How Amazon IT works

After Amazon’s purchase of the Whole Foods chain and entering the food market, Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder, came close to Bill Gates and in the coming weeks could become the richest person on the planet. And Amazon itself, to all appearances, will be the first company with a market capitalization of $ 1 trillion, beating Google and Apple. At least, this is the opinion of L2 Business Intelligence founder and New York University professor Scott Galloway.

Given the growth rate of the online retailer, it’s easy to believe in such a scenario. Already, the site of the company processes 3-4 million deliveries every day. Its servers store data on 400 million items. How can this be served? "Amazon" keeps all information about its IT-structure in the strictest confidence, as a military secret. But sometimes something leaks through the net. For example, recently it became known that IT staff can choose between a Windows or Mac laptop when they get a job. And the main work they have on the desktop with Linux (Ubuntu), connected to the Amazon EC2 computing cloud.

Lenovo Thinkpad is issued as a Windows-based laptop, apparently because of its modest cost. The company’s desktops are also mostly Lenovo. Valuable employees can claim the MacBook Pro. And if someone is not satisfied with the power of a standard MacBook, they can bring their own Mac to the office. It will be converted into a working machine, which, however, will then have to leave the company. Amazon’s employees rarely agree to such an option; after all, the hardware in the company is rather high-class and is regularly upgraded. But there is one drawback that the employees themselves constantly complain about in the forums. By default, "Amazon" gives only one display per workplace. To get two or three, you have to prove your utility and loyalty to the company.

The largest online store

And as for the "Amazon"? The huge core on which it runs is completely built on Linux. Since 2005, Amazon has 3 of the world's largest databases on Linux. Then they stored 7.8 TB, 18.5 TB and 24.7 TB of data, now they are almost an order of magnitude more. The central repository even then included 28 servers from HP, running on Oracle 9i. It was divided into three sections: “requests”, “historical data” and ETL (extract, transform and load - to request information from one source and its integration into another). The section with the history of clicks occupies the most space both then and now; it takes up to 50% of the space in the repository.

Since 2003, the Amazon website has been designed to handle at least 1.2 million shipments and 20 million inventory updates per day. The situation is especially critical in November, when thanksgiving, black friday and cyber monday follow each other. During this period, the company receives from $ 4.7 billion, it accounts for 40% of purchases in America. Servers must handle huge amounts of incoming data. In addition, the data must be stored and encrypted, and also to analyze the behavior of customers in order to offer them relevant products. During the shopping season, millions of people send their bank card numbers to Amazon every day, and the company is obliged to cryptograph them, and user protection is a priority. When placing an order, the encryption of card numbers is automatic, plus the company allows users to additionally encrypt any other information they enter: their name, address, gender.

Such a crazy data stream does not even go through Google. Amazon uses Netscape Secure Commerce Server with SSL protocol to encrypt them. All credit card information is stored in a separate database, inaccessible from the Internet, in order to protect it from hackers. And especially cautious users can enter only a part of the numbers on a credit card, and transfer the rest by phone after sending an online order.

Amazon is so engrossed in ensuring the confidentiality of data exchange that in 2016, he began distributing free SSL / TLS certificates to all users of his Amazon Web Services (AWS) program. And since 2015, the company is the official SSL certificate provider for Firefox and Android, as well as for Microsoft and Apple. In fact, the only way your card data can be stolen is banal phishing. This is the same problem that eBay and PayPal cannot fight off. Never reply to emails "from Amazon" or from any store or bank requesting information about your account.

AWS and clouds

The company's main pride on the IT front is the already mentioned AWS, the section of Amazon dealing with cloud computing. Its services are used by Netflix, Reddit, NASA and another 2,000 government agencies in 190 countries. More than a million users every month! Microsoft and Google are trying to build their own similar systems, investing in this business without thinking, but Amazon is still the leader. In the first quarter of 2016 alone, AWS brought the company $ 2.6 billion, which is 64% more than in 2015. The head of the company, Jeff Bezos, expects that cloud services this year will bring more than $ 10 billion. If this development continues for a few more years, “clouds” will bring Amazon more money than the main online retail business.

To slightly imagine the scale of AWS, you can put it in perspective. It consists of 70 different services involved in computing, processing, analyzing and managing information. One of these seventy services is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which provides resources for cloud computing. In 2011, Professor Huang Liu, engaged in research in this area, found that Amazon EC2 consists of 454,400 servers. Microsoft at the same time had about 200 thousand servers, eBay had 50 thousand, Facebook and AT & T had 100 thousand, Intel had 70 thousand. More servers than Amazon, for their own purposes uses only Google, there are under a million. But the fact is that Amazon is the only one for which there is no public data. And EC2 is only one part of AWS. And AWS is not even the main business of the company yet, Amazon’s main revenue comes from the website with the goods. That is, in fact, the scale there is much more than 454 thousand. We can say with confidence that Amazon, at least, has forty huge data centers in the United States, Europe, Brazil, Asia and Australia, each with five to ten football fields. And as a maximum - who knows. Perhaps, given their passion for robotics, droids and Internet computing, they have long been secretly taking over the world while we are looking in the direction of Google. And Mask warned!

Officially, Amazon never told how many servers it has and on which OS EC2 runs, but most experts believe that the company still uses its own version of Red Hat Linux (RHEL). Virtual machines run through the Xen cross-platform hypervisor on Linux, Solaris, Windows 2003 and 2008, FreeBSD, and NetBSD.

Small bonus

Developed infrastructure and a huge scale allow "Amazon" to keep the minimum prices. In some categories of goods, the retailer works at a loss so as not to yield to competitors. Prices on the site are usually two to three times lower than Russian (no joke). And you can deliver purchases from there to Russia through our service. To make you appreciate what kind of savings this is, one (random) commentator for this post will receive $ 25 on balance. It is enough to deliver your goods from the United States to Russia, even with insurance. And the assembly of the parcel, the packaging of the goods and your personal address in the USA for purchases from us is always free.


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