Amazon CTO destealths to throw light on AWS data centre design

All-black outfit to explain it ain't just about the white boxen


Ask Amazon about its AWS data centres and you’ll get get this response: Amazon doesn’t talk about its data centres. Until its chief technology officer pitches in, that is.

Werner Vogels closed London’s AWS Summit Wednesday by cracking open a little the black curtain that hides Amazon’s data centres from the world during a session called AWS Innovation in the Datacenter.

Vogels – in black trousers, jacket and now a shirt (having ditched the Armin Van Buuren T-shirt he was wearing during his morning keynote), symbolically whipped off the jacket to get down to the business of talking the tech behind AWS.

AWS is becoming to many what Windows once was: a platform for doing business. It has started as something that let enterprises free themselves from the yoke of owning their own servers. Now it’s letting them deliver new services.

Another important group of customers are internet pure plays who, again, don’t need to set up and run their own servers and infrastructure. These include everything from fundraising efforts such as Just Giving, a service for individuals and groups to raise funds online, to Omnifone – music streaming infrastructure employed by SiriusXM and Sony Music Unlimited.

Just Giving and Omnifore sit between their customers and the raw AWS infrastructure that for the non-techie is still difficult to knit together. What they rely on are hundreds of thousands of servers and network switches that Amazon has custom designed and built, working with Intel and others. Servers are grouped into, yes, data centres, which comprise Amazon’s Availability Zones, which themslves in turn make up regions – there’s 11 regions and 28 zones.

Vogels talked about the architectural thinking behind this picture at his company's conference. Apparently, according to Vogels, Amazon often gets questions about its data centres.

Each region is comprised of two or more Availability Zones and each zone has at least one data centre. No one data centre serves two Availability Zones, while some Zones are served by up to six data centres. Data centres must also be on different power grids, so no one power outage can take down a Zone.

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