Amazon's cloud is adding a service for sending bulk e-mail, saying it will eliminate the burden of "building large-scale e-mail solutions to send marketing and transactional messages."
Aimed at businesses and developers, Amazon's Simple Email Service, announced Tuesday, will integrate with the Elastic Compute Cloud and other Amazon platforms.
With today's systems, "businesses must deal with hassles such as e-mail server management, network configuration, and meeting rigorous Internet Service Provider (ISP) standards for e-mail content," Amazon said. "Additionally, many third-party e-mail solutions require contract and price negotiations, as well as significant up-front costs."
Simple Email Service is another example of Amazon steadily ramping up its cloud platform in the face of competition from the likes of Microsoft's Windows Azure, Rackspace, Google App Engine, and VMware. Just last week, Amazon also announced Elastic Beanstalk, a tool that automates many of the processes needed to deploy Java applications on Amazon's cloud network.
Simple Email Service is not an attempt to build a rival to Gmail.
"It is not a standard e-mail service like Exchange or Gmail," says Gartner analyst Matt Cain. "This is for e-mail marketing campaigns -- so if you want to send a holiday greeting to your 100,000 customers, this is what you would use. It will compete with e-mail marketing companies, some of whom will be tempted to use the Amazon SES because the infrastructure costs are so low."
Amazon Simple Email starts out with a free usage tier, and then costs 10 cents for every 1,000 e-mail messages sent. Customers also get 2,000 free sent e-mails per day "when these e-mails originate from Amazon EC2 or Elastic Beanstalk."
Simple Email Service is already in use by beta customers, including Neustar, a managed services provider that uses Amazon e-mail for an e-mail sign-up process that lures in new customers.
Because bulk e-mail often looks like spam (and often is spam), Amazon says its new service "provides a built-in feedback loop, which includes notifications of bounce backs, failed and successful delivery attempts, and spam complaints."
At its core, Amazon Web Services is all about providing businesses and developers with remote access to compute and storage capacity, with the ability scale up or down immediately, eliminating the need to build out a huge data center that may not be used at full capacity.
But Amazon's cloud has expanded well beyond storage and computing over the past several years. Amazon now lists more than 20 cloud products and services, including load balancing, VPN, databases, payments, and a queue service that makes it easier to move data between distributed components of applications.
In a recent Magic Quadrant report on infrastructure-as-a-service and Web hosting, Gartner listed Amazon in one of its lower tiers, behind companies such as AT&T and Rackspace. Gartner said Amazon's service-level agreements are weak, but also said the company "is a thought leader ... extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile ... very responsive to the market ... [and] has the richest cloud IaaS product portfolio, and is constantly expanding its service offerings and reducing its prices."
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.