Skip to main content

How Amazon Uses its Cloud to Turbocharge the Browser

Amazon's Kindle Fire is the web company's first tablet. While it may run Android 2.3 on hardware not dissimilar to that of the PlayBook it has a completely different feel and feature set compared to any of RIM or Google offering.

Besides leaving its content delivery up to the cloud, the Kindle Fire also leverages Amazon's servers in delivering a nice, fast web browsing experience. Amazon calls its browser Amazon Silk, and says that it introduces a "split browser" architecture that uses Amazon Web Services cloud (AWS).

The Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content.

Any users of the Opera Mobile browser can attest to the benefits of having a big server do the work for you. A browser like Opera Mobile or Silk will also be of great use to those with limited data plans. Instead of downloading a full-sized image that'd designed for high-resolution desktop viewing, the server will compress the image to a suitable size for your device, saving on bandwidth.

According to Amazon, a typical web page requires 80 files served from 13 different domains. Latency over wireless connections is high - on the order of 100 milliseconds round trip. Serving a web page requires hundreds of such round trips, only some of which can be done in parallel. In aggregate, this adds seconds to page load times. Amazon boasts that its EC2's connection can score a round-trip latency of 5 milliseconds or less to most web sites.

For a mobile browser, this makes a ton of sense. Even John Carmack of id Software endorses the move. Carmack tweeted: "I always thought some kind of remote aggregator made huge sense for connection-challenged browsing – Amazon Silk seems like a Good Thing."

It will make even more sense whenever Amazon introduces a 3G model.

Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • rubix_1011
    According to every Tom's article, John Carmack has a comment or valuable input about every single topic written about technology on this site.
    Reply
  • aftcomet
    I love using Opera Mini on my N95 8GB. The downloading and rendering speed is unmatched.

    But I don't know how I would feel about using this for secure connections. It's more for simple browsing. This makes me wonder if the hardware is not up to par if they have to render the pages through an external server.
    Reply
  • DSpider
    What about security? Better still, browser information, accounts, passwords, browsing behaviour... Everything you do on the device is being ran on a server somewhere else.
    Reply
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    rubix_1011According to every Tom's article, John Carmack has a comment or valuable input about every single topic written about technology on this site.
    Touche. I'm sick of his comments. He should focus on his games production instead of Twitter.

    Yeah, I get it, the cloud is great and all. Now, can we please stop hearing "news" about it? My head hurts from blocking all these brainwashing attempts :)

    I call BS on this whole thing. I don't want to buy a device that needs to run a part of its software somewhere else in order to function correctly...

    According to Amazon, a typical web page requires 80 files served from 13 different domains.

    That's because the web nowadays is plagued with ads, "Like"/"Share" buttons and so on.
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    rubix_1011According to every Tom's article, John Carmack has a comment or valuable input about every single topic written about technology on this site.Why not, everyone in this forum has a comment or valuable input about every single topic written about technology on this site.

    The difference is that he has actual acheived something in the world of technology.

    Unless you are secretly Steve Wozniac or Linus Torvalds you are being a bit of a hypocrite.
    Reply
  • nebun
    are you telling me that people aren't patient enough these days? 100ms...really.....i am sure that i can deal with the 100ms delay...the cloud has been hacked, damn i can't access my info...does anyone remember what happened to SONY...get ready amazon, your cloud is next
    Reply
  • Amazon competitors will stop serving or delay those EC2 requests.
    Reply
  • 830hobbes
    DSpiderWhat about security? Better still, browser information, accounts, passwords, browsing behaviour... Everything you do on the device is being ran on a server somewhere else.
    Everything you do on the internet is being run through lots of servers anyway. This really just adds one fairly trusted company into the loop of many sites (trustworthy and sketchy) that track your browsing behavior. Wouldn't you take that risk for 5ms round trip instead of 100ms?

    And to the people who say 100ms is not long to wait, reading the whole article might help shed some light: "Serving a web page requires hundreds of such round trips, only some of which can be done in parallel. In aggregate, this adds seconds to page load times."
    Reply