Two months ago, Amazon - which has taken to sharing some of its massive computing power with mere mortals as a means of developing additional revenue streams - announced that they were developing a content-delivery network (CDN) to complement their existing Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) offering. Today, they unveiled the beta version of that service, named Amazon CloudFront. Boasting a now-familiar, pay-as-you-go pricing model, Amazon CloudFront promises to make CDN an affordable addition for any site looking to gain more efficient content delivery.

In a day and age where more and more applications are built on the Web, availability and scalability are critical concerns for the companies developing these apps. And that has made the business of content delivery an extremely lucrative one. Unfortunately for smaller players, the pricing of content-delivery services has been prohibitive at best, leaving more traditional CDNs out of reach for small to medium size businesses. With CloudFront, Amazon hopes to tap this under-served market.

At the time of Amazon's original announcement, ReadWriteWeb's Frederic Lardinois observed:

"With this new service, Amazon is going up against a number of established companies, including Akamai and Limelight, which are almost synonymous with content delivery.... Just like Amazon's S3 and E2 shook up the market for online storage and cloud computing, this new CDN solution will surely drive down the prices for content delivery."

[Update] Those Amazon Web Service efforts have enabled Amazon to gain considerable mindshare among fans of cloud computing. A recent survey from CloudCamp and Appistry - featuring a small but knowledgeable sample of cloud computing experts - placed Amazon well ahead of Google as the company that "will play the largest role in the future of cloud computing." Those surveyed also pointed to "cost reduction" as one of the leading drivers for adopting cloud computing.

CloudFront appears to have answered concerns about both cost and reliability for smaller organizations. The service leverages the same Amazon infrastructure that has made S3 such a popular solution - with eight edge locations in the US alone - and the pricing seems to fall in line with the affordable S3 offering, as well.

Amazon is recommending users deploy the service for serving up frequently accessed Web site components, distributing software, and publishing popular media files like audio or video.

Who are the early adopters? Popular deal-a-day site Woot is taking advantage of the new pay-as-you-go service to deliver product photos. Luke Duff, Retail IT Director at Woot, claims that the new service has so simplified the aggravating prospect of dealing with imagery that he now "can feel the rage melting away" thanks to CloudFront. Social-gaming platform, Playfish, doesn't seem to have as much pent-up hostility, but they have used the service to reduce the delay customers experience when accessing apps.

To take advantage of the new service, Amazon users can save their objects to an S3 "bucket" and then register that bucket with CloudFront. That makes those objects accessible via a simple API call. Customers in the US and Europe can use the service for $0.170 per GB out for the first 10TB per month. Customers in Japan and Hong Kong see slightly higher rates at $0.220 per GB and $0.210 per GB, respectively. For all locations, prices per gig decline as usage rates increase.

To test drive the beta service, visit Amazon CloudFront.