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How Big Is Amazon Web Services?

Amazon is the pioneer of cloud computing and, because you'd have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about "the cloud," being the pioneer in this area is a big deal. The obvious question is this: If Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the big dog in the market and if cloud computing is the hottest thing since sliced bread, how big are we talking about?

That's an interesting question because Amazon reveals little about the extent of its business. Rather than break out AWS revenues, the company lumps them into an Other category in its financial reports.

Nevertheless, there are some clues to its size, based on information from the company itself and on informed speculation by industry pundits.

Amazon itself provides a proxy for the growth of the AWS service. Every so often, it announces how many objects are stored in the S3 service.

Take a peek at the figure, which shows how the number of objects stored in S3 has increased at an enormous pace, jumping from 2.9 billion at the end of 2006 to over 2 trillion objects by the end of the second quarter of 2012. Given that pace of growth, it's obvious that the business of AWS is booming.

Counting S3 objects over the years.
Counting S3 objects over the years.

Other estimates of the size of the AWS service exist as well. A very clever consultant named Huan Liu examined AWS IP addresses and projected the total number of server racks held by AWS, based on an estimate of how many servers reside in a rack. The table breaks down the numbers by region.

Total AWS Servers
AWS Region Number of Server Racks Number of Servers
US East 5,030 321,920
US West (Oregon) 41 2,624
US West (California) 630 40,320
EU West (Ireland) 814 52,096
AP Northeast (Japan) 314 20,096
AP Southeast (Singapore) 246 15,744
SA East (Brazil) 25 1,600
Total 7,100 454,400

That's a lot of servers. If you consider that each server can support a number of virtual machines (the number would vary, of course, according to the size of the virtual machines), AWS could support several million running virtual machines.

Amazon publishes a list of public IP addresses; there are over four million available in AWS. This number is not inconsistent with Liu's estimated number of physical servers; it's also a convenient place to look to track how much AWS is growing.

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