So how does the CloudFront CDN work? Well, for starters:
* You use an Amazon S3 bucket to store your original files
* Create a distribution to register your bucket with CloudFront (all through an API call)
* Use the distribution's domain name in your web pages. Users who request an object with this domain name are then routed to the nearest edge location for delivery of the content
In all other cases, Amazon S3 is recommended for storing content. CloudFront can also be integrated with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), where you would serve your dynamic content on a web server in EC2 and store frequently accessed static cloud through CloudFront.
The good news is you only pay for the data transfer and requests you actually use. This is the standard model for Amazon services and a good reason to look seriously at this new offering.
The data transfer rates are different for each location -- US, Hong Kong, Europe and Japan. A quick look at the US Edge location costs shows transfer rates start at $0.170 per GB for the first 10 TB data transfer out per month and slowly decreases from there. Requests will run you US$ 0.010 per 10,000 GET requests.
Europe has the same pricing for data transfers, but cost a little more for requests. Hong Kong and Japan pricing is a little higher, but not that much.
In addition to paying for transfers and requests, normal fees will apply for Amazon S3 usage (which include the "origin fetches" transfered to the edge locations).
How Will Amazon Fare Against the Competition
New to the content delivery game, Amazon comes up against some big name players like Akamai and Limelight, and some smaller, lesser known providers such as EdgeCast Networks, Velocix Accelerator, Softlayer and Voxel. It's entirely possible that Amazon may drive these smaller CDNs completely out of business.
ReadWriteWeb's Frederic Lardinois wrote that "With this new service, Amazon is going up against a number of established companies, including Akamai and Limelight, which are almost synonymous with content delivery.... Just like Amazon's S3 and E2 shook up the market for online storage and cloud computing, this new CDN solution will surely drive down the prices for content delivery."
You can learn more about Amazon CloudFront and get started with an account right here.
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