Amazon revamps push notification service as cloud providers target mobile developers

Mobile apps are the next frontier in the cloud

In the fiercely competitive world of IaaS cloud computing driven by a race to the bottom on prices, service providers are constantly looking for new services that can be outsourced from the enterprise to their cloud data centers. Hoping to ride the wave of mobile computing, cloud service providers’ latest target is mobile application development.

This week Amazon Web Services made it easier for mobile developers to send push notifications at massive scale to all types of end points, including iOS, Android and Kindle mobile devices. AWS enabled the push notification functionality through its Simple Notification Service (SNS), which also supports e-mail, Simple Queue Service (SQS), which is a messaging platform, and HTTP. Amazon’s not the first to be targeting mobile developers, though, as Rackspace and Microsoft have each equipped their clouds with services targeted specifically at mobile developers.

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Amazon’s push notification service appears to be one of the most advanced among the three major cloud service providers. Managing mobile push notifications is a massive pain for developers, explains Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels in his personal blog, AllThingsDistributed, announcing the SNS updates. Amazon, Apple and Google each maintain their own relay services for sending push notifications within their individual platforms. To push across other platforms is a cumbersome and costly process for these providers, and therefore customers.

AWS has enhanced SNS to become a device agnostic platform, working in the Google and Apple environments, which eliminates the need for mobile developers to pay high costs to their provider to push across to competitors’ plans or develop the service themselves. AWS’s new “push once, deliver anywhere” feature is free for up to the first 1 million push notifications, then $1 per million push notifications per month beyond that ($0.50 to publish and $0.50 to deliver). SNS also has the ability to set policies, such as unique messages for individual device types.

Earlier this year Rackspace rolled out Mobile Stacks, which are pre-configured mobile backend services designed to host mobile applications. The service comes with services like LAMP (which encompasses Linux OS, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL in PHP, Perl or Python languages) plus other services like Varnish (for caching data from distributed servers).  Amazon’s cloud has much of this functionality as well and is used for hosting many mobile back-end services.

Microsoft even has an offering for mobile application development and hosting in its cloud, but its push notifications are only compatible on Windows mobile devices. 

It’s the second major update Amazon has made to its cloud this week. It also updated its Cloud Formation functionality, which automates the deployment of cloud-based resources.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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