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Amazon Rides Google's Coattails

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'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.
From "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll

The confounding world of high technology is enough to drive a nervous man distracted, to paraphrase Moby-Dick. (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) thinks that the MapReduce technology that was invented at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is good enough to build a moneymaking service on. How come Google didn't think of that first?

MapReduce is a fancy way of dividing a very large computing task into smaller bites. Those chunks are then handed out to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers that handle the actual number-crunching. Amazon notes that MapReduce is handy for "web indexing, data mining, log file analysis, machine learning, financial analysis, scientific simulation, and bioinformatics research," among other things.

The technology has been a vital part of Google's own Web-mapping efforts for years. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) powers its own search engine with the open-source Hadoop application -- a straightforward third-party implementation of the MapReduce concept -- and Hadoop also runs Amazon's new service.

People have been running their own Hadoop operations on Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) for a while. The official MapReduce service simplifies the setup greatly and cuts the processing costs to just 15% of the fees to lease full EC2 instances for the same workload.

IBM's (NYSE: IBM  ) Blue Cloud runs Hadoop, too. This technology is growing serious muscle, and seems very popular with developers. Google's AppEngine is nice, but doesn't offer anything like Hadoop -- whose architecture, as I recall, was originally derived from work done at Google.

Google falling behind?
All of this has to be highly exasperating for Google fans and shareholders. At least Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Azure cloud isn't ahead in the MapReduce/Hadoop game. Yet.

It's a different story from Amazon's perspective, of course. The online retailer is rapidly becoming the go-to name in serious cloud computing, and this service is yet another bright feather in its cap.

Web services may not make Amazon much money today, but at this rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see Amazon eventually becoming a technology vendor first and a retailer second. Stranger and dumber things have happened.

More mimsy Foolishness:

A tale of three newsletters: Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Anders wants a Beowulf cluster of MapReduce clouds, and he gyres in frabjous joy over National Poetry Month. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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