Amazon's much more than the "world's biggest bookstore" - its Amazon Web Services division has been offering flexible hosted application development for some time. And this week, Amazon Web Services launched what ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley calls a "pre-emptive strike" against Microsoft's forthcoming "Windows Cloud" operating system by adding Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server to its product portfolio.
Amazon's move to provide access to Windows Server and SQL Server is significant because it enables developers to have their choice of Linux-based or Windows-based development resources on what Amazon calls its "cost-effective, pay-as-you-go pricing model." Essentially, Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud service (also known as Amazon EC2) lets developers rent a virtual machine with varying amounts of disk space and transfer capabilities on an as-needed basis without the need to carve out space in a crowded server room or spend long-term dollars on a short-term requirement.
Amazon.com's Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels points to these benefits of offering Windows Server and SQL Server:
One particular area that customers have been asking for Amazon EC2 with Windows Server was for Windows Media transcoding and streaming. There is a range of excellent codecs available for Windows Media and there is a large amount of legacy content in those formats...many customers want to run ASP.NET websites using Internet Information Server and use Microsoft SQL Server as their database...several customers would like to maintain a global single Windows-based desktop environment using Microsoft Remote Desktop
A private beta of Amazon EC2's Windows offerings is available by request now, with general availability later this fall.
Will Amazon's "pre-emptive strike" steal the silver lining from "Windows Cloud?" Will Microsoft adjust its pricing and licensing strategies to counteract Amazon EC2? Whether you're a developer or a user, the answers to these and similar questions may have a big impact on the applications you'll be running in the not-too-distant future, how well they work, and how much they'll cost to build. What do you think? Hit the Comments button and tell us your thoughts.