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Amazon claims 400,000 web services users

An industry insider close to Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) business unit told us the company claims to have 400,000 customers using its web services offering.

AWS includes EC2, the compute-on-demand offering, S3, the hosted storage service, SimpleDB for hosted databases, Simple Queue Service (SQS) a communication channel for developers to store messages and CloudFront, which is a content delivery network.

Amazon has not publicly discussed much detail about its customers and how they are using AWS. For instance, of these 400,000 users, how many are using EC2 and S3, just S3 or just EC2? Is anyone using SimpleDB or CloudFront yet? How many of these users were one-time customers? My hunch is that 400,000 number includes any customer that has touched AWS regardless of whether they are still using it.

In conversations with IT users, it’s clear they are interested in these services, but need more reference cases on how to use it. A great success story goes a long way.

During a webinar on cloud computing today, James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research said enterprises need more transparency from EC2 to show that it can meet SLAs. “The predictability [of the service] is not good enough for business,” he said, noting that EC2 had two lengthy outages in 2008.  Small businesses and gaming and entertainment companies are the biggest adopters of EC2, he said. The former can’t afford to build their own datacenters, while gaming and movie companies require extra infrastructure around the release of new games and movies, which can be setup and torn down as needed.

Staten said enterprises are using cloud services like EC2 for R&D projects, quick promotions, partner integration and colloboration and new ventures.  He called for more companies to share how they are using these services and recommended that IT shops begin to experiment with it.  Staten suggested endorsing one to two clouds as “IT approved” and establishing an internal policy for using these services. He urged IT organizations to let cloud providers know what you want and what’s more important to you? Secure enterprise links, standards, SLA expectations, levels of support (24/7 phone support, for example)? My guess would be all of the above. If you’d rather, I can hammer on the vendors, so let me know.

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