Amazon S3 for map tile storage and delivery?

Amazon recently launched their new S3 Storage service, and everyone seems to be clamoring to figure out uses for it. Well here is my contribution: map tile storage and serving.

Think about it: You want to create your own tile based map delivery (because your boss has been nagging you about it ever since the Google Maps launch), but where are you going to store those gigabytes and gigabytes of images. Not to mention how to deliver them? Stick them all in a database? Write a wrapper script to that? Sounds like an awful lot of bandwidth, cycles, and storage is going to be needed. Imagine every time there is a breakdown, pager goes off and you got to fix it.

Or, get an S3 account and blaze away. I’d bet dollars to donuts that S3 is a heck of a lot cheaper than your average “enterprise” network storage solution. In fact I’ll just tell you: it’s cheaper. The drawbacks, well you won’t have LAN speed access to it, but if your target is the internet who cares. Likely it will take just as long to generate all those tiles as it will to upload them anyway.

I’d also bet that Amazon’s delivery will be much faster with lower latency than what an average sized shop could do on a T1 with a weenie little 4 processor database server. Who knows what sort of super optimized proprietary network, hardware, and software architecture Amazon has put together to make their system work. More than likely its much better than what’s available off the shelf.

Did I mention scalability? Scalability in this matter is just sending more dollars off to Amazon. Assuming your business model has you making more for each visit than you need to spend, you will just keep making more and more profit, no matter how many users show up. Got Slashdotted? No biggie, the server capacity briefly expands to take on the Niagara falls sized volume, and then returns to normal when it has passed. Point is, you captured every bit of the revenue generated from that extra traffic.

So the next question is: after storage, what’s next? Application delivery?

Maybe instead of thinking in terms of racks of servers, we should be thinking of tracking cycles and storage down to smallest possible measurements and paying for only what we need, with endless ability to scale. Developers can add their applications to the Internet Borg cube, and after some marketing, expect to see a linear increase in profits along with traffic. No more hassling over rack space, load balancers, hard drive failures, backups, software licensing, and so on.

Here it comes, the infinitely scalable internet application model. Sustainable growth, just add water.