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Amazon, Microsoft introduce search as a cloud service

Amazon CloudSearch and Microsoft Bing vie to nail down search as an important category of service for cloud application developers.

Search moves to the forefront as a key component of cloud development, and the main competitors turn out to be Amazon and Microsoft rather than Google -- at least so far.

Unveiled this month, Amazon CloudSearch lets Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers create a Search Domain, upload data and start querying. An initial CloudSearch deployment can be up and running within an hour, according to Amazon.

CloudSearch continues AWS' clear trajectory toward enabling application developers.

Shlomo Swidler, CEO of Orchestratus Inc.

"CloudSearch continues AWS' clear trajectory toward enabling application developers," said Shlomo Swidler, CEO of Orchestratus Inc., in West Hempstead, N.Y., a cloud computing consultancy with extensive experience with AWS.

CloudSearch scales up or down automatically as the customers’ needs change when using a pay-as-you-go model; prices range from $0.12 per hour for a small search instance to $0.68 per hour for a much larger instance. AWS said developers can deploy a fast, robust search capability in their applications for less than $100 per month.

Meanwhile, Microsoft announced a change in its cloud search strategy. The Bing Search applications programming interfaces (API) will transition to a subscription service available on the Windows Azure Marketplace over the next few months, according to a post on the Bing Developer blog.

Developer subscriptions will start at $40 per month for up to 20,000 searches. Bing Search API 2.0 is currently in testing and will be free for the next several months.

"I’m sure Microsoft intends that paid Bing search will be directly competitive with both Amazon and Google search, but the paid version isn’t available yet," said Roger Jennings, a Windows Azure MVP and developer.

Amazon’s specialized search engine 
CloudSearch uses the same technology that's sites use. In fact, anywhere an site presents a search capability, CloudSearch is at work.

"With the rise of the app developer culture, there is an increasing number of consumer data sources that cannot be simply queried with a Web search engine," wrote Amazon CTO Werner Vogels in a blog post. "Using specialized ranking functions, these apps can give their customers a highly specialized search experience."

I’m sure Microsoft intends that paid Bing search will be directly competitive with both Amazon and Google search, but the paid version isn’t available yet.

Roger Jennings, Windows Azure MVP and developer

That includes hardware and software provisioning, setup and configuration, software patching and data partitioning.

"There are many organizations [that] have data they want to index and search and don’t want to set up any infrastructure [on-premises] to deal with it," said Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software at analyst firm IDC in Framingham, Mass. This allows them to leverage Amazon resources and pay incrementally as they use them, Hilwa said.

Additionally, customer administration can be performed via the AWS management console, through CloudSearch APIs or by using command-line tools.

The two companies' nearly simultaneous announcements illustrate the growing importance of search in cloud applications, users said.

"CloudSearch can power searches for application-specific data, such as books in a library, products in a catalog or flights in a database," Swidler said. "Application builders can now easily deliver that kind of power to their users without constructing and operating it themselves."

Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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