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Amazon's in-cloud database gets MySQL option

The Net retailer's cloud-computing effort is getting more sophisticated with the arrival of a database service with which more people will be familiar.

Expanding its cloud-computing storage services to a higher level, unveiled a new option called Amazon RDS for companies that want to store information in a database on the other side of the Internet.

The suite of Amazon Web Services (AWS) already included a database option called SimpleDB, a basic database with its own interface standard for storing data and retrieving it. The Amazon Relational Database Service, in contrast, uses a more standard database interface, embodied in this case in an online implementation of the open-source MySQL software, the company said Monday.

"With Amazon RDS, you get full native access to a MySQL database," specifically, version 5.1 of the Sun Microsystems technology, the company said on its Amazon RDS site. "This means Amazon RDS works with your existing tools, applications, and drivers. You can port an existing database to Amazon RDS without changing a line of code--just point your tools or applications at your Amazon RDS DB instance, and you are ready to go."

Amazon raised minimized hassle and increased flexibility as reasons to use the service, which is currently in beta testing.

"Every hour that you don't spend fiddling with hardware, tracing cables, installing operating systems, or managing databases is an hour that you can spend on the unique and value-added aspects of your application," Jeff Barr, the company's Web services evangelist, said in a blog post. "I should point out that RDS enables a lot of really enticing development and test scenarios. You can set up a separate database instance for each developer on a project without making a big investment in hardware."

With its years-long effort, the Net retailer has built Amazon Web Services into a formidable presence in the information technology world. Competitors include Google App Engine, a computing foundation that can run Java or Python programs on Google's own BigTable database technology, and Microsoft's Azure, which is set to offer access to Windows servers in the cloud when it formally launches in November.

One potentially interesting rival is Oracle, already a giant in the database market and, if it can overcome European regulatory concerns, the future owner of MySQL assets. Because MySQL is open-source software, though, anyone may use and modify it, even without its copyright holders' permission.

The biggest competitor to this model is doing things the old way, with companies running their own computing infrastructure. Cloud computing poses security and trust issues for many companies considering whether to put their data and business applications on somebody else's computer systems. But researchers such as Gartner, an influential but not radical analyst firm, now recommend that companies look seriously at cloud computing.

Amazon is working on greater robustness for Amazon RDS. It offers automated backup, and it later plans to offer a "high-availability" option at no extra charge, with which customers can create a separate instance of a database in a different geographic region.

As with all services on AWS, Amazon RDS is priced on an as-used basis--with per-hour charges according to the server memory requirements of the database: 11 cents per hour for a small database of 1.7GB of RAM; 44 cents for large, or 7.5GB; 88 cents for extra-large, or 15GB; $1.55 for double extra-large, or 34GB; and $3.10 for quadruple extra-large, or 68GB. There also are charges for the size of data stored, the number of input-output requests, the amount of data written to the database, and the amount of data read from the database.