Live from nextMEDIA 2008: Digital Distribution for the Next Generation

In this interview-style session, Kurt Kratchman from Schematic Inc. will be chatting with Jeff Barr, Amazon.com’s web services evangelist. They’ll be focusing on cloud computing and other advanced distribution techniques. Three goals for the session: to provide some context about cloud computing, to share some stories about what’s out there and how people are using it, and finally to help introduce the community.

Notes from the introduction:

  • The trend has been from mainframe (one computer, many people) to the PC (one computer, one person) to cloud computing (many computers, one person). Individuals now have a staggering amount of power available to them.
  • An important piece for cloud computing is pervasive connectivity.
  • JB: The youngest generation effectively takes connectivity for granted. They look at a computer that’s not online and wonder "what’s the point?"
  • JB: Cloud computing is very large-scale, public access to shared resources.
  • KK: The Olympics this summer is going to stir up lots of conversation about cloud computing.
  • JB: The great thing about having resources in the cloud, is that you don’t have to worry about spikes. If you need more resources, you just ask the cloud for them.
  • Cloud Computing: Flexibility, Scalability, Reduced time to market, "outsourcing the muck"
  • JB: Let us deal with the dirty low-level work, and you focus on the higher level creative work.

Some case studies:

  • Animoto – Using Amazon’s EC2, they analyze music and photos that users upload to generate music videos.
  • Podango – They use S3 and EC2 for transcoding and storage of podcasts. Additionally, they dynamically generate podcasts with new ads on a daily basis.
  • SmugMug – Using both S3 and EC2, they store, resize, and otherwise manage user’s photos. They have about 500TB of photos in the cloud.
  • Cruxy – They offer band launches, so they host songs using S3, and use the cloud to power their service.
  • Mux Cloud – Developers are starting to build things in the cloud that other developers in the cloud can use. Mux Cloud is an example of this.
  • New York Times – They used EC2 to make their vast archives available over the web. Total cost (for the EC2 instances) was just $240.

Community – how do you get involved?

  • KK: The first thing is simply to visit the Amazon Web Services site.
  • JB: It’s really easy to get started. We have 370,000 developers in our community, largely as a result of how easy it is jump in.
  • KK: Some players in the space: AppSpin, Bitcurrent, Coghead, Elastra, Enomaly, Idee, Joyent, Red Hat support, RightScale, Ruby on Rails crowd. And also: Google Apps, IBM’s Blue Cloud, Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!
  • KK: Thunderheads for cloud computing: Going offline, stability, privacy, security, net neutrality, US Patriot Act. These are things that you’ll have to deal with.

Questions from the audience:

  • How does cloud computing affect streaming? JB – We have a lot of customers who are streaming from the cloud, such as Justin.TV. It’s certainly reducing the barriers to explore great ideas. Amazon is always focused on reducing costs, which will in turn make streaming cheaper than it is today.
  • Can you better explain the revenue model? JB – For any of our given services, we look at the dimensions of cost. With S3 for example, it’s the amount of data you store, the bandwidth you use to transfer it, and the requests you make to send and receive it. No minimum cost, you only get billed for what you use.
  • How do you see the competitive environment evolving? Other companies like Google, Microsoft, traditional hosts? JB – We’ll have a number of competitors over time, but Amazon is unique in the amount of customer focus it has. Amazon is also used to having high volume, low margin businesses. There’s at least another generation of change left in this industry though, it’s still early.
  • What happens when the cloud goes down? JB – The cloud itself has a variety of redundant mechanisms built in. For instance, with EC2 the resources are broken into zones. Our operational goal is zero downtime, of course.

You can find Jeff online at the Amazon Web Services blog, at his personal blog, and on Twitter. For more on Amazon Web Services, visit http://aws.amazon.com.