Sometimes, it can feel like the ~$120 billion cloud industry emerged out of thin air, seemingly overnight. But Amazon Web Services (AWS), the pioneering (and leading) cloud computing platform provided by Amazon.com, emerged from separate internal initiatives at Amazon over 15 years ago to both aid developers and also improve the efficiency of the company’s own infrastructure.
The origins of AWS as a developer tool can be traced all the way back to 2002, when an initial beta was released (named Amazon.com Web Service) that offered SOAP and XML interfaces for the Amazon product catalogue. This welcome mat for developers was the first step by Amazon to embracing the potential of developer-friendly tools, particularly in an infrastructure space, as an actual product.
Not long after, in 2003, during an executive retreat at Jeff Bezos’ house, the Amazon leadership team was asked to identify the core strengths of the company. One thing became abundantly clear: Its infrastructures services gave them a huge advantage over their competition.
From there, a grander idea emerged: That a combination of infrastructure services and developer tools could become a pseudo-operating system for the internet. By isolating different parts of the infrastructure (compute power, storage, and database) as components to the operating system and having developer-friendly tools to manage them, it was possible to conceive of infrastructure (especially Amazon’s) as automated and standardized with web services that can call for more resources. In 2004, the company’s first public acknowledgment of AWS emerged in a blog post, hinting at the developments to come.
Publicly launched on March 19, 2006, AWS offered Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), with Simple Queue Service (SQS) following soon after. By 2009, S3 and EC2 were launched in Europe, the Elastic Block Store (EBS) was made public, and a powerful content delivery network (CDN), Amazon CloudFront, all became formal parts of AWS offering. These developer-friendly services attracted cloud-ready customers and set the table for formalized partnerships with data-hungry enterprises such as Dropbox, Netflix, and Reddit, all before 2010.