Amazon Web Services rolls out new features

Amazon Web Services has unveiled an array of software updates while the company's CTO talks about the strategy is uses to stay on top.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has outlined an array of new cloud features including the ability to access the management console across different accounts, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) spot instance termination notices, and some enhancements to GovCloud (in the US only).

Cross-Account Access in the AWS Management Console

Cross-Account Access is a new addition that should help when companies are using multiple accounts and multiple roles in AWS. According to the company it makes it easier to switch roles within the AWS Management Console.

Users can sign in as an Identity and Access Management (IAM ) user or go through single sign-on, then switch the console to manage another account without having to enter another user name and password. Amazon is hoping that this will lessen the complexity caused by multiple passwords and identities.

SQS Client Library for Java Messaging Service (JMS)

The Java Message Service (JMS) allows a pair of cooperating Java applications to create, send, receive, and read messages. The loose coupling of the JMS, "allows one part of the application to operate asynchronously with respect to the others," said AWS in a statement.

Now instead of having to stand up, maintain, and scale a multi-instance (for high availability) in JMS server cluster, AWS has now launched client library that implements the JMS 1.1 specification and uses Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) as the JMS provider.

Early Warning for Spot Instance Termination

EC2 Spot Instances and the EC2 Spot Market lets users place competitive bids on available EC2 instances and so committing themselves to pay what they are willing to pay to use an instance for an hour. As AWS explains, it is like a brokerage system that can be useful for the bigger jobs that are only temporary. If a customer bid exceeds the current spot price, instances run. When the spot price rises above what has been bid, the spot instance is reclaimed and given to another customer.

AWS says it has also improved the reclamation process with the addition of a two-minute warning before the instance shuts down, known as a Spot Instance Termination Notice.

Improved access for GovCloud

The GovCloud region (which is for US organisations only) now has access to Amazon Glacier, AWS CloudTrail, and Virtual Machine Import.

Glacier is for data archiving, or cold storage, that can be used for records storage. CloudTrail records calls made to AWS APIs in log files, used for compliance. VM Import lets you import VM images, for example a VMware ESX image, into EC2.

Of margins and flywheels

Meanwhile, the AWS CTO, Werner Vogels, let India's Businessworld into his strategy for keeping ahead of Amazon's rivals, pointed out that Amazon's market is one of high-volumes and low margins, the latter being something that the competition struggles to deal with.

"We are quite comfortable operating in such an environment because our experience in retail operations where margins are thin tells us that controlling the cost of infrastructure is essential," Vogels said. "We know how to operate on that scale."

But building a high-volume, low margin business is something anybody can do so, is Amazon so different? It seems so thanks to "flywheels". On the one hand, Vogels says, Amazon can "increase usage, which means the buyer buys more hardware and we get better economies of scale".

Then they add to that, "the efficiencies and innovations we are doing at our data centres and this allows us to get a complete lower price structure". So Amazon has decided to keep its margins low and hand the winnings back to its customers in the form of price reductions. "These flywheels have allowed us to reduce prices 45 times since 2006. We intend to continue going down the same path."

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