Some months back I received email from Amazon announcing the beta launch of their queue service. I’ve just checked, and it’s still in beta.

The idea is that you can create a queue on Amazon servers and then place messages in the queue and consume messages from the queue. Messaging has been around for quite a while, so what’s interesting here? Well, what we have is a company that has invested in an impressive (I assume!) network and hardware infrastructure for the sale of books, and on the back of this they are offering a software service – and now I get to piggy back on the level of service offered by their investment.

So let’s say I, as a company, want to build some new service. Pretend I’m going to accept photographs from customers and turn them into something… print them or put a humorous frame around them…. whatever. I don’t have to go out and spend money on a hardware platform to build this on. I can use Amazon’s reliability and scalability to accept customer orders (messages going into the queue), and use whatever infrastructure I have to consume orders from the queue as and when I’m able to. I can offer 24x7, 99.999% uptime for customers without the level of investment that this usually implies. That’s interesting.

As I said, it’s in beta at the moment, so it’s free. It’s REST and SOAP based, it’ll store up to 4,000 4k messages for 30 days, and there’s a critique over at XML.com. I can’t find any published SLAs or pricing, but presumably they will follow.

Amazon are not the only company with a hardware infrastructure to use in new ways. The obvious other examples are Yahoo! and Google. It’ll be a good sign if any other players decide to offer up these kinds of services.

Update 14 July 2006: Amazon SQS has now gone into production, with a cost of “10 cents for a 1000 messages, and 20 cents per Gigabyte of data transferred”. No up-front costs, minimum usage or subscription fees. This is astonishingly good, and one of the smartest offerings I’ve seen from any company.