Amazon mooches from Tomcat as it bets on Java in the cloud

Amazon.com's lack of contributions to Apache Tomcat and its pricing of AWS Elastic Beanstalk could raise concerns for Tomcat users

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Amazon.com offers these capabilities through Amazon Elastic Load Balancing and Auto Scaling, the latter being a feature of the Amazon.com CloudWatch monitoring service. Elastic Load Balancing costs 2.5 cents per hour per elastic load balancer, while Auto Scaling is available at no charge for an every-five-minute monitoring cycle frequency and for 1.5 cents per instance-hour if an every-one-minute monitoring cycle is required. When these costs are added into the picture, Amazon.com's Java cloud platform, excluding hardware, storage, and bandwidth charges, costs as little as 4 cents per instance-hour, including one load balancer. Over a year, this setup would cost about $350.

Amazon.com's loss-leader pricing strategy poses a challenge for emerging cloud platform providers to offer equivalent function at such a low price. As a result, such cloud platform vendors will try to differentiate themselves from Amazon.com's offering, thereby hoping to defend a higher price for their offerings.

The price could also affect established open-source-based Java providers that have grown due to the value proposition of a lower cost of acquisition. Enterprises drawn to these providers for a departmental or less-business-critical application could become enamored with Amazon.com's $350-per-year price. After years of telling IT buyers to make purchase decisions for certain projects based on acquisition cost alone, these open source vendors may have to face the stark reality of their buyers agreeing with that sentimment -- and using Amazon.com's Java cloud offering as a negotiation tool.

Is Amazon.com taking more than it gives to open source?

What's more troubling for customers is Amazon.com's willingness to take seemingly an order of magnitude more from the open source commons than it contributes.

For example, while relying on the adoption and brand awareness of Apache Tomcat, Amazon.com is not even a current sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation. Additionally, it appears Amazon.com is not an active contributor to the Apache Tomcat project.

Amazon.com is not duty-bound to sponsor or contribute to Apache simply because it's using Apache-developed code. However, if Amazon.com's Java cloud service is wildly successful or even successful enough to lower the price customers are willing to accept for a public Java cloud service, then vendors that fund Apache Tomcat development -- and must now compete with Amazon.com's low Java cloud service price -- will have to reconsider their investments in the Apache Tomcat project.

Declining vendor-sponsored contributions to the Apache Tomcat project would be of concern to the many customers who use Apache Tomcat either directly or indirectly, whether in a cloud environment or not. Amazon.com could choose to contribute resources into the Apache Tomcat project to offset the declining contributions from the existing vendors in the Apache Tomcat community. This would, however, add to Amazon.com's cost structure for AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and it could require a price increase or force Amazon.com to accept lower profit margins.

Advice for IT decision makers

IT decision makers interested in deploying public cloud workloads should start considering Amazon.com's AWS Elastic Beanstalk. However, do so with the understanding that Amazon.com's current pricing may not fully reflect the true costs of developing and delivering a Java cloud service to customers. Amazon.com can rely on the contributions of a community while competing with the main contributing vendors to that community for only so long. Also, don't be surprised if Java cloud service vendors, whether established or emerging, are unwilling to compete at Amazon.com's price and instead try to offer extra value for a higher price. That value could be well worth the cost.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "Amazon mooches from Tomcat as it bets on Java in the cloud," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Savio Rodrigues' Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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