Amazon Web Services is planning to launch a content delivery network, adding a name-brand low cost competitor to an already crowded sector. Amazon's entry figures to be bad news for the many venture-backed CDN startups seeking to challenge market leaders Akamai (AKAM) and Limelight (LLNW).
Amazon said the new service "will provide a high performance method of distributing content to end users, giving your customers low latency and high data transfer rates when they access your objects." There will be no minimum fees or commitments - a common practice for some CDNs - and users will pay only for what they use. The service will deliver files stored on Amazon's S3 storage service.
"This is an important first step in expanding the cloud to give developers even more control over how their applications and their data are served by the cloud," said Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, who said the service is in private beta but will be "widely available before the end of the year."
Amazon Web Services evangelist Jeff Barr explains how the service will work: "You will start by storing your content in an Amazon S3 bucket and then marking the content as publicly readable," Jeff writes. "Next you'll make a single API call to register the bucket. The call will return a domain name that you'll use to refer to your content in your web page or application. When clients request the object via the returned domain name they'll be routed to the nearest edge location, for high performance delivery."
Amazon's utility computing service has been used as a makeshift CDN since 2006. The new service offers only HTTP caching, which limits its competitive impact upon Akamai and Limelight, according to Dan Rayburn at the Business of Online Video.
"The offering won't support streaming, live broadcasting, or provide many of the other products and services that video content owners need," Dan writes. "While those are potential features that Amazon may offer down the road, the real story here is that Amazon is going to offer a high performance method of distributing content with low latency and high data transfer rates. The service will be cheap, rock-solid and targeted to the masses."
The Amazon CDN may prompt additional interest in the exact location of Amazon's data centers, a topic the company generally doesn't discuss. Amazon says only that the CDN will "use a global network of edge locations on three continents to deliver your content from the most appropriate location."