Amazon targets Microsoft enterprise users with System Center integration

AWS is leaving no stone unturned to win the enterprise, specifically Microsoft’s enterprise customers. While AWS VPC, Storage Gateway, Redshift and CloudHSM appeal to enterprise CIOs, it’s latest launch – AWS Management Pack for System Center – moves towards invading Microsoft territory in the data center.

Thomas (Tom) Rizzo, a Microsoft veteran who was known for his brilliance in designing Exchange Server and helping Microsoft win the messaging server battle against Lotus Domino in the late 90s, is now the GM at AWS responsible for porting the Windows platform to EC2. In his long stint at Microsoft, Rizzo led the product strategy for Exchange, SQL, SharePoint and Office 365 products. Most of these products went onto become the cash cows generating millions of dollars in revenue. Having worked on these products, Rizzo knows precisely how to address the customer pain points and the areas where Amazon can deliver more value to the Microsoft customer base.

Rizzo’s latest shot, AWS Management Pack for System Center, aims at the IT managers running the Microsoft stack in AWS’s data centers.  Microsoft System Center family of products helps corporate IT administrators manage a network of Windows Server and client desktop systems. System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), which is evolved from Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) is an agent based monitoring system to manage Windows and Unix Servers in a network. Administrators can use this as a centralized console to manage both physical and virtual servers.

In 2010, Microsoft launched the Management Pack for Windows Azure deployments making it easier to manage on-premise and cloud infrastructure. Customers running Windows based workloads on Amazon EC2 had to use a different set of tools based on Amazon CloudWatch, Nagios, OpsView, Nimsoft or other third party software to monitor their deployments.  Through the AWS Management Pack, Amazon made it easy for enterprise IT teams to manage the servers running within on-premise, Windows Azure and AWS. Microsoft enterprise customers will welcome this.

Last month, Amazon added Hyper-V support to the AWS Storage Gateway. While this got buried under the myriad feature announcements regularly made by AWS, it was another strategic move from AWS. This gained more importance since the announcement came within three days of Microsoft adding the new backup service to the Windows Azure arsenal. AWS Storage Gateway was launched to bring cloud storage closer to enterprises. Shipped as an appliance, it is a CentOS VM, which has a pre-configured agent and certificates, to securely communicate with the AWS storage infrastructure. Administrators can attach either physical or virtual storage to the appliance, which will be exposed as an iSCSI interface to the application servers. The file servers and application servers in the network write to the iSCSI storage, which will be transparently and securely shipped to Amazon S3.  Frequently accessed data can be cached locally to reduce latency.

By bringing Hyper-V support to AWS Storage Gateway, Amazon scored one-up over Microsoft. Once the IT departments move terabytes of data to Amazon S3, it is hard to move to another provider.

Features like Hi-Memory and Hi-CPU EC2 Instance types that can run Microsoft Windows, Microsoft SQL Server on RDS, AWS PowerShell Cmdlets, ASP.NET support for Beanstalk, Hyper-V support for the Storage Gateway and AWS SCOM Package takes Amazon a few steps closer to Microsoft’s enterprise customers. With Azure offering IaaS capabilities, Amazon must be already working on making it easy to deploy complex workloads like SharePoint farms and highly available SQL Server deployments on EC2.