Kinesis: Amazon's cloud opens to the Internet of things

Service for real-time data processing could be cloud giant's first steps toward Internet of things domination

The phrase "Internet of things" doesn't appear anywhere in the product description for Amazon's newly announced Kinesis service, which it describes as "a fully managed service for real-time processing of streaming data at massive scale." But the specter of IoT, which has been haunting IT for some time now (even if only in the form of a buzzword), is certainly looming large over Kinesis.

Amazon's description of Kinesis is pitched mainly at AWS customers who are looking for a way to capture and process live data. With it, Amazon promises, you can "build real-time dashboards, capture exceptions, and generate alerts, drive recommendations, and make other real-time business or operational decisions." The resulting data can also be piped into other Amazon services (S3, DynamoDB, Redshift) for storage and future crunching.

Kinesis is pitched as being scalable to need, "from megabytes to terabytes per hour," and like AWS, the standard use cases described by Amazon mostly revolve around existing business or IT-management models: log capture and analysis, financial transactions, social media ingestion for finding trends and sentiments, and so on. Pricing's based on a "shard rate," which is 1MB of ingestion and 2MB of egress, at 1.5 cents per hour. Put transactions to applications cost 2.8 cents per million.

All these use cases are valid right now. But Amazon has to be thinking about the future, and one of the most logical forward-thinking applications for Kinesis is the ingestion of raw data from any number of sensor-equipped devices in the wild, whether they be wearables like Google Glass, custom-made gizmos, or any number of other oddball applications.

If IoT means anything, it's about such a scenario -- with all of the headaches and false starts associated with it. (Haven't they been talking about the IoT for a good decade or more now?) One of the more sensible ways to bootstrap developers into that space is to find as many ways as possible to make cutting-edge offerings into something that can be used right here and now. Like IBM turning its Watson machine-learning system into a service that can be consumed and used generically, Kinesis doesn't have to start off as an IoT-specific item to become a pillar of someone's IoT strategy.

Another point that may give people pause -- even those who are already Amazon-centric -- is how Kinesis is tuned mainly for intake, not output. The Register has rather snidely referred to it as the "Hotel California of the cloud," with the company making money not only on the ingestion but also on the storage. It's apt to be logistically difficult to pipe the ingested data anywhere but Amazon.

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