Update 2:20 p.m. PST: I added some more details and a reaction.
Amazon.com has begun publicly testing a third element to its online computing services: a database capability called SimpleDB.
The new Web service joins two others the online retailer launched in 2006 that anyone can pay to use: computing horsepower called the Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) and data storage called Simple Storage Service (S3). SimpleDB works in conjunction with those services, letting customers store, modify, and query data, the company said Friday.
"Amazon SimpleDB provides quick, efficient storage and retrieval of your data to support high performance Web applications," the company said on its SimpleDB Web site. "Amazon SimpleDB is easy to use and provides the core functionality of a database--real-time lookup and simple querying of structured data--without the operational complexity."
The service costs 14 cents per hour per for each SimpleDB machine, plus a data transfer fee. Transferring data into the database costs 10 cents per gigabyte, while transferring it out costs 18 cents per gigabyte for the first 10 terabyte transferred per month, 16 cents for the next 40 terabytes transferred per month, and 13 cents per gigabyte per month after that.
The service is in limited beta, with customers able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, Amazon.com said.
Amazon declined to say what software underlies the service. "We don't talk about the internal software, but I can tell you that we use many different technologies with the criteria that they have to be massively scalable and highly reliable," spokeswoman Kay Kinton said.
The online retailer has been expanding its online services of late. It's also begun beta testing another service running .
Amazon cloud-computing customer include blog-hosting site Wordpress and photo-sharing site SmugMug.
SmugMug CEO Chris MacAskill gave the technology a qualified thumb-sup in a blog posting Friday. "SimpleDB should be screaming fast, incredibly scalable, and almost all of our SQL (database) queries would work with no changes other than syntax. Like many of you, I'm sure, we're using much of our RDBMS (relational database management software) as a fairly simple data store and aren't using many advanced RDBMS capabilities." One problem, though, is waiting for Amazon's remote database to a request from a local server.