The pivot to cloud-based solutions for storing and serving Web sites, apps and other forms of digital content has been one of the most vital technological advancements of the 21st century. Instead of individual pieces of dedicated hardware operating at the same level no matter one connection or 100, this new infrastructure lets providers distribute loads across multiple machines and data centers. This reduces downtime, as hardware failures can simply re-route requests, as well as taps into economies of scale.
Numerous technology providers in Australia have begun offering distributed Internet solutions, with the government establishing the Cloud Services Panel in 2015 to create a marketplace for agencies to evaluate and purchase those services. Earlier in 2020, they folded that initiative into a a new marketplace, so it's obvious that there's a need for distributed data infrastructure.
Numerous vendors both foreign and domestic have expanded to Oceania, including many of the heaviest hitters in the computing world. There are also some homegrown companies looking to dip their toes in the market as well.
The 900-pound gorilla in the room, of course, is Amazon Web Services. AWS leveraged the massive data needs of Amazon into a business-to-business distributed network that powers some of the biggest companies in the world.
When Amazon first incorporated in 1994, the Internet was new territory for retailers, and they didn't have any idea how big the company would get. In the 2000s, they planned to launch a service called Merchant.com to help brick and mortar retailers transition to online sales. As part of that project, Amazon took stock of their convoluted web of APIs and functions, which had been built ad hoc to help the retailer scale but often didn't play nice with each other.
This transition to a modern, decoupled API-access format not only helped Amazon work better as a company, it also laid the groundwork for their venture into services. Internal employees got used to products from other teams being built around a common set of methods and procedures, but one thing that kept slowing projects down was database setup and deployment. Teams were tasked with building their own storage resources. Amazon quickly realized that wasn't sustainable, and the last piece was in place.
During a retreat at CEO Jeff Bezos's home in 2003, executives realized that one of Amazon's unrecognized core competencies was in spinning up and maintaining infrastructure services and data centers. It wasn't long before they realized that the idea, which began to be internally referred to as "an operating system for the Internet," could be profitable.
Three years later, the first component of what would become AWS was launched with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. That service allowed users to remotely operate virtual machines that replicated the function of high-powered PCs from any device. They also introduced Simple Storage Service, or S3, which uses the same infrastructure that the company uses for its retail database. These two platforms allow clients to distribute resource needs across one of the largest global networks.
AWS became successful very quickly, reaching profitability in 2015. By the next year, it had become more profitable than Amazon's base retail business, surprising many industry analysts. The company operates numerous self-contained geographical regions, restricting all data and services within individual countries. Each region is divided into "availability zones," comprised of one or more data centers possessing their own power sources and connectivity.
Since launch, AWS has gobbled up more than 30% of the global cloud services market - a larger fraction than its three closest competitors in Microsoft, IBM and Google combined. Their success can be attributed to a number of factors.
Flexibility is a major draw of Amazon's platform - clients can opt for virtual machines, dedicated computers, clusters of either or combination solutions to find the balance between speed, cost and uptime. Without the need to invest in server farm setup, AWS offers a way for tech companies to scale rapidly and deploy new products with minimal friction.
In addition, AWS's pay-as-you-go pricing model allows companies to scale their remote computing infrastructure according to needs. The one-size-fits-all server model that powered much of the industry previously saw a huge disparity in both spending and usage. Moving to a more flexible pricing system allows businesses to more clearly budget for web services.
The company has also won praise for their commitment to zero-pollution energy, pledging a goal of 100% renewable energy in 2014. That initiative is still in progress.
Australia's adoption of this technology has lagged behind many other developing nations over the last 15 years. That can primarily be chalked up to a lack of understanding about its premise and benefits. But as legacy technology ages and becomes less usable in the modern market, tech firms are looking for affordable, stable solutions.
Software is the most common distributed solution for Australian customers, followed by storage. Many companies are opting for a mixture of public and private solutions as well, preferring hybrid security models.
Amazon has been working fastidiously to secure their footprint in the southern hemisphere. In January, the Australian Cyber Security Centre certified AWS to Protected classification, indicating that they comply with the highest data security protocols available in Australia for providers of this type. They've also created numerous resources to help new clients onboard into the program and transition their existing datacenters.
Numerous public sector agencies in the country have already signed up with Amazon. The Bureau of Statistics announced that AWS will be the digital provider for the 2021 census. The Digital Earth program monitors and processes satellite footage to detect and identify geographic changes to predict and record natural disasters. AWS even powers the Little Ripper drones that patrol the country's beaches to aid lifeguards.
Many Australian companies and government entities, however, are looking for locally-owned options as well. It remains to be seen whether any company will be able to dethrone Amazon as the king of distributed server solutions in the country, but it's undeniable that the market will grow in the future.