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iCloud: Built on Windows Azure Technology?

Here’s a good example of irony and hypocrisy in action, assuming of course it’s true: Apple is reportedly off-loading a lot of the heavy lifting for its upcoming iCloud cloud computing service to two companies that actually understand cloud computing, Amazon and Microsoft. According to InfiniteApple, iCloud could be routing some traffic through Amazon’s S3 service and Microsoft’s Windows Azure, two established cloud computing solutions for storage and computing, respectively.

We’ve received an interesting tip today from someone who set a WiFi proxy on their iPad to get a glimpse at the HTTP traffic which occurs when an image is sent through iMessage. Interestingly enough, it seems that iCloud somehow utilizes Amazon’s AWS cloud services as well as Microsoft Azure.

GigaOm provides a bit more relevant information, and a possible explanation:

We ran the screenshots by three networking and cloud experts at major companies. All three said that the screenshots did not conclusively show how iCloud was utilizing the Amazon and Microsoft technologies, if at all.

Two sources said that the log could simply show that the image sent over iMessage was itself initially hosted on Azure or Amazon. A third source said Apple may be using Azure and AWS for content delivery network (CDN) purposes. That would mean that the files are ultimately hosted on Apple servers, but Apple is caching copies of some data on strategically placed CDN servers run by Azure and Amazon’s CloudFront to help speed up delivery. In other words, Apple could be leveraging cloud services from Amazon and Microsoft for short-term iCloud caching to boost speed and reliability — not because its own servers are incapable of handling the content.

So is iCloud leaning on more mature and established competitors to get the job done? I’m not sure it matters, and even if it is true, iCloud isn’t publicly available yet, so it’s possible that this is simply a pre-release configuration.

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