Amazon Web Services—which undergird Netflix, Healthcare.gov, and Spotify—might be the single most important piece of technology to the modern tech boom.
Most probably know AWS better as “those servers that run Netflix and Instagram.”
Specifically, AWS lets companies buy powerful hosting hardware efficiently and on-demand, whenever they’re needed to handle traffic, store video, or even powers a database. In many ways, AWS is the piece of infrastructure that’s enabling the current application boom. The only other technology even comparably close in scope of impact, is the smartphone.
The current tech climate runs on scaling a product to as many users as possible, almost instantaneously. Amazon Web Services, and systems like it, is what fuels that fast growth. The normally significant equipment costs of servers, cables, hard drives, and power supplies have been abstracted away. Teams of entrepreneurs and coders now think of computing power as an on-demand resource, while the physical data centers they’re actually using sit far away in Virginia or Oregon.
Since launching nine years ago, when it was the only cloud hosting service of its kind, AWS has dominated the market. You can get an idea of the vastness of AWS, but it’s hard to get a sense of the true importance of the service.
• AWS provides the backbone that allows Netflix stream billions of hours of movies and TV shows, so that the modern habit of unplanned binge-watching is made possible.
• AWS is what kept Paper Mag’s servers from not breaking when Kim Kardashian almost broke the Internet.
• When Healthcare.gov was being revamped, large portions of it’s architecture were moved to AWS.
• Spotify hosts its music on the company’s cloud storage service, S3. The ability to listen to any album, whenever, at work or home; made possible by AWS.
• In 2015, the CIA moved the majority of its computing power to a custom AWS setup.
Although the scope of size and importance of AWS is monumental, those services and resources are continuously growing. According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon now adds computing power on a daily basis which is equivalent to its entire capacity just 10 years ago.