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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

Burns says Amazon could have the potential to take some hits from other providers on the lower end of the market where it is facing increased competition, and there is a growing market of IaaS providers each looking to carve out a niche of its own in the market on these basic services. Microsoft, for example, claims it is one of the only companies to offer a true "hybrid cloud" offering between its on-premises Windows Server and Microsoft Azure cloud. Rackspace offers "fanatical support" and has been broadening its database offerings recently; Joyent and ProfitBricks are among the cloud providers that focus on high-performance computing, while a company like FireHost emphasizes security in its cloud.

AWS is responding in turn, though. During the past few months AWS has begun incorporating the differentiating features of competitors' services into its own cloud offering. In the past few months AWS has rolled out the following updates, for example:

-Trusted Advisor: A service that monitors customers usage, recommends ways to save money by using more appropriately sized resources and provides advice on how to improve security and reliability. During the AWS Summit, Vogels said AWS has helped customers save $22 million through Trusted Advisor. "We're actually advising our customers to spend less," he says, explaining that customers who more efficiently use AWS resources will be more successful and be AWS customers longer. This service flies in the face of not just Rackspace, which emphasizes customer support, but also an ecosystem of third-party tools that provide real-time analytics of AWS services.

-AWS OpsWorks: One of the lingering questions about Amazon's moves in recent years: Is the company turning its market-leading IaaS offering into a platform as a service (PaaS)? The biggest difference between the two is that IaaS is where applications run, whereas PaaS is generally where applications are developed.

AWS has a variety of PaaS-like offerings in its cloud, with the latest being OpsWorks, which makes it easier to configure AWS resources to run applications in its cloud. These complement services like AWS CloudFormation, which is helpful for tying various AWS services together, and Elastic Beanstalk, which helps users uploading applications to its cloud.

-CloudHSM: In an effort to beef its security practices, Amazon announced CloudHSM (Hardware Security Module) last month, an appliance used to store encryption keys that only AWS users have access to. The month before, AWS announced that the default setting for new virtual machines in the EC2 service would be "virtual private clouds" (VPC), meaning they are logically isolated virtual machines through network segmentation. Vogels said today at the Summit that security, and encryption especially, would be a focus of the company's moving forward, and the HSM and VPC announcements seem right in line with that.


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