As reported By GigaOM’s Jordan Novet, AWS did some chest beating at the AWS Summit held in San Francisco last week. The message: Microsoft has no chance to beat AWS in the race for IaaS dominance. This could be a valid point.
“Amazon Web Services Senior Vice President Andy Jassy didn’t refer to any competitor by name when he pointed out AWS’ advantages before a crowd of around 4,000 at the AWS Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday. But it’s not hard to take a guess on who he was talking about. With Microsoft hyping its Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Amazon is trying to persuade people — Amazon faithful or not — that Azure just doesn’t compare.
Amazon launched AWS in 2006, and I would say they had the idea and initial prototypes well before then. While others were working on SaaS as the first generation of cloud systems, AWS saw storage and compute services as the path to value in public cloud computing offerings. Since then, Amazon’s S3 offering have grown to encompass 2 trillion objects stored, and continues to prove the many initial naysayers incorrect as they grow revenue well past $2 billion dollars.
So, AWS gets the credit when it comes to vision and execution. In many respects, they deserve the success that they have been enjoying. However, those in the world of technology understand far too well that success is often temporary.
Chasing AWS for IaaS dominance is the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Rackspace, with HP and IBM in there, too, as well as about a half dozen other major IaaS players. While many banned together around the OpenStack standard, most are still in this for their own success, and consider AWS the one to beat. I often hear the terms “AWS killer” when other IaaS providers define their public and private IaaS solutions. Perhaps that’s the wrong approach.
What’s important to the “2nd tier” IaaS providers is that they don’t try to replicate AWS, but instead try to out innovate. There is a huge difference.
Let’s take Microsoft, for example. Windows Azure became generally available as an IaaS cloud earlier this month. As Barb Darrow reported, Microsoft initially went for Platform as a Service (PaaS) instead of IaaS, and developers kept moving toward AWS for all of its standard services. Microsoft thought: If you can’t beat them, join them. Thus, the Azure IaaS services launched last month, to the resounding yawns of the easily excited cloud computing industry.
The problem is that Microsoft, as well as others in the emerging IaaS cloud computing space, are taking a “follow AWS” approach to how they implement and manage their services. Those that have run technology strategies, and I’ve run them within 5 different tech companies, understand one thing: In order to win the game, you have to get ahead of the game. By the time someone comes out with the technology, it’s too late. Even at the scales of Microsoft, Google, HP, and IBM, that still holds true.
The largest problem for the AWS want-to-be’s is that Amazon won’t sit still. As Jordon reports, “Amazon doesn’t want to rest on its history: Jassy talked up the smorgasbord of AWS technologies and services, from the Elastic MapReduce Hadoop implementation to the Redshift data warehouse. ‘What (customers) don’t want to settle for is an AWS 2009 type of platform,’ Jassy said. ‘As a lot of other companies are just launching their solutions, we have much better technology than anybody else. We are iterating and innovating at a very fast clip.’ Since the beginning of 2013, Jassy said, AWS has introduced 71 services and features. Compare that with, say, 82 new services and features Amazon rolled out in the entirety of 2011.”
While AWS is not immune from making mistakes, they have made plenty. However, the overwhelming investment in research is driving much of their growth and interest. I would even say that many of their solutions are rather obvious, such as the RedShift relational database in the cloud or Elastic Beanstalk PaaS. However, they focus on bottom-up adoption, from the technology to the solution, and that seems to make all the difference.
Other public cloud providers looking to penetrate deeper into the emerging IaaS market need to focus on driving their own innovations, versus replicating those of AWS and others. For instance, larger IaaS providers, including AWS, need to get much better at governance and management, as well as security, and even performance. As enterprises continue to leverage IaaS providers, these issues will become more apparent. The innovation should occur now, considering the time it takes to build and deploy these services, or even purchase and integrate technology from smaller, more innovative companies.
I suspect the prevalent “slow follower” mentality within the public IaaS companies that are chasing AWS will continue. So too will the confusion about their inability to catch up with AWS, let alone pass them by. At the end of the day, this is about inventing new ways to provide better and more resilient computing infrastructure to the Global 2000. Trying to beat AWS won’t get you there; you need to take the path of innovation and creativity.