Will Amazon SES Change Everything?

Amazon Simple Email Service (universally known as SES) is the new email server platform recently announced by Amazon.  It's an obvious (and really smart) direction for Amazon to go.  At a very high level, here's how it works:

·       Amazon runs some email servers in the cloud

·       Sender can submit messages via an API

·       Amazon sends messages

·       Sender can pull some basic analytics via API (SMTP accepted rate, etc.)

There has been a lot of excitement about Amazon SES among our client base  -- and in certain dark corners where email technologists like to hang out. 

So how important is this? After a bunch of conversations with my colleagues at Return Path, our investors and some super-smart email technologists, here's my take:

1.     I expect that a lot of really interesting applications will be built on top of Amazon.  By itself, SES could serve as a very basic transactional mail system.  If your current needs could be met by setting up a sendmail server and sending out transactional mail, this is a lot less work.  However, SES currently lacks some of the functionality that would be good to have in a transactional mail system:  link tracking, native DKIM support and a few other features.  I don't think that it is Amazon's intention to build out all the "bells and whistles."  Their intention is to have people build on top of their platform and they can add the advanced features.  That's really cool.  For an example of what is possible, see what MailChimp is doing with Amazon SES. ( himp-launches-transactional-email-service-on-top-of-amazon-ses/]



2.     I expect that Amazon will do a good job at preventing the worst spam from being emitted from their system.  The potential problem with a cloud-based email service is that it can easily be overrun by spammers. We've looked at the mail emitted from SES IPs, and we haven't seen the kind of egregious spam we might have expected.  Amazon has put some thought into this but they will have to continue to adjust their techniques as spammers adapt.

3.     I don't expect that Amazon SES (or other cloud-based MTA services) will replace most Email Service Providers.  If you take a look at a lot of the effort and code that goes into creating campaign-based email, most of it isn't in the MTA.  The templating, campaign management, professional services and customer service provided by ESPs is a lot of work.  I don't expect those kinds of products and services to be replaced by Amazon.  In fact, I think SES could be a net positive for ESPs, especially smaller players who might look at moving some of their backend to Amazon SES. Systems like this could also bring new clients into email  -- as their needs grow ,some will eventually move over to more robust platforms.

4.     I don't think that Amazon SES (or other cloud-based MTA services) is a magic bullet for deliverability. Most of the reputation factors that are measured by mailbox providers to determine inbox placement are not a function of the mail server that the mail goes through.  Complaint rates, unknown user rates, how much time a user spends on a message, and spam trap hits are not factors controlled by the mail server.  All of those  elements are controlled by the company sending the mail through the mail server.  If you have bad practices that drive bad metrics, no amount of mail server magic is going to save you.

What are your thoughts? 

2 comments about "Will Amazon SES Change Everything?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Andrew Ciccone from Hudson Valley Media, March 16, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.

    Amazon is the best site (and New Media Channel) to market your brand(s).
    Expect Facebook and You Tube to follow suit this year.

    Andrew Ciccone, Media Strategist

  2. Beth Roberts from Lyquidity, March 17, 2011 at 5:21 a.m.

    I think your article is very timely. We have been using Amazon technology for a while and put together a new utility which allows users to send emails from SMTP clients such as Outlook and Exchange using Amazon SES.

    As well as forward emails to SES it

    • Acts as an SMTP 'smart host' and SES gateway for any SMTP client
    • Run as a Windows service or can be run on the desktop
    • Allows you to define the Amazon account through which SES emails are sent
    • Allow an administrator to send an email to request a statistics report
    • Allows an administrator to add, delete and list verified addresses by sending an email to a predefined email address
    • Automatically removes headers added by MS Exchange which are not supported by SES (such as the non-standard ‘acceptlanguage’ header it includes and which Amazon rejects)
    • Spools received messages to disk and queues them to be sent to SES
    • Relays emails via SES using multiple threads so potentially many emails may be uploading at the same time
    • Automatically limits the sending rate to the limit reported by Amazon SES

    We’ve also included DKIM support. This means that you have the option to include automatically generated DKIM signatures. This will make it more likely your emails will reach their destination.

    We put together a ROI section showing the real cost savings using the Amazon service at and for the DKIM utility at

    With two one off prices - either $16 for desktop or $160 for the enterprise version we think this provides value for money.

    Hope this is of interest as an example of what new capabilities Amazon SES brings to the market.

Next story loading loading..