"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway," said famed computer scientist Andrew Tanenbaum, way back in the early days of worldwide networking. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) would agree even today.
After hearing repeated complaints from customers on the sluglike experience of uploading multiple terabytes of data to their Amazon cloud-computing accounts, Amazon has launched a beta service that lets you send in a data-packed hard drive by mail.
As anachronistic as that may sound, it takes days to upload very large data sets even over a very fast, business-grade Internet connection. And for a small business with e-commerce aspirations, a single terabyte of digital video or product information can suck up two weeks of transfer time. Better, then, to stick a hard drive or seventy into a FedEx (Nasdaq: FDX ) or UPS (NYSE: UPS ) package and overnight it to Amazon's drop-ship centers, where it'll take about five hours to commit the data to an S3 storage bucket.
One terabyte isn't the outlandishly massive storage space it once was. You can walk down to the local Best Buy (Nasdaq: BBY ) and have your pick from consumer-friendly portable drives with terabyte capacity for less than $150. Incidentally, one of those would be just fine for shipping data off to Amazon. Or you can pack up a 50-lb rack-mount full of disks or tape drives if your data store is truly massive. And yes, Amazon will send the drive back when the data dump is done.
Amazon Import/Export is still just in private beta, meaning that customers have to ask for permission to use it. And right now, it's just an import service -- dumping information the other way around will come later, according to Amazon's press materials. It's a clear-sighted move by a company that is clearly invested in becoming a major force in the young, burgeoning cloud computing market -- and also happens to be very experienced at shipping physical products left and right.
Not even huge and well-respected tech giants like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) can claim that particular set of qualifications with a straight face. IBM (NYSE: IBM ) might be the closest rival when it comes to mailing huge data sets -- it's a standard practice in disaster recovery operations, where IBM is a large outsourcing provider. But the Blue Cloud is nowhere near the early market reach of Amazon's S3 and EC2.
Never underestimate the business value of an IT infrastructure cloud hurtling down the Information Superhighway. Amazon's cloud computing services are the real deal.