Amazon (AWS) Data Centers: Leading the Way


History of Amazon Data Centers

When discussing data centers of the world's largest companies, it is literally impossible not to mention Amazon first. In 2006, Amazon launched a sister company Amazon Web Services, or AWS, and dedicated it entirely to cloud computing. AWS has since become one of the most successful Amazon projects, generating $10 billion in annual sales, which is about one-tenth of Amazon's entire revenue. The company currently occupies more than one-third of the world's data center market. Even more impressive, AWS was the first modern cloud infrastructure company on the market. The fact that Amazon prepared for the launch for several years might be a contributing factor to AWS's success. 

Currently, AWS has the most extensive infrastructure out of cloud computing service providers. It appears that approximately 33 percent of all daily Internet usage comes from the websites operating from AWS data centers, but market share continues to grow. 

Customer Base Of AWS

The main principle of AWS's work is that it sells computing services and processing power to other companies. This spares businesses from purchasing their own hardware. Some of the top customers of AWS data centers include Airbnb, Netflix, LinkedIn, Facebook, BBC, Reddit, ESPN, Adobe, Twitter, Twitch, Imgur, Pinterest, HTC, BMW, Dow Jones, Nokia, and Quora. Netflix, for instance, uses AWS data hubs to store most of its backend infrastructure. Some of the less conventional AWS customers include the UK Ministry of Justice, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory ran by NASA.

AWS makes starting a business significantly cheaper, which allows companies to grow at a very fast pace. Despite the high quality of AWS services, over-reliance on the companies on Amazon data centers may be contributing to some conflicts between business competitors. For instance, there may be a conflict of interest when it comes to Netflix and Amazon's own streaming service. 

Fiber Optic Cable Networks

Technologies used to connect Amazon data hubs are top-notch innovative. All AWS data centers are connected through a redundant 100 GbE metro fiber network. Transoceanic network links the system through the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. AWS data centers are connected through metro fiber-optic networks. Metro fiber is a contemporary technology that allows for high-bandwidth, low-latency broadband connections that operate at a higher speed compared to traditional networks. The technology enables to lease out data at any speed. In recent years, Amazon has partnered with Softbank to launch a transpacific connection cable that spans 14000 kilometers.

The Network of AWS Data Centers

AWS has 69 availability zones across the world, often with multiple data centers. Each availability zone relies on the power infrastructure of its own. In the US, AWS has availability zones in several states, including Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and California. The company also operates specific data centers in the Western and Eastern United States as a part of the GovCloud program. GovCloud is a cloud computing program for government customers that allows protecting sensitive unclassified data according to compliance regulations. Outside of the United States, AWS has availability zones in Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, France, Ireland, Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and India. As of 2020, Amazon continues data center construction throughout the world. The data centers that are being built today are hyperscale hubs with ten thousand of servers and millions of computers. The largest AWS data hub is located in Northern Virginia. It is reported that the region hosts more than 100 data centers, but not all of them belong to Amazon, as competitors like Google and Microsoft also have their data hubs located in the state. 

Unlike these rival companies, Amazon is generally secretive about the exact location of their data centers. The company does not give the tours of the data centers, and only discloses its approximate locations. In 2018, Wikileaks disclosed locations and details about more than a hundred Amazon data centers, including 38 facilities in Virginia. According to Wikileaks, Amazon successfully hides its data centers because it runs them with the help of subsidiary companies.

Inside AWS Data Centers

Despite its secrecy, AWS does share some basic details about its data centers on its website. The company strives to innovate the designs of its data centers to protect them from all kinds of risks. AWS uses controls, automated systems, and third-party audits to ensure that data hubs live up to the highest standards of security and compliance. The perimeter layer of AWS data centers implements very high-security standards. Access to the location is scrutinized, and entry is closely monitored. The infrastructure layer of the AWS data centers consists of backup power equipment, the HVAC system, and fire suppression equipment. The system of layer-by-layer access reveals that security is the top priority in AWS data centers. The company implements routine maintenance checks to make sure that every element is working like a clock. Temperature and humidity are closely monitored to prevent overheating.

The data layer of the AWS data center has unprecedented security measures. Detection systems closely monitor any activity that may seem suspicious. To gain access to server rooms, the worker has to go through a multi-factor authorization. External auditors audit data servers on more than 2,600 requirements each year. Auditors go as far as to interview the employees about their media disposal and to check the security cameras. According to AWS, the places for their data centers are chosen carefully based on environmental considerations. They usually strive to mitigate risks, such as seismic activity and extreme weather conditions. However, AWS data centers have some issues with transparency when it comes to their impact on the environment and sustainability. 

The Future of AWS Data Centers

Increasing demand for data and tax incentives stimulate data center business to grow exponentially. Currently, the growth of data services is fueled by COVID-19 epidemics. Amazon is trying to lead the way to the data center innovation. In December 2019, the company announced that AWS Outposts will now be available to any customer data center, bringing its cloud computing technologies closer to a vast pool of users. Amazon is likely to continue leading the way, thanks to its innovations and impressive market share. Its revenue will likely continue steadfast growth throughout the second half of 2020, given the alarming situation in the world. However, Amazon's competitors also have a lot to offer when it comes to data centers. In our next blog, we'll explore data centers of Google, one of the top Amazon's competitors.

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