Amazon plans on opening an Amazon Web Services (AWS) region in China.
The new site, located near Beijing, will serve customers in that geographic area. Amazon will kick off a limited preview before expanding service to a “select group” (in the company’s words) of Chinese and multinational companies early next year. Services available in the region will include Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3), DynamoDB, Glacier, and Simple Workflow (SWF), among many others—a full list is available on the Amazon Web Services Blog.
That official blog posting alludes to the “legal and regulatory requirements” that this new AWS region will obey. “Our business model will be slightly different here than in the other AWS Regions,” it concludes. “You will need to create an AWS account that is specific to the Region.”
Many of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies have a somewhat-tortured relationship with the Chinese government and its determination to filter the Internet (an effort often referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”). Citizens in mainland China can’t access Facebook, for example, despite the social network’s periodic attempts to work something out with the relevant authorities. In 2010, Google threatened to shut down its operations in China unless it could reach an agreement with the government for an unfiltered search engine; that announcement came amidst sophisticated attacks on Google’s IT infrastructure that the company linked to Chinese hackers. (The Chinese government has repeatedly denied involvement in the cyber-assaults.)
Despite these dramas, tech companies also realize that China is a lucrative market—one where homegrown entrepreneurs are building software platforms that could evolve into vigorous competitors within a few years. After Amazon announced its intention to open an AWS region in China, several publications pointed out that such a move would allow the e-commerce giant to better compete against regional rival Alibaba. But it remains to be seen how well Amazon can navigate a complex market, one in which entrepreneurs and companies might have to be sold extra-hard on the concept of uploading their data to the public cloud.