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Amazon Speeds Content Delivery Network

On-demand dynamic content service with flat-rate pricing may give Amazon's CloudFront an advantage against players including Akamai, Dell, and Microsoft.

Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality
Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality
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Amazon Web Services is about to give CloudFront a leg up in the competition with other content distribution networks (CDNs) by enabling distribution of dynamic content that responds to an individual visit to a website.

It is also an on-demand service with flat pricing, resembling other Amazon Web services, while many CDNs work only under long-term contracts. AWS will charge $0.12 per GB for the first 10 TBs of dynamic content delivered each month. The price drops to $0.08 per GB for the next 40 TBs, eventually reaching $0.02 per GB for transfer above 5 PBs.

CDNs typically distribute a website's static content--images, documents, and Web objects used on pages--to servers located in population centers around the world. The servers are tapped when they are close to user request locations and can respond quickly, minimizing distance latencies and holding frequently accessed content in server cache.

Amazon has CDN servers in 30 locations around the world, according to information on its website, a smaller number that the leading commercial CDN suppliers, such as EdgeCast, Akamai, and CDNetworks. Akamai Technologies, for example, claims it can reach 90% of Internet users with only one hop from its extensive content delivery network servers.

[ Learn how Dell and EdgeCast are pushing CDNs. See Dell, EdgeCast Shake Up Content Delivery Networks. ]

Amazon is adding value to its CloudFront CDN, however, by adding dynamic content distribution. Its EC2 compute cloud frequently serves as a hosting service to companies' websites. By establishing an on-demand, dynamic content service between the website and its CDN network, it's speeding delivery of visitor interactions between websites and its CDN server locations.

Amazon CloudFront works seamlessly with dynamic applications running in Amazon EC2. It doesn't require any coding or proprietary configurations, said Tal Saraf, AWS's general manager for CloudFront, in an announcement Monday.

Amazon has recently sought to increase the appeal of the service in other ways. It's added the ability to stream digital content to iOS devices, such as the Apple iPhone and iPad, and to x86 computers running Microsoft's Silverlight.

In addition to commercial suppliers, such as Akamai and newcomer Dell, Microsoft also offers a content delivery network, Windows Azure CDN.

The pay-as-you go nature of the cloud makes ROI calculation seem easy. It’s not. Also in the new, all-digital Cloud Calculations InformationWeek supplement: Why infrastructure-as-a-service is a bad deal. (Free registration required.)

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