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Cloud fight keeps Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Rackspace clamoring for enterprise customers

Brandon Butler | April 19, 2013
At a Summit for its cloud services division, Amazon tries to make the case its cloud is more than ready for the enterprise

Amazon Web Services is attempting to distance itself from other cloud providers by enhancing its services to incorporate the differentiating features of its competitors.

But as Amazon sets its sights more keenly on the enterprise market, recent moves by Microsoft, Google and Rackspace to improve their infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud offerings are creating an increasingly competitive cloud market, experts say.

"There's a war going on in the IaaS market," says Paul Burns, an analyst at Neovise, a boutique research firm focusing on the cloud. Today in New York, Amazon hosted one of 13 Summits it plans to hold across the world in the coming weeks, touting the success of its platform and trotting out examples of enterprise customers using its services. And it provided the backdrop for Amazon to discuss the recent advancements of its services.

AWS, a division of the e-commerce site, began in 2006 with two basic cloud-computing services: scalable storage (through Amazon Simple Storage Service or S3) and virtual machines on demand (through Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud or EC2). Amazon CTO Werner Vogels says AWS now incorporates 33 major services and products in its cloud. He announced today that S3 now stores more than 2 trillion objects in its cloud, as of last week, and it serves, at its peak, 1.1 million requests for those files per second. The company has hundreds of thousands of customers in 190 countries, and it has reduced prices 31 times since launching in 2007. "And we will continue to do so," Vogels says.

In the last month, Microsoft and Google have made significant announcements for their AWS-competing products. Microsoft made its on-demand virtual machines (which include both Linux and Windows OSes) generally available last week. The week before, the beta tag came off of Google Compute Engine, which offers pay-as-you-go virtual machines.

Burns, the Neovise analyst, says there are two battles going on in the IaaS market right now. One is for basic services: compute, network and storage. With Microsoft and Google making their IaaS offerings more open to customers, they're adding competitive pressure to AWS for some of the company's original services, he says. There is a second battle for higher-level services, like databases, security, disaster recovery and running business applications, though. And on that front, "AWS is the only game in town," Burns says. "They're walking away with the market on the higher end of the stack."

The breadth and depth of AWS services it offers in its cloud all on an on-demand basis are unmatched in the industry, he says. AWS has multiple different database offerings, from its Relational Database Service (RDS) to DynamoDB, a non-relational key-value store database. Last year, the company rolled out a data warehousing offering named RedShift, and the company has a network of Elastic Load Balancers (ELBs), Elastic Block Storage (EBS), and application and management tools for deploying applications and configuring cloud architectures. Its partner system allows customers to run enterprise-grade applications from SAP, Microsoft, Oracle and dozens of other companies in its cloud.


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