Amazon Web Services is going global with its edge computing ambitions. In a major expansion of its Local Zones program, AWS will deploy edge infrastructure in 32 cities around the world, building upon the 16 existing zones in the United States.
The huge expansion is a sign that investment in edge computing infrastructure is beginning to accelerate. The AWS announcement comes just a day after Akamai, one of the largest players in edge computing, said it would acquire Linode for $900 million to boost the reach and features of its distributed global network.
AWS says the Local Zones will help customers deploy low-latency applications in new markets, as well as meeting data residency requirements in regulated sectors like health care, financial services, and government.
“The edge of the cloud is expanding and is now becoming available virtually everywhere,” said Prasad Kalyanaraman, Vice President of Infrastructure Services at AWS. “Thousands of AWS customers using U.S.-based AWS Local Zones are able to optimize low-latency applications designed specifically for their industries and the use cases of their customers. With the success of our first 16 Local Zones, we are expanding to more locations for our customers around the world who have asked for these same capabilities to push the edge of cloud services to new places.”
Today’s announcement fills in the details on the edge expansion announced at AWS re:Invent last November by CTO Werner Vogels, naming the new markets where AWS will deploy zones, along with a lineup of high-profile customers who will be early adopters, including Netflix and a cluster of gaming companies.
New Edge Markets Will Span the Globe
Amazon operates a massive global network of data centers to power its cloud computing platform, with most of its capacity focused on clusters of large campuses in key network hubs like Northern Virginia. With Local Zones, AWS is creating a more distributed infrastructure to support edge computing and low-latency applications.
AWS Outposts and Local Zones are the key building blocks for Amazon’s edge computing strategy. AWS Outposts are racks filled with turn-key AWS cloud infrastructure, which allow enterprises to deploy hybrid clouds in their on-premises data centers. Outposts will also drive Amazon’s push into edge computing through Local Zones, which are regional facilities filled with Outposts.
AWS currently has Local Zones available in 16 North American markets; Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, and Seattle.
Starting this year, new AWS Local Zones will launch in Amsterdam, Athens, Auckland, Bangkok, Bengaluru, Berlin, Bogotá, Brisbane, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Chennai, Copenhagen, Delhi, Hanoi, Helsinki, Johannesburg, Kolkata, Lima, Lisbon, Manila, Munich, Nairobi, Oslo, Perth, Prague, Querétaro, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Toronto, Vancouver, Vienna, and Warsaw. The total deployment will happen across 2022 and 2023, the company said.
Netflix Deploys Virtual Workstations
One of the best-known AWS customers is Netflix, which delivers streaming entertainment to 214 million paid memberships in over 190 countries. We’ve previously written about Netflix’ interest in using edge computing to bring new efficiencies to TV and film production, changing the way huge video files are managed and shared. Netflix is now working with AWS to virtualize key parts of its visual effects operations, using low-latency cloud access to deliver virtual desktops for rendering and animation workloads.
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“(Visual) artists need specialized hardware and access to petabytes of images to create stunning visual effects and animations,” said Stephen Kowalski, Director of Digital Production Infrastructure Engineering at Netflix. “Historically, artists had specialized machines built for them at their desks; now, we are working to move their workstations to AWS to take advantage of the cloud. In order to provide a good working experience for our artists, they need low latency access to their virtual workstations.
“AWS Local Zones brings cloud resources closer to our artists and have been a game changer for these applications,” said Kowalski. “By taking advantage of AWS Local Zones, we have migrated a portion of our content creation process to AWS while ensuring an even better experience for artists. We are excited about the expansion of AWS Local Zones globally, which brings cloud resources closer to creators, allowing artists to get to work anywhere in the world and create without boundaries.”
AWS also shared examples of customers using Local Zones in other industries:
- Gaming: Game hosting services have an intense focus on low-latency and eliminating lag. “Providing the best online experience to our players logging in from all over the world is our competitive advantage,” said Mathieu Duperré, CEO at Edgegap Technologies. “High or unstable latency is detrimental to our end-user experience and ultimately to revenue in gaming. With AWS Local Zones, Edgegap can now deploy even closer to where the players are, elevating their gaming experience to new heights.”
- Music: Ever tried a group sing-along on a remote video call? That’s the problem solved by JamKazam, networked music performance software that enables real-time rehearsing and performing with musicians at remote locations. “Playing music live and in sync over the internet requires extremely low latency between musicians. Every millisecond counts,” said Seth Call, Co-founder and Director of Engineering at JamKazam. “AWS Local Zones enable us to offer a solution lets musicians reliably play with each other with incredibly low latency by providing a ‘shortcut’ path across the internet. Without exaggeration, this is the biggest opportunity for our company in years. It’s a boon to musicians who can stop spending hours traveling and setting up and tearing down gear to instead spend their time rehearsing and jamming anytime in less than five minutes online.”
- Esports: “In gaming production, low latency matters and every millisecond counts.,” said Ryan Thompson, Co-Founder and Chief Production Officer at Esports Engine, a turnkey esports solutions company working with gaming publishers, brands, and teams to provide broadcast tournaments. “Having high-powered computing available in proximity lets us quickly scale up our productions as needed,” “With AWS Local Zones, we’re able to deploy resources in more geographic locations across our multiple studios. This has been integral to the success of our crew members who are able to access cloud studio servers at such low latency that it almost feels like they’re using a computer locally.”
- Database Access: Couchbase delivers cloud-powered databases for enterprise applications. “Apps that are stateful and need to store data require a modern database, and that database needs to be able to operate and synchronize across the entire architecture, not just on a single edge device or endpoint,” said Wayne Carter, Vice President of Engineering at Couchbase. “Couchbase is using AWS Local Zones to provide low latency and single-digit millisecond database access times for applications, ensuring developers’ apps are always available and fast. Using AWS Local Zones, along with Couchbase’s edge computing capabilities, means that our customers are able to store, query, search, and analyze data in real-time with high availability.”