Amazon Beefs Up Its Cloud Offerings

Bringing a new level of sophistication and scalability to its cloud computing services, Amazon (AMZN) said it will offer a relational database and increased memory options to its popular Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service. The Web retailer also plans to cut prices on the per-hour fees it charges for its cloud services.

Coming a few weeks before Microsoft (MSFT) releases its new Azure cloud computing service, Amazon’s moves put the two tech giants on a collision course in the cloud. They also allow businesses to offload complicated database management tasks in the same way that many are offloading telephony and communications management to cloud providers.

The Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) “is a Web service that makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud,” wrote Amazon CTO Werner Vogel on his blog, “All Things Distributed.” “Amazon RDS handles all the ‘muck’ of relational database management freeing up its users to focus on their applications and business.”

Relational databases use easily understood attributes and characteristics to organize items within a data set. For instance, a database of sales calls can be grouped by the date of each call, the type of customer, the value of the sale, and so on. While they are highly useful to many types of businesses, these sophisticated systems are difficult to scale up and require IT expertise that many companies lack.

Available in multiple sizes, Amazon RDS can manage up to 1 terabyte of data. As with all of the company’s cloud offerings, there are no upfront fees and customers pay only for the resources they consume.

At the same time, Amazon is cutting its hourly fees for Linux and Windows servers on EC2. Starting Nov. 1, Linux-based prices will fall to 8.5 cents per hour, from 10 cents an hour, while Windows Server instances will drop from 12.5 cents to 12 cents an hour.

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