Confirmed: Apple iCloud Does Not Stand Alone

Paul Paliath at Infinite Apple worked with my co-author Rafael Rivera to confirm that Apple’s iCloud cloud service does in fact use outside cloud services—including Microsoft’s Windows Azure and Amazon S3—to do its thing. And what they’ve found is that iCloud doesn’t even (currently) host images sent over iCloud’s iMessage service. Instead, it places them on Azure (or S3) and links to them instead.

(I originally blogged about this issue three days ago HERE.)

In other words, iCloud is not so much an Apple cloud computing solution as it is a repackaging of other, more mature cloud computing platforms. And what the heck, Apple is picking up the bill: Azure and S3 aren’t free.

Now, this could change. iCloud, of course, is only in beta. But it does beg the question: If iCloud can’t handle this data during what is a very limited beta, how are they going to handle it when the service actually goes live this fall? I don’t think they have the infrastructure to support the traffic, new datacenter or not.

Here’s what Mr. Paliath as to say about the issue:

Last week, we posted some screenshots showing what appeared to be Apple’s new iCloud-backed iMessage using Azure (and Amazon) services for hosting. Since then, GigaOM ran the screenshots through three “cloud and networking experts at major companies” and the trio dismissed our claims.

Looking at the screenshots, it’s obvious Charles was used to dump iCloud traffic. Working with Within Windowsblogger Rafael Rivera, we were able to set up a similar configuration with proper SSL sniffing capabilities — a set up that cloud and networking experts could have set up in minutes.

We sent an image from and to iPhones running a beta copy of iOS 5. The resulting traffic showed, quite clearly, the use of Azure services for hosting purposes. We don’t believe iCloud stores actual content. Rather, it simply manages links to uploaded content.

So is this ironic or just hypocritical? I’d argue it’s both.

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