Amazon stresses cloud opportunities for developers

EclipseCon event also features introduction of a plugin linking Amazon's cloud with Eclipse's platform

Cloud computing and opportunities it presents for application developers were stressed Wednesday by Amazon and a user of its cloud service during a presentation at the EclipseCon 2009 conference.

Amazon at the Santa Clara, Calif. conference also revealed software enabling development of cloud applications via the Eclipse platform.

[ Find out what's different about developing cloud apps. ]

With cloud computing, software providers need not worry about infrastructure issues, such as varying need for compute cycles and storage, said Peter Vosshall, vice president and distinguished engineer at Amazon. "We take care of that for you," Vosshall said.

The AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform features services such as Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) for developers to build and deploy cloud applications and S3 (Simple Storage Service) for Internet-based storage.

AWS features a pay-as-you-go model, said Vosshall. "You pay for what you're using rather than having a whole datacenter full of servers," and paying for unused capacity, he said. Capabilities like bandwidth management, server hosting, financing, and negotiating long-term contracts become much simpler via cloud services, Vosshall stressed.

"At the end of the day, developers, whether you're in a startup or working in a big enterprise, you want to deliver stuff," Vosshall said.

By resorting to supplying their own infrastructure, developers either can overestimate what they need or, even worse, underestimate, he said.

An official with AWS user SmugMug, an online video and photo-sharing site, cited successes with Amazon services. SmugMug processes more than 40 terapixels a day and has peaks at times, such as Christmas, which must be accommodated, said Don MacAskill, CEO at SmugMug.

"We need to scale up and down a lot," MacAskill said. SmugMug even enjoys such benefits as not having to depreciate and amortize hardware purchases, he said. Updating software is easy, he added. The only issue MacAskill raised pertaining to AWS was it takes a minute or two to add instances.

"We're huge fans of Amazon Web Services and wouldn't be able to build our business the way we have without it," MacAskill said.

An attendee at EclipseCon saw cloud computing as a boon for startups. "This definitely opens up all kinds of opportunities for small startups," said Mike Coon, senior technical staff member at consulting firm Proteus Technologies. "You don't have to worry about your infrastructure in your datacenter going down."

Developers at large enterprises also could benefit, he said. "I think it’s a great opportunity to prototype some ideas without having to interact with your own IT center and try to get dedicated resources for something you're trying to build," Coon said.

S3 and EC2 were launched in 2006 and have had a steep growth curve, Vosshall said. S3, for example, stored 800 million objects in 2006 and now stores 40 billion objects.

"At one point, we were spending more bandwidth to serve AWS customers than retail customers," he said.

Amazon also announced at the event the release of the initial version of AWS Toolkit for Eclipse, a plugin for Eclipse targeted for Java developers. "The goal of the toolkit is to make it easier to build applications in the cloud on the AWS platform," said Jason Fulghum, software development engineer at Amazon.

The toolkit leverages both the core Eclipse IDE and the Eclipse Web Tools Platform.