So I went to the Victoria .NET Developers Association meeting last night, and their guest speaker was a dev evangelist from Amazon Web Services. That is not to say Amazon.com, but rather the computing services division that is the public face of the vast infrastructure that has been built over the years to support Amazon.com and its satellite businesses. Web Services now has a life of its own, and is attempting to move the goalposts closer together in the web computing game.
S3, or Simple Storage Service, houses data safely and securely across their distributed network. That doesn't sound very exciting until you start to realize how incredibly cheap, reliable and powerful it is compared to DIY data storage. As to cheap, 15 cents per GB per month, and 20 cents per GB to move data in or out. As to reliable, their network is so large the entire continent of North America would have to sink beneath the waves before your data was lost. Due to the fact that you do not rent space on any particular machine, you are not tied to a given machine's success or failure. Most larger organizations have a data center facility with backup, redundancy, and failover machines, but it's very expensive! As to powerful, bandwidth is very large, and there is literally no practical limit on the amount of data you can store. Terabyte? Sure. The speaker gave some examples of web businesses that had saturated either their SAN storage facility or their bandwidth, and removed the bottlenecks at a stroke by relying on S3 instead.
EC2, or Elastic Computing Cloud, is in beta, but will be something to watch. It's a web service that runs virtual server instances. As many as you want, for cheap: 10 cents per hour per instance. Again, all the benefits of S3 apply. At this point only Linux based virtual machines are supported, so I hope it opens up to Windows instances in the future. The speaker had a new webserver instance going in 10 minutes. Woah!
These services are really going to be hard to ignore, for both large and small web-based businesses. It's just so much power and convenience for so cheap.