Amazon has floated another cloud over the western United States, opening a collection of Oregon data centers that serve up its Amazon Web Services.
The company already offers AWS from data centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the Oregon region will offer lower prices and may provide better speeds when application running atop the services are accessed by users in the Pacific Northwest. AWS is essentially a collection of online services where businesses and independent developers can build and host applications without setting up their own physical infrastructure.
With the additional of the Pacific Northwest, Amazon now offers AWS in four regions across the US and three more in other parts of the world, including Ireland, Japan, and Singapore. Each region operates independently of the others, and each is divided into multiple “availability zones” designed not to fail at the same time. The idea is that if you run your application across multiple zones, it can ride out an Amazon service outage.
These availability zones are essentially separate data centers, according to Amazon vice president of marketing, sales, and support Adam Selipsky. “Each region is a cluster of data centers,” he tells Wired. “And you can think of an availability zone as mapping one-to-one to a data center — though that’s not one hundred percent accurate. Zones are essentially a series of facilities that operate together in a region. They’re close enough together to have low latency connections for things like databases, but far enough apart that they fail independently of one another.”
In Japan, for instance, the company has placed its data centers in different earthquake fault zones.
There are cases, however, where failures can spread into multiple zones. This happened — briefly — during an outage that hit Amazon’s “East Region” in Virginia this past spring. “Any time we detect a factor — something in the software, for example — that would affect multiple availability zones, we get to work on factoring that down into just one zone,” Selipsky says. “[The outage in the spring] primarily affected only one zone, but there was a period of a few hours where there were some effects across multiple zones.”
The company has opened multiple availability zones in Oregon, and Seplisky says that the price of services in this region will be lower than what you get in the company’s existing Northern California Region, which is anchored by data centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Given costs around [the Bay Area], the Northern California Region is more expensive than what we offer on the east coast,” he explains. “One of the reasons we opened the Oregon region is provide lower costs for those who want to use a region in the West.”
In using a Western region, you can provide users with faster access to your applications — in some cases. Speed improvements will vary depending on the application, Selipsky says.
Currently, the Oregon region offers Amazon’s base infrastructure services — including its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which provides virtual servers, and its Simple Storage Service (S3), which serves up storage space — but it also includes services that run atop this base, including a relational database service built using the open source MySQL.
Cade Metz is the editor of Wired Enterprise. Got a NEWS TIP related to this story -- or to anything else in the world of big tech? Please e-mail him: cade_metz at wired.com.