updated 12:20 pm EDT, Sat September 3, 2011
Apple may use Amazon, Microsoft for iCloud help
Apple's iCloud service might not just run on non-Mac servers but use outside services, rumors divulged Friday. The remote media sharing and pushing is believed to use a mix of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure to load content. Register contacts understood that Apple wanted to outsource as it wasn't logical for a company focused on "building great consumer experiences" to go to the effort of creating every aspect of the cloud infrastructure from scratch.
Azure would be used for computing, controlling, and SQL database storage. AWS would only be used for storage, but it would be "striped," or unified like in a RAID 0 array, with the Microsoft component. Along with providing more headroom, it would potentially lead to a speed improvement. Data would be broken down into individual files that could be spread across the different servers and services, letting multiple devices serve the content and increasing the potential bandwidth.
Two were chosen to create a level of redundancy. Apple could not only shift temporarily to one or the other in the event of an outage but wouldn't be held captive by Amazon or Microsoft if they decided to hike rates.
Confirmation, if the story is accurate, might be difficult or impossible. Apple has reportedly demanded that Amazon and Microsoft not discuss the iCloud deal. Privately, Microsoft is believed to be extremely happy as it clinches a major customer for a business that has been struggling. iCloud represents a "very visible workload" for Microsoft, which regularly loses hundreds of millions of dollars in its attempt to compete with Google and other cloud-heavy rivals.
No matter the involvement, Apple is already using competitors' products to process some of its new download and streaming services. Its North Carolina datacenter is known to be using HP servers, most likely ProLiant DL300 systems, and to be running Teradata Extreme Data Appliances for storage. Its decisions to drop the Xserve and Xserve RAID likely wouldn't have had much effect as Microsoft often demands Windows for certain parts of Azure.