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AWS Cloud Storage Service Turns 10

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Simple Storage Service (S3) and the company is marking the occasion by noting some key milestones. In many ways, the launch of S3 on March 14, 2006 signaled the beginning of the cloud era.

Few IT professionals were aware at the time of the shift in computing that was about to take place. As Amazon saw it, storage and compute should have no limits in terms of capacity and scalability, and it should be accessible at much lower costs. "Amazon S3 is based on the idea that quality Internet-based storage should be taken for granted," Andy Jassy, AWS vice president, said at the time in the press release announcing S3's general availability. In the decade since its launch, Amazon claims S3 hosts trillions of objects and, at peaks, processes millions of requests per second.

The price for S3 storage when Amazon launched S3 was $0.15 per GB stored and $0.20 per GB for data transferred. Now S3 storage at $0.03 per GB per month costs 80% less, while its Glacier archival storage is available for less than a penny per month.

The EC2 compute service offering came five months after the launch of S3. Among some other milestones highlighted by the company was the launch of the AWS Management Console in January 2009, the Relational Database Service (RDS) later that year and the April 2012 introduction of the AWS Marketplace, which allowed for the purchase of preconfigured tools and applications. As of now the AWS Marketplace is divided into 35 categories with more than 2,500 software offerings from upwards of 800 ISPs.

Amazon for the first time broke out the revenues and earnings for AWS a year ago, claiming it was a $5 billion business. Although there are thousands of cloud providers throughout the world offering services of all types and scope, AWS still is the largest and leading cloud provider, with Microsoft Azure at No. 2 and Google in third -- the only other likely player that can rival the infrastructure the other two now offer.

Nevertheless, AWS maintains that edge and S3 is a key part of that. "At this point it's the widest, most used service, even in companies where a lot of people aren't aware they're using it just because it's such a simple obvious place to use the cloud," said Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, a market research firm.

A recent survey conducted by G2 found a higher customer satisfaction rating with S3 than Azure, Amazon's closest rival among enterprise customers. Customer satisfaction of S3 was 96 percent and EC2 91 percent, while Azure as a whole scored 83 percent, according to the survey.

Amazon S3 reviewers highlighted the product's price and availability were the key reason for using the service, according to the report. Respondents said their primary use of S3 is for hosting static Web pages, storing backup data, and syncing or sharing data across multiple locations. Among those saying why they like Azure (the entire service, not just storage), compatibility with Microsoft software, scalability, the availability of support, networking options and the ease of configuration and management were primary benefits of the offering.

AWS customers ranked S3 highest for availability, scalability and its overall data storage architecture, while the biggest issues they have with the offering are user management, configuration management and logging, according to the report. For Azure, customers gave it the highest marks for high availability, scalability and integration with Microsoft's Visual Studio development platform, while the biggest complains were with user and configuration management and Docker integration.

Fauscette acknowledged the differences in the way customers procure cloud services from the two companies. "When you're using AWS, you're making a specific decision around a specific offering like storage but with Microsoft you may not be making that explicit decision because you may have decided to buy the entire platform," he said. "It may simply be an awareness issue."

Naturally, it also depends on who is surveyed and by what measure. A technical comparison last year by storage service provider Nasuni of Azure Blog Storage versus S3 gave Microsoft's offering the edge.

Amazon and Microsoft were the only companies found by Gartner last year as leaders in its Magic Quadrant ranking, which said that Amazon's infrastructure services has a multi-year advantage over Azure. It'll be interesting to see how the two, and others, stack up this year.  

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/14/2016 at 12:34 PM


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