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Amazon Web Services/YouTube
in the cloud

Here's the major section of Amazon you mightn't know about

While online retail is the main focus of Amazon’s success, its cloud enterprise services (AWS) is playing a increasingly important role in the company’s development and expansion.

WHEN YOU THINK of Amazon, the first things that will likely come to mind would involve online shopping, kindles, and maybe even drones.

Yet one area that may not have been known about is its web services (AWS) for developers. If you’re just a regular consumer, then it’s unlikely you would have come across it, but it already plays a major role in the company’s fortunes.

Having been around since 2006, Amazon’s cloud-based service has been developing rapidly since then. While covering everything it offers would take a while, the term ‘web’ now being an incredibly broad term being one reason, it adds enough server capacity that would have supported Amazon when it was a $7 billion enterprise every day (it’s currently worth over $150 billion).

In short, it’s a part of Amazon’s empire that’s continues to grow in importance with some analysts expecting it to be worth $50 billion alone by 2015.

Amazon Web Services / YouTube

How it got to this point was down to a number of factors, but for AWS’ Managing Director for the UK and Ireland Ian Gavin, providing a range of choice to developers and companies is a key feature.

“AWS is really a developer business,” says Gavin. “It really doesn’t matter who you talk to or the size of a company… because there’s a choice there, they can decide what they want to do.

While AWS covers a broad amount of services, one of the big draws is its flexibility, particularly its auto-scaling capabilities.

Certain sites, such as online retailers, would have peak traffic hours, meaning to deal with the surge, they would have to ensure that capacity is high enough to support traffic. However, once the surge is over, only a small amount of that capacity is used for the rest of the day, resulting in an inefficient and expensive system.

Since Amazon’s services are cloud-based, it can scale capacity to match both peaks and lulls. This is useful for those services who experience unforeseen spikes in traffic and still be able to cope with it, but more importantly, it allows those companies who are upscaling rapidly to match demand without having to worry about problems further down the line.

“You need to satisfy that demand, and you have to scale dramatically and then come back down when you don’t need it anymore.” explains Gavin. “People built up a lot of infrastructure to deal with those peaks, but the vast majority of time, they don’t need that so it’s an inefficient way of looking at it.”

Giving what the customers want

This is especially true in the case of startups, which can go through periods of mass upscaling and can change strategy without much friction.

One of the advantages startups have is that, in Gavin’s own words, they are “starting from a clean sheet… [they] can try things out very easily with us and if it doesn’t work, you blow it away, you stop using it and you stop paying for it. That’s a different mentality from say an enterprise [whose development can be rigid].”

While AWS knows the direction it wants to go in, the majority of changes made come from customer feedback. While no two companies are the same, working with both startups and entrerprises allows them to figure out what’s needed and what can be improved.

Essentially, it’s a customer-focused system that’s gives the people what they want, similar to its online retail service

“It’s not my opinion that counts, it’s the customers.” says Gavin. “I could go in and say ‘we should do this’ and I’ll get no milage at all. Now if I went in and said ‘I got this feedback from customer A, B, C, D, and E and this is the problem they’re facing,’ I’d get the attention.”

For now, the aim is to continue improving the service and adding new capabilities for businesses. In 2013, AWS rolled out 280 new features and services. Since the end of May this year, it’s already seen 182 new features rolled out suggesting that things are only going to get busier as time progresses.

Read: Amazon enters music streaming market by launching Prime Music >

Read: The transport watchdog is worried about car-sharing app Wundercar – should you be? >

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