iCloud uses Amazon Web Services and Windows Azure (for now)

While Apple readies its new Maiden, North Carolina data center for the incoming horde of iCloud users, those that are currently trying out the iCloud public beta may be unaware that their data is being routed through services provided by two major Apple competitors. Both provide cloud computing services, but they also compete with Apple in the mobile market.

A discovery made by Infinitely Apple showed that, for now, iCloud "[doesn't store] actual content. Rather, it simply manages links to uploaded content." A test conducted by sending pictures between two iPhones was logged. The log contained URLs to Windows Azure's BLOB (Binary Large Object) storage, which is used to store and receive raw data. The example procedure, as reported by Infinitely Apple, was as follows:

  • A user initiates a picture transfer
  • The device requests authorization from Apple's iCloud server
  • Following authorization, the server sends to the device a BLOB URL for storing the file on Azure's storage
  • The device connects to that URL and uploads the file there
  • The device reconnects to iCloud's server and reports a success

On other tests, use of Amazon's Web Services was also observed.

According to ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley, neither Apple nor Microsoft would comment on these observations. It is also not known whether this is a temporary measure put in place until the Maiden data center is in business.

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If Microsoft and Amazon have a solution Apple can use, why should they have to bother writing their own? Samsung make half the components for the iPhone, and even stick the apple logo on them. All at the same time they are having an expensive legal battle with the company.

Remember Apple don't even make rack mounted servers anymore, so that Apple datacentre is probably packed with unlabelled Dell (or other) machines. If Apple had to develop everything themselves they would be a hell of a lot slower, to the point of not moving.

hagjohn said,
Not sure how many apple lovers will like having their files being stored on a Microsoft server.

I'm an 'Apple Lover' and I don't give two hoots.

Fanboys on either side will debate til their last breath over these two companies but time and time again, they both show that all they really want is to make money. That's what I really don't get about this whole Apple vs Microsoft debate. Both companies are out to make money. Neither are altruistic in their beliefs. They just both make products that cater to needs and wants which help them make more money. But they will make deals with each other when it is in their best interest.

As powerful as Apple's new datacenter is, it still needs redundancy with multiple points of failure, as well as support by some type of CDN so that users that live outside of the US don't have to suffer with long transfer times.

Putting all of your eggs in one basket is a BAD idea to say the least. Arguably, Amazon runs the world's largest cloud service, so it makes sense they'd be involved somehow.

dagamer34 said,
As powerful as Apple's new datacenter is, it still needs redundancy with multiple points of failure, as well as support by some type of CDN so that users that live outside of the US don't have to suffer with long transfer times.

Exactly. That US datacenter they're building can never be enough to serve more than just the US. Apple needs AmazonWS and Azure for it's other users (Europeans, Asians, ...)

Ambroos said,
Exactly. That US datacenter they're building can never be enough to serve more than just the US. Apple needs AmazonWS and Azure for it's other users (Europeans, Asians, ...)

Are there any rumours to Apple building new datacenters outside of the US? I know in the Asia-Pacific region the Azure datacenter operates out of Singapore.

remixedcat said,
but apple has lots of datacenters of thier own though.

Mhh... So why could they want to do that?
Probably they are in good use and their latest data center is not fully operational.

GS:mac

Glassed Silver said,
Mhh... So why could they want to do that?
Probably they are in good use and their latest data center is not fully operational.

GS:mac

True and they don't want yet another MobileMe fiasco.

I think the reason they do that is quite simple:
Currently, the data center is not complete, as in: not given OK by Apple to operate. (They are currently probably doing server set ups, installing cooling systems, etc... The building is there, but as it's been just completed, don't expect it to house everything nicely set up already. If all would be up and running, I assure you Apple would use it NOW and not shell out money to competitors.)
Then think of one thing: The data routing is ONE little aspect of way more that has to work. The actual place where data is stored (and making the links) is something that needs further testing, yes.
But so long Apple is able to test the rest. When all that is dandy, they still can invest time into their own server storage and transitioning and testing that, which will obviously take less time and get them ready to offer iCloud to the public sooner than if they had to test EVERYTHING from zero.

GS:mac

Companies that may appear to be bitter rivals are often more friendly than people may think.

Whilst there's every reason to remain competitive and gain edges on your rivals, it makes little sense to continue hostility behind closed doors and potentially cause problems for revenues dependant on collaboration.

Surely this isn't a real surprise?

What's the big deal? Microsoft used PowerMac G5s in the past to demo Xbox 360 games before they had an actual working unit.

.Neo said,
What's the big deal? Microsoft used PowerMac G5s in the past to demo Xbox 360 games before they had an actual working unit.

The problem I have is that they are testing on not the actual platform that they will be using, but a different one. Its like testing brakes on a Ford and expecting them to work the same when on a Toyota. You need to test with what you will using.

Again, I could be missing something here but just seems kinda off.

There's no way of knowing what it is that Apple wants to test right now. Maybe it's simply the iCloud integration in iOS, Mac OS X Lion and iTunes: To see if the software end of things properly communicates with the cloud. If that's the case a temporary reroute to third-party servers isn't a problem until they have their own servers up and running.

Unless they're performing real life performance and load tests there's no real reason why Apple can't use temp servers.

.Neo said,
What's the big deal? Microsoft used PowerMac G5s in the past to demo Xbox 360 games before they had an actual working unit.

The big deal is that they aren't giving those other services any credit. The assumption by people using cloud is that its completely an Apple service, so Apple gets all the praise when they've done likely the least work at this point.

.Neo said,
There's no way of knowing what it is that Apple wants to test right now. Maybe it's simply the iCloud integration in iOS, Mac OS X Lion and iTunes: To see if the software end of things properly communicates with the cloud. If that's the case a temporary reroute to third-party servers isn't a problem until they have their own servers up and running.

Unless they're performing real life performance and load tests there's no real reason why Apple can't use temp servers.

Ok, I get that. I am just a stickler to doing all testing on what you will actually be using. I mean, in my job thats what I do. I always have MUCH better results no matter what it is.

spenser.d said,
The big deal is that they aren't giving those other services any credit. The assumption by people using cloud is that its completely an Apple service, so Apple gets all the praise when they've done likely the least work at this point.

Do you have any idea how utterly insane it is what you're saying? You don't see huge company logos beyond Microsoft's own on the front of a Zune HD or Xbox 360 either. If you think that a Zune HD or Xbox 360 is 100% Microsoft-made you're mistaken. Same goes for a HTC Desire HD or whatever. Every single company relies on parts or services made/offered by other companies.

Apple most likely has an agreement with Microsoft and Amazon, there's no need to give them credit unless it's part of the deal (which apparently it isn't). During the Xbox 360 demoes you didn't see a huge Apple logo hanging above the stands either.

Edited by .Neo, Jun 15 2011, 10:15pm :

techbeck said,

Ok, I get that. I am just a stickler to doing all testing on what you will actually be using. I mean, in my job thats what I do. I always have MUCH better results no matter what it is.

Apple probably will as well at a later time, apparently this is enough for now. I can't imagine them wanting to repeat the MobileMe fiasco.

spenser.d said,

The big deal is that they aren't giving those other services any credit. The assumption by people using cloud is that its completely an Apple service, so Apple gets all the praise when they've done likely the least work at this point.


At this point exactly.
What you fail to realize is however: they market a service, that will be publicly available this fall.
By then, it will be powered by Apple's servers.
They market the service for that time frame, when they are independent from Azure and Amazon.
This is testing-only... Microsoft didn't "credit" Apple for their PowerMacs either, why? Because it wasn't relevant to the end product.
Problem, Sir?

GS:mac

spenser.d said,

The big deal is that they aren't giving those other services any credit. The assumption by people using cloud is that its completely an Apple service, so Apple gets all the praise when they've done likely the least work at this point.


Yeah, that's not how it works, and even if it was, this in not the finished product.

Glassed Silver said,

At this point exactly.
What you fail to realize is however: they market a service, that will be publicly available this fall.
By then, it will be powered by Apple's servers.
They market the service for that time frame, when they are independent from Azure and Amazon.
This is testing-only... Microsoft didn't "credit" Apple for their PowerMacs either, why? Because it wasn't relevant to the end product.
Problem, Sir?

GS:mac

Mate there is no use trying to explain things to people like spenser.d because if they can't see how ridiculous their comment is then I think they're a lost cause.

When was the last time you heard of an electricity reseller say, "and we got out electrity generated by xyz!" or when a smaller bank onsells insurance from a larger corporation by rebranding it as their own, or credit unions that might work with bigger banks to fill in the gaps but brand it as their own service, or the various telephone shops that are independently owned but carry the carriers brand name, or private labels (supermarket brands) that have their production outsourced to big name manufacturers but are branded under the supermarkets label etc.

I mean, what spenser.d posted was shear lunacy.

.Neo said,

Do you have any idea how utterly insane it is what you're saying? You don't see huge company logos beyond Microsoft's own on the front of a Zune HD or Xbox 360 either. If you think that a Zune HD or Xbox 360 is 100% Microsoft-made you're mistaken. Same goes for a HTC Desire HD or whatever. Every single company relies on parts or services made/offered by other companies.

Apple most likely has an agreement with Microsoft and Amazon, there's no need to give them credit unless it's part of the deal (which apparently it isn't). During the Xbox 360 demoes you didn't see a huge Apple logo hanging above the stands either.

Actually, Apple is specifically trying to convince people that it is their servers and technology. Have you not seen the PR and the pictures of Steve Jobs in the massive 'data' centers, that are only rely servers?

Really?

.Neo said,
What's the big deal? Microsoft used PowerMac G5s in the past to demo Xbox 360 games before they had an actual working unit.

Ya, and Microsoft uses Macs to develop Office for Mac and, and, and... Wait, Microsoft never stated anything different than what they do.

The only reason the Mac G5s were used was pure hardware simplicity, it wasn't like they were running OS X on it, they were running Windows NT on the hardware.

Which is just like when they had Windows NT 4.0 for the PPC back in 1996, people could custom build PPC machines or purchase Macs, wipe them, and load Windows.

You act like the G5 Macs were 'Apple' technology, other than the Apple logo on the front, it was hardware created by other companies. And ironically it took too G5 Macs with dual video cards to get 75% of the shipping XBox 360, so I don't think this is something Apple would really want to advertise, as they were selling them as the 'fastest' computers in the world, and they couldn't even compete with a simple gaming console.

This whole, who is using who is really moot, but what is sticking in people's heads is the 'magical' 'technology' 'innovation' and other crap Apple has been spreading about iCloud, and specifically the hardware and 'server' technologies, yet this is smoke and mirrors as the data is being held and ran on Microsoft Windows Servers.

Really, does even this random 'media' link give the impression that Apple's iCloud is custom software running on Azure on Microsoft servers? Not so much, which is pretty misleading to demonstrate these 'huge' PR stunts.
http://www.datacenterknowledge...ook-inside-the-idatacenter/

.Neo said,

Do you have any idea how utterly insane it is what you're saying? You don't see huge company logos beyond Microsoft's own on the front of a Zune HD or Xbox 360 either. If you think that a Zune HD or Xbox 360 is 100% Microsoft-made you're mistaken. Same goes for a HTC Desire HD or whatever. Every single company relies on parts or services made/offered by other companies.

Apple most likely has an agreement with Microsoft and Amazon, there's no need to give them credit unless it's part of the deal (which apparently it isn't). During the Xbox 360 demoes you didn't see a huge Apple logo hanging above the stands either.

Um, but the technology inside the ZuneHD, XBox 360, etc was designed by Microsoft Engineers. Even the XENOs GPU in teh XBox 360 was a Microsoft design, that ALL MODERN GPUS are based on today with the unified shader. (Even the GPU in every Mac is based on hardware Microsoft designed for the XBox 360.)

This isn't like Microsoft was picking up crap and slapping it together and calling it theirs.

Again, do a quick search of the photos of the iCloud data centers at 'Apple', is this not misleading that they are not really hosting the iCloud and everything is running on freaking Windows, or as Apple and it Fans would say, the devil's OS?

I find it funny that a company that has been known to be ahead of the game is doing beta testing on competitor's services without fully developing their own beta platform.

Maybe I am missing something here...

.Neo said,
These things happen all the time...

And, IMO, its stupid to test anything on services you will not be using when everything is done. I hope Apple will be doing more testing as soon as they have their own services in place. If not, then that is BS.

cybertimber2008 said,
I thought MobleMe was the beta? or was it the alpha? Seemed like an alpha/beta...

Public Alpha.

techbeck said,

Maybe I am missing something here...

What you missing is the fact that this is a beta, their data centre isn't ready yet (do you really think they'd spend $1bn on a data centre so it can just sit there looking pretty?), and if you're storing data in the cloud you're going to want to store it in multiple locations for redundancy - what if someone bombed the NC data centre for instance?

DomZ said,

What you missing is the fact that this is a beta, their data centre isn't ready yet (do you really think they'd spend $1bn on a data centre so it can just sit there looking pretty?), and if you're storing data in the cloud you're going to want to store it in multiple locations for redundancy - what if someone bombed the NC data centre for instance?

I really like your assumption, sounds like a nice plan.

Ironic. Or simply showing where competitors lack insight or have a bit of corporate shame (if such thing exists, idk really).

Don't see how this is a concern of the end user to be honest. If my data is "in the cloud", do I really need to know how it is stored?
As long as service agreements promoted by apple (i.e. downtime, security, data backups etc) are supported by their third parties, then who cares?