Why Amazon Web Services rules the cloud

The company that originated cloud computing continues to hold a staggering lead over the IaaS competition -- and the consumerization of IT has played right into its hands

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Although augmented over time by tons of accrued features and services, AWS has stuck to its basic proposition: Any individual can create an account and get to work. That just happens to follow today's consumerization-of-IT model for buying technologies and services. Amazon stayed the course -- and business technology buying patterns caught up.

I have no doubt that the HPs, Rackspaces, and SoftLayers of the world will continue to lure traditional IT business to their clouds by offering more granular configs, SLAs, dedicated hardware, and so on. But is that really the big growth area? Do conventional IT workloads really require the scalability and agility of the cloud?

More exciting areas beckon, and as several re:Invent announcements highlighted, AWS is all over them. Its new Appstream service will preprocess graphics, including 3D renderings, and blast the results to mobile clients. And its Kinesis service for streaming data sets the stage for building big data apps on AWS that ingest telemetry from sensors -- the basic architecture for the Internet of things. As for Hadoop capabilities, it's hard to believe but AWS launched its Elastic MapReduce nearly five years ago.

Even more striking, however, were Amazon's announcements targeting more conventional enterprise workloads. The big news of the show was Amazon WorkSpaces, which delivers virtual Windows 7 desktops to users from the cloud. The company also revealed it would offer PostgreSQL, the leading open source alternative to Oracle, as a relational database service. It even announced a new compute instance featuring high-speed I/O powered by SSDs.

This buildup of services -- and the sheer scale of AWS -- makes it very hard on the competition. According to a recent Gartner report, AWS has five times the compute capacity of its nearest 14 cloud competitors combined. And it's growing that capacity at a prodigious rate. At re:Invent, AWS vice president and distinguished engineer James Hamilton claimed that every day Amazon adds the equivalent of the infrastructure necessary to power Amazon back when it was a $7 billion e-commerce business.

Last week Morgan Stanley analyst Scott Devitt even went as far as to predict that AWS revenue could increase from its current $3 billion level to $30 billion by 2022.

At this point, there's very little to stop the rush to the public cloud. Forward-looking enterprises turn their eyes heavenward to build and deploy systems of engagement, and startups and many smaller businesses see less and less reason to spend money, time, and effort maintaining their own infrastructure -- especially as the ecosystem of services across the cloud gets richer.

To be sure, there's plenty of cloud to go around. For example, this week I'll be visiting Salesforce's Dreamforce conference, where a predicted 120,000 people will descend on San Francisco's Moscone Center. But in the IaaS space Amazon has a spectacular lead, even playing host to many PaaS offerings that include Pivotal Cloud Foundry.

Amazon.com has long been the dominant e-commerce operation. In a similar, all-inclusive way, AWS rules the cloud by offering every service imaginable and building out very aggressively. It's tough to imagine what might seriously challenge that reign.

This article, "Why Amazon Web Services rules the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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