Just How Big is the Cloud?


Amazon recently announced its earnings, and its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, reported $1.8 billion in revenue and about $390 million in operating profits. Companies are clearly turning to the cloud for more than just test and development servers.

At Panzura, our customers have file systems that range from tens to hundreds of terabytes, all stored in the cloud. Many of our customers connect their Panzura controllers to the Amazon S3 cloud storage service. Others use alternative public cloud providers like Google or Microsoft, and some use private cloud providers like AT&T, EMC, or IBM. Our customers have over 15 petabytes of data in the cloud — and that’s after it’s been deduplicated and compressed!

With the massive growth of Amazon and other cloud providers, you may wonder (as we often do) — “What does a cloud provider like Amazon worry about?” and “just how big is their cloud?”

Unfortunately, cloud providers don’t disclose too many details on their operations, but we know Amazon is the biggest since they just reported $1.8 billion in quarterly revenues. We wanted to share some interesting data about Amazon that was presented at AWS re:Invent last fall and later written up in EnterpriseTech with some great analysis.

First, let’s look at the scale of Amazon’s operations. It’s truly incredible.

  • AWS is carved up into 11 regions globally where it has datacenters.
  • Each region has at least 2 availability zones, for a total of 28 availability zones.
  • Most AZs have multiple datacenters. Amazon doesn’t say how many datacenters it actually has, but the EnterpriseTech article estimates there are around 87 AWS datacenters.
  • Amazon has 50,000 to 80,000 servers in each datacenter, for a total of about 4 to 5 million servers.
  • Power requirements for each datacenter are 25 to 30 megawatts, or 2+ gigawatts for all of AWS.
  • Network capacity: Each datacenter has at least 102 Tb/sec of bandwidth coming in, connected to each other through private lines. That’s 100,000 times as much bandwidth as Google fiber.

So with all of that infrastructure, what does Amazon worry about? Many things, including security, power and cooling, finding datacenter space and managing all the infrastructure. At the re:Invent session, it was clear that networking is a real issue. The costs for networking were going up, when everything else was getting cheaper, driven largely by complex workloads that generated “chatty” traffic and latency. Amazon has designed its own networking gear and software to simplify and speed up applications, and put private line networks in place.

So, what does this mean? The scale of public cloud is astounding, and providers are able to build and innovate at hyperscale. Yes, they give you economies of scale with $0.03/GB storage, but they also run better, more efficient, and more secure datacenters and networks than almost anyone else.

Cloud is growing because the economics make sense, and because cloud providers are infrastructure experts. If you’re building more datacenter space or buying more enterprise servers and storage, you might want to think twice and look at either the public or private cloud providers.

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