Amazon Simple Email Service

Last week, Amazon launched its Simple Email Service (SES). SES is an outbound SMTP service, accessible via API or easily integrated into common SMTP servers (Amazon provides instructions for sendmail and postfix). It has built-in rate-limiting and feedback loop statistics (rejected, bounced, complaints). It’s $0.10 per thousand messages. EC2 customers get 2000 messages for free each month. You do, however, have to pay for data transfer.

Sending email from EC2 has long been a challenge. For the obvious reasons, Amazon has had anti-spam measures in place, and the EC2 infrastructure itself is also likely to be automatically eyeballed with suspicion by the anti-spam mechanisms on the receiving email servers. Although addressing issues with Elastic IPs and reverse DNS has helped somewhat, Amazon has struggled with reputation management for its EC2 address blocks, despite attempting to police outbound SMTP from those blocks.

There are various third-party email services (bare-bones as well as sophisticated) that EC2 users have used to work around the problem. Sometimes it’s thrown in as part of another service; for instance, DataPipe includes an external SMTP service as part of its managed services for EC2. Pricewise, though, SES wins hands-down over both a raw delivery service like AuthSMTP and a fancier one like Sendgrid.

Amazon isn’t providing the super-sophisticated capabilities that email marketing campaign companies can provide, but it is providing one really vital element — feedback loop statistics, something that is useful to companies sending both transactional and bulk email. For some customers, that’s all they’re looking for — raw sends and the feedback loop. When you look apples-to-apples, though, Amazon is more than a full order of magnitude cheaper than the comparable traditional services. That represents a real potential shake-up for that industry, whether the target customer is a small business or an enterprise. Also, it’s potentially a very interesting way for those companies to offer a simple service on somebody else’s low-cost infrastructure, as Mailchimp STS now does.

My colleagues Matt Cain (email infrastructure) and Adam Sarner (e-marketing) and I will be issuing an event note to Gartner clients in the future, looking at this development in greater detail.

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Posted on February 3, 2011, in Infrastructure and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

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