How Amazon is expanding its infrastructure empire and why it matters

There's a reason 1% of all Internet traffic goes through Amazon servers, and this week the company has expanded its web services even further.
Written by Mari Silbey, Contributor

Amazon knows that to capture a mass market, it has to offer services that are both useful and dead simple to use. Most consumers are familiar with that approach when it comes to ordering Amazon products online, but the Internet giant has applied the same strategy to cloud-based business services. Yesterday the company announced an update to its CloudFront delivery network, and with the addition of new content acceleration features, Amazon is proving once again that it has the ability to disrupt markets not just in the physical world, but in virtual space as well.

The Amazon update from yesterday adds acceleration of dynamic content to the CloudFront content delivery network (CDN) offering. In brief, that means that Amazon CloudFront customers can now speed up delivery of website objects that do more than just appear on a page in one unchanging form. As an example, think of a widget that shows real-time weather conditions. It’s more difficult to accelerate delivery of that weather widget than it is to speed up delivery of a static image.

Initially, Amazon’s entrance into dynamic content delivery probably won’t create tectonic market shifts. However, the sheer ease of Amazon’s offering means it should seduce more people into using acceleration services to improve website performance.

To give you a sense of just how easy Amazon’s service is, let me recount the demo I saw yesterday at the Content Delivery Summit hosted as part of the Streaming Media East show in New York City. Over the course of about five minutes, the senior manager of Amazon Web Services Alex Dunlap showed how a customer could set up distribution for both static and dynamic objects – using different server origins and distribution names for each – and then combine them both on a single HTML page. Literally the whole demo involved filling out a few online form fields. It took only a handful of minutes to complete, and it was dead simple.

Now here’s why this news is important, and why it’s not just a business story (lest my editor come down too hard on me for my topic of choice here), but one that impacts everyone in the Internet age. As our world becomes more about moving things around on the web, the people that control web infrastructure will increasingly be the ones with power. Like railroads and electric utilities, the Internet is a critical underlying layer to the economy, communications, culture and more. With its latest move, Amazon has taken yet another step in expanding its infrastructure empire, and thus its potential impact on all aspects of society.

To put this news in further perspective, consider a study done recently by DeepField Networks. DeepField Networks found that 1% of all Internet consumer traffic on average is coming from or going to Amazon managed infrastructure.

The Internet is increasingly controlled by a small and select group of infrastructure providers. Amazon continues to make sure it has a top spot in that group.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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