'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. Amazon.com (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.

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