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Where Are Amazon's Data Centers?

Where Are Amazon s Data Centers The Atlantic


Northern Virginia is a pretty convenient place to start a cloud-services business: for reasons we’ll get into later, it’s a central region for Internet backbone. For the notoriously economical and utilitarian Amazon, this meant that it could quickly set up shop with minimal overhead in the area, leasing or buying older data centers rather than building new ones from scratch.

The ease with which AWS was able to get off the ground by leasing colocation space in northern Virginia in 2006 is the same reason that US-East is the most fragile molecule of the AWS cloud: it’s old, and it’s running on old equipment in old buildings.

Stashed in: Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Awesome, Amazon, Virginia, Slack

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"... pricing for services was entirely contingent on actual use, an approach that allowed developers to rapidly scale small startups into massive companies by paying for infrastructure support on an as-needed basis and scaffolding as needs grew. Thanks to AWS, the initial overhead for starting a service like Airbnb or Slack (both AWS customers) is so low that those companies can afford to expand quickly. A fenced-off data center next to a pet resort doesn't exactly scream “one of the chief enablers of the current tech bubble,” but at the end of the day, that's what AWS is."

I wouldn't say AWS is enabling a tech bubble, but I would say it's the most successful cloud infrastructure on the planet:

An unfathomable amount of that traffic is from AWS. 

Amazon doesn’t release exact numbers at to just how much of the global Internet currently sits atop its infrastructure. 

In 2012, a now-lost blog post by network-intelligence startup DeepField estimated that on average, one-third of all daily Internet usage accesses a site running on AWS. Over the last three years, that percentage has most likely only increased. 

Finding more recent numbers is tricky, although it seems agreed upon that Amazon is the largest hosting company operating today, projected to exceed $8 billion this year alone. While this exact calculation of how much of the Internet sits within Amazon’s cloud is uncertain, the calculation of how much revenue Amazon generates from that cloud is crystal clear—and massive.


The particular alignments of highways that eventually connected Dulles International Airport in Virginia to the Capitol Beltway basically made this pocket of northern Virginia the first and last place for any commercial activities between the airport and D.C. This led to an outcropping of office parks that housed not only defense contractors, but also government IT and time-sharing services and, later, companies like MCI, AOL, and UUNet. Thanks to that concentration of network companies and a whole lot of support from the National Science Foundation, Tysons Corner became home to MAE-East, one of the earliest Internet exchanges and home to the foundation of what would become that Internet backbone. Networks build atop networks, and the presence of this backbone in Tysons Corner led to more backbone, more tech companies, and more data centers. 

Today, up to 70 percent of Internet traffic worldwide travels through this region, as the Loudon county economic-development board cheerfully notes in its marketing materials.

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