As Amazon's cloud continues to grow, the company is investing in real-world brick-and-mortar data centers to provide additional capacity. The retail/infrastructure company recently leased a 110,000 square foot property in northern Virginia to expand its data center footprint.
The additional space will help accommodate dramatic growth for Amazon Web Services, the suite of services that allow companies to run their applications on Amazon's infrastructure and pay based on usage. More than 500,000 developers are now using AWS, and Amazon's S3 storage now houses more than 50 billion objects.
Northern Virginia has always been a key market for Internet infrastructure. But the data center expansion may also reflect Amazon's ambitions to host cloud applications for the federal government. Last week Amazon's AWS Federal unit held training sessions for IT contractors who already have relationships with federal customers.
While other cloud builders like Facebook add computing capacity by leasing turn-key "wholesale" data center space to save time and money, Amazon is building out its own infrastructure in its new facility in northern Virginia. It's not clear whether the timing of Amazon's equipment purchases will allow the company to qualify for the newly-passed financial incentives for data centers in Virginia. The state recently enacted a new law providing a sales tax exemption for companies that buy or lease at least $150 million in computer equipment between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2020 for use in a data center.
Amazon buys a large volume of servers to support its cloud computing operations. It was the top customer for Rackable Systems/SGI in 2008, buying more than $86 million of the company's cloud-optimized servers and storage.
Amazon is known to already operate a major East Coast data center in Ashburn, Virginia. The company has disclosed that it has U.S. data centers in Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark (N.J.), Palo Alto, Seattle and St. Louis. The company also has international data center operations in Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Amazon revealed those locations as part of its CloudFront content delivery network (CDN).
Amazon is also reportedly planning a large data center in Boardman, Oregon near the banks of the Columbia River, joining Google in harnessing the region’s cheap energy resources to power huge cloud computing data centers.
The expansion of its data center infrastructure is important for Amazon to manage its growth an provide redundancy for customers who want to spread their files across several data centers. Amazon offers "availability zones" that allow developers to store a copy of their site or application at a second location in case a data center is knocked offline - which happened last week when a lightning strike damaged the power distribution system at an Amazon facility, knocking EC2 customers offline for about four hours.