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Amazon SES 'bulks up' incoming email support

Companies that send and receive bulk email look forward to taking advantage of a major new Amazon SES capability.

Amazon SES received the most major update of its four-year life with the ability to process incoming bulk email this week.

The Amazon Web Services Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) has been around since 2011, and has only been able to process outgoing bulk email such as marketing outreach messages. As of this week, however, Amazon SES will also support processing incoming bulk email messages.

Supported features for processing incoming bulk email include the ability to add a header to the message; store the message in a dedicated S3 bucket with optional encryption; publish the message to the Simple Notification Service; invoke a Lambda function; return a bounce message to the sender or stop processing the actions in the rule.

"We're really looking forward to replacing our Sendmail server-based inbound system with SES," said Theodore Kim, senior director of SaaS operations for Jobvite Inc., a talent acquisition software maker in San Mateo, Calif.

Jobvite sends some 250,000 bulk messages per day through Amazon SES and now expects to receive 175,000 messages per day through the service, Kim said.

It's another server that we can replace with a service -- we're all about services versus servers. We like the idea of having them handle all the complex mail routing rules.
Theodore KimJobvite, Inc.

Sendmail is an open-source email utility marketed by Sendmail, Inc., which was acquired in 2013 by Proofpoint Inc. Other bulk email competitors to Amazon SES include products from iContact LLC, SendGrid, and The Rocket Science Group's Mandrill. These companies wrap some value-added services around bulk email management such as Web-based user interfaces for sending HTML-based mail, as well as the option of dedicated service representatives.

The biggest benefit of Amazon SES support for incoming bulk email is that it will allow Jobvite to consolidate its email management onto AWS, and hand over some of the high-availability, heavy lifting to Amazon.

"It's another server that we can replace with a service -- we're all about services versus servers," Kim said. "We like the idea of having them handle all the complex mail routing rules."

Amazon SES APIs can also set up routing rules to be handled automatically, which is especially appealing, as it will allow Jobvite to programmatically change such rules on the fly, Kim said.

Another AWS customer who does not yet use Amazon SES may start with the addition of this new feature, particularly given the integration with AWS Lambda.

"The introduction of Lambda as the back-end processing mechanism [means] you don't have to worry about how many servers you need, or how to scale those servers to handle the email," said Mitch Garnaat, co-founder and CTO at an AWS consulting firm called in Rochester, N.Y. and a former AWS senior engineer who created boto, an open-source Python library for AWS. "It just sort of takes care of it for you."

Unlike personal email services such as Amazon's WorkMail or Microsoft Exchange, SES is not used to compose email messages or maintain lists of email addresses.

Amazon SES users can send 62,000 messages per month to any recipient when Amazon SES is called from an Amazon EC2 instance directly or through AWS Elastic Beanstalk. Users can receive 1,000 messages per month for free on Amazon SES. The free tier limit also does not expire after a year as some of AWS's other free offerings do.

Above the free tier, users are charged 10 cents per 1000 messages sent or received. Received emails above 256 KB are 'chunked' into 256 KB pieces and charged at nine cents per 1000 complete mail chunks. SES is available in Amazon's US-East, US-West (Oregon) and EU (Ireland) regions.

By comparison, iContact small business pricing starts at $14.00 a month for up to 500 contacts; SendGrid's pricing starts at $9.95 per month for an 'essentials' package for up to 40,000 emails per month; and Mandrill starts at $9.95 per month for 25,000 emails per month.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected]com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.  

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