Last night, Amazon launched their new HTTP based content delivery service, dubbed "CloudFront", as an unlimited public beta. While I'm sure many in the market are going to compare Amazon's new CDN offering to other CDNs like Akamai and Limelight, it's important to get the facts straight on what Amazon's CloudFront service does and does not offer.
Amazon will initially support HTTP only delivery out of a total of 14 worldwide locations with 8 in the U.S., 4 in Europe and 2 in Asia. Amazon's pricing for the new service starts at $0.17 per GB for content delivered in the U.S. and $0.21 per GB for content delivered in Asia. In addition to a per GB charge, Amazon also charges a fee of $0.01 per 10,000 requests for content in the U.S. and $0.012 per 10,000 requests outside the U.S.
When a customer reaches 150 TB of content delivery per month, Amazon's pricing drops to the lowest pricing tier at $0.09 per GB for U.S. delivered content and $0.13 per GB for content delivered in Asia. Much like the other AWS services, Amazon's new offering requires no contracts, no minimum commits and no overages. You simply sign up online with a credit card and pay for what you use.
Currently, the service comes with no SLA and customers are not credited for any outages. Customers don't have the ability to call any kind of support center to reach a live person as all support is provided via web forums and online, although premium AWS support can be purchased. The service supports only HTTP delivery today, meaning no streaming and no live broadcasting is possible. Customers don't have the ability to get raw logs as only usage reporting is offered via their dashboard. In addition, in order to use CloudFront, all customers must use Amazon's S3 service for storage.
For customers that need streaming, live broadcasting, have their own origin storage, need raw logs or want SLAs and human support options, Amazon's CloudFront won't be a fit. That being said, Amazon's offering is going to go over well with a large segment of the market who does not need streaming and are smaller sized customers that want to deliver all kinds of content, not just video. As with all of Amazon's AWS offerings, their goal is to design a service that is of interest to the widest possible segment of the market and sign up as many customers as possible.
If you follow the content delivery industry you have to love this new offering by Amazon for a few reasons. For starters, there are many different sized customers in the market who have very different needs. Major CDNs are not a fit for a lot of them and that's where regional streaming service providers have always been able to do well. But for customers who don't need streaming, Amazon provides another offering in the market. While many co-lo and hosting companies have already been offering such a service, most of them are not truly global and require contracts and commitment terms.
Amazon is helping to take content delivery, which has been around for more than ten years, and make it as simple as possible. The industry has the basic fundamental building blocks of encoding, storage and delivery and now needs to focus on building video applications that utilize these building blocks. More than ten years later, we should not be focusing on how bits should be stored and delivered, especially for smaller customers who aren't doing streaming, don't have HD video or in many cases, just want to deliver small objects without tons of traffic. For these customers, delivering content should not be rocket science and should be cheap and easy to use. That's the strength of what Amazon's service brings to the table and to a wide audience. And over time, one can only imagine the service will get even cheaper.
For now, Amazon's service won't have any impact on the major content delivery networks since they primarily focus on customers who need more than just delivery, have larger volumes of traffic and have more complex business problems to solve. That being said, Amazon has a history of constantly improving all of their AWS products over time and I could see Amazon adding more functionality, including streaming, further down the road. While Cloud Front could look like a very different product two years from now, its real strength today is that it is focused and limited in it's offering.