Amazon plugs A9 search into its AWS cloud

CloudSearch is for developers who want to build applications with search features without having to develop the ranking algorithms or manage the infrastructure that usually underpins search, according to Amazon

Amazon Web Services has wired a search service into its cloud, helping developers to build applications that can mine large datasets and feed results back to users or other pieces of software.

The Amazon CloudSearch technology provides a fully-managed, scalable search service based within the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. Launched on Thursday, it will initially be available from the company's main datacentre hub, US East, Amazon announced in a blog post.

"With the rise of the app developer culture, there is an increasing number of consumer data sources that cannot be simply queried with a web search engine," Werner Vogels, Amazon's chief technology officer, wrote in his own blog post on Thursday. "Using specialised ranking functions, these apps can give their customers a highly specialised search experience."

The service lets developers upload JSON or XML documents into a 'search domain', which scales according to the size of the data and the demand placed on it. CloudSearch automatically indexes the search data and stores the resulting index in RAM to make searches more responsive.

"Almost every application these days needs some form of search, and as such, every developer has to spend significant time implementing it," Vogels said. "With Amazon CloudSearch, developers can now simply focus on their application and leave the management of search to the cloud."

CloudSearch is based on the A9 technology that underpins the product search on Amazon's retail site. It supports customisable relevant ranking, alphabetic or numeric sorting, various text-processing options, free text, structured data and Boolean search. It can be accessed by either the command line or the web-based AWS management console.

The technology will compete with the open-source IndexTank and Apache Solr search technologies, as well as with Microsoft's own Bing search service, which was made available on the company's Windows Azure cloud on Thursday.

With Amazon CloudSearch, developers can now simply focus on their application and leave the management of search to the cloud.

– Werner Vogels, AWS

However, Bing searches what is already on the web, while AWS CloudSearch lets developers upload their own datasets.

Prices for the AWS service are set according to the size of the rentable virtual computer — 'instance' — used to search, the amount of documents uploaded, the number of requests made to index documents and overall data transfer. The instances are available in three types — small, large and extra large — and cost $0.12 (£0.07), $0.48 and $0.68 per hour, respectively.

Over time, Amazon is expected to expand the service beyond the US East datacentre hub to other regions, as it has done with other AWS technologies. Rumours of CloudSearch first emerged in reports from Pandodaily in mid-January.

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