How Amazon Uses its Cloud to Turbocharge the Browser

September 30, 2011

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is the web company’s first tablet. While it may run Android 2.3 on hardware not dissimilar to that of the PlayBook it has a completely different feel and feature set compared to any of RIM or Google offering.

Besides leaving its content delivery up to the cloud, the Kindle Fire also leverages Amazon’s servers in delivering a nice, fast web browsing experience. Amazon calls its browser Amazon Silk, and says that it introduces a “split browser” architecture that uses Amazon Web Services cloud (AWS).

The Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content.

Any users of the Opera Mobile browser can attest to the benefits of having a big server do the work for you. A browser like Opera Mobile or Silk will also be of great use to those with limited data plans. Instead of downloading a full-sized image that’d designed for high-resolution desktop viewing, the server will compress the image to a suitable size for your device, saving on bandwidth.

According to Amazon, a typical web page requires 80 files served from 13 different domains. Latency over wireless connections is high – on the order of 100 milliseconds round trip. Serving a web page requires hundreds of such round trips, only some of which can be done in parallel. In aggregate, this adds seconds to page load times. Amazon boasts that its EC2’s connection can score a round-trip latency of 5 milliseconds or less to most web sites.

For a mobile browser, this makes a ton of sense. Even John Carmack of id Software endorses the move. Carmack tweeted: “I always thought some kind of remote aggregator made huge sense for connection-challenged browsing – Amazon Silk seems like a Good Thing.”

It will make even more sense whenever Amazon introduces a 3G model.

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  • Report: “Better” Amazon Tablet Coming in January

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