When we think “Amazon.com,” the first thing that comes to our mind is purchasing CDs, books, or clothes. But after reading the article Active in Cloud, Amazon Reshapes Computing, it began to change my perception of the company. Not only is it widely known for its online shopping service, but it is also becoming more and more “active in the cloud.” According to the article, the commonly known services that Amazon provides are soon to be a “footnote” compared to the company’s larger goal of giving the planet access to “an almost unimaginable amount of computing power.”
Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Take the New York Times, for example. Without using a byte of its own processing power, the newspaper company was able to provide free, fully searchable access to more than 15 million articles from 1851-1922. Instead of using their own data, The Times was able to outsource and store their data by renting storage space from Amazon. As Derek Gottfrid, New York Times senior software architect, says it best “if we had to do it internally, we probably wouldn’t have done it.” Not only does this save space and cut costs, but like Gottfrid said, it also makes things possible. Check out the video below on the potential and promising future of cloud computing:
The article Active in Cloud, Amazon Reshapes Computing, provides us with present day applications of how this technology is being used to benefit companies. One example that really struck me was a start-up company by the name of Climate Corporation. See what they do in this video:
One aspect of the company that is continuously mentioned is its immense amount of data. The near 10,000 simulations of the next two years’ weather that they perform for more than one million location in the US would be impossible to carry out without making a major investment in computers. And because it is such a major investment, this start-up company would not have been able to handle the costs. As a result, they turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and rented data storage and computer server time for significantly less money. Without it, Climate Corporation may not be able to assist thousands of farmers across the nation like it does today.
The article Active in Cloud, Amazon Reshapes Computing may, at first glance, give the readers a bug-free representation, but it fails to mention downfalls such as AWS outages. On techspot.com there was an article describing a recent outage that AWS had, resulting in several of today’s popular web destinations and services including Netflix, Reddit, and Pinterest. Although the outage only lasted for a few hours, it still resulted in these websites and services being shut down, frustrating their customers. It may not seem significant, but as an owner of Netflix, for example, it should be concerning, as a frustrated customer might go in search of another service.
More severely, I found an instance described on businessinsider.com where AWS had a more severe crash. This time, an AWS customer, Chartbeat, lost approximately 11 hours of historical data that was not recoverable as a result of the outage. Although they may have saved money by using AWS, there is no saving the data they lost, as this is the risk a customer has to take.
In conclusion, when we discuss cloud computing, it comes down to cutting costs versus security. As you can see with Climate Corporation, AWS saved them a significant amount of money whereas Chartbeat, who took the same approach, ended up permanently losing data as a result of an outage. Although the risk of losing data is low, it is evident that Amazon fails to properly back up data, no matter what they tell their customers. For this reason, the future for services like AWS is promising, but still a bit cloudy at this point.