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When it comes to building high-performing web applications, there are plenty of tools that developers can employ to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary resource utilization.

Caching is typically one of those tools, and in the market for caching solutions, the open-source Memcached is, for many developers, sort of like a trusty old hammer.

Originally developed for use on LiveJournal, Memcached is still used by some of the internet's largest sites, including Facebook.

Yesterday, in an effort to bolster its web services offering, Amazon announced its newest AWS offering, Amazon ElastiCache, an in-memory caching service based on the Memcached protocol. Werner Vogels, Amazon.com's CTO, explains some of the benefits of the newest addition to the AWS family:

Amazon ElastiCache takes away many of the headaches of deploying, operating and scaling...caching infrastructure. A Cache Cluster, which is a set of collaborating Cache Nodes, can be started in minutes. Scaling the total memory in the Cache Cluster is under complete control of the customers as Caching Nodes can be added and deleted on demand.

Amazon Cloudwatch can be used to get detailed metrics about the performance of the Cache Nodes. Amazon ElastiCache automatically detects and replaces failed Cache Nodes to protect the cluster from those failure scenarios.

While it's always been possible for AWS users to set up a Memcached cluster using EC2, Amazon's elastic cloud computing service, and it may in some instances be cheaper to do so, Amazon is clearly trying to make it easier for companies to build out technology stacks that even a few years ago would have required a lot more technical expertise and effort.

The big question: is this a good thing? On one hand, there can be no doubt that Amazon AWS has been a game-changer for many companies in a very positive way.

On the other hand, as evidenced by the two high-profile outages AWS suffered this year, even if companies can offload much of the nitty gritty to Amazon, building applications that make proper use of these services is very important.

In other words, with great power comes great responsibility. Amazon continues to give companies a lot of power (and flexibility).

Those who choose to use it simply need to remember that simply because the Amazon's of the world handle a lot of the "operational muck", as Vogels puts it, doesn't mean that there's no 'architectural muck' to deal with.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 August, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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