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Programming Amazon Web Services: S3, EC2, SQS, FPS, and SimpleDB

James Murty
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN: 978-0-596-51581-2
600 pages
£ 30.99
Published: 25th March 2008
reviewed by Roger Whittaker
   in the June 2008 issue (pdf), (html)

Until not so long ago, the phrase “Amazon Web Services” meant the ability to: use public APIs to communicate with Amazon's servers and get book information allowing you to run your own shop-front with Amazon sitting behind it, for example.

But Amazon has not only expanded out of bookselling into general retailing: it has also dramatically increased the scope of the public web services that it offers.

As Amazon built up its global infrastructure across multiple datacentres, it set about abstracting the services these provide for its own purposes, so that storage space, virtual server instances and systems for dealing with transactions could all be accessed and created through a set of web APIs.

It is these services which Amazon has opened up to the public, and which allow you to run your public services on Amazon's infrastructure rather than your own, at competitive rates. This is Amazon's version of “cloud computing”: you pay for it by the hour or by the megabyte.

S3 is the which allows you to create and access unlimited data storage areas. EC2 is the that allows you to create Xen virtual server instances on the fly: these are typically Linux systems, but the availability of OpenSolaris on EC2 was recently announced. SQS is Amazon's a message-passing infrastructure. FPS is the and SimpleDB is Amazon's .

Rather than providing their own visible front-ends to access these services, Amazon have simply published a set of web APIs. REST and SOAP APIs are available: this book deals only with access over REST, and uses Ruby for all the code examples.

The book describes in detail the steps needed to access and use each service. I have not been in a position to test any of this, but the book is large, detailed and clearly written. The explanations of the principles involved are clear, and the author explains how you will need to “think like Amazon” in order to effectively make use of the cloud infrastructure that they originally developled for theor own purposes.

I find it fascinating and exciting that these services are on offer, and hope to test at least EC2 with the help of this book. I may report back at that stage on whether “I have seen the future and it works”.

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