Enterprises at re:Invent seem to echo that sentiment. Eliza Corp. is a healthcare engagement service outside of Boston that has built a version of its proprietary tool that informs customers about healthcare information that will run in AWS's cloud. Technical Director Josh Siegel is optimistic about the scale that AWS will provide the company, but he's unsure about if customers will be comfortable with their data being stored in a public cloud. "If you're a startup, it's a no-brainer," to use AWS services, he says, but enterprise use cases are a little trickier, he says. Along with another developer at the firm, Siegel has been architecting the cloud-based version of the company's product, which he hopes to launch this month for a trial version. Depending on how that goes, additional workloads could be moved to the cloud.
Bharat Shyam, CIO for the state of Washington -- a state with 64,000 employees that serve 6 million residents -- says "governments tend to be very risk averse," which is why no PII (personally identifiable information) of Washington state residents have been placed in AWS's cloud by his staff. He does use AWS services for disaster recovery, backup, and some applications, though. For example, the state's traffic advisory system can experience a tenfold increase in usage during heavy storms. Using AWS's services allows the application to scale up virtual machine instances as needed, which means users get the most current information possible.
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Intuit, a $4 billion publicly traded company that makes TurboTax and other small-business accounting products, is in a similar situation. Troy Otillio, the company's cloud strategist, first suggested using AWS cloud resources directly after the company had just set up a new data center but the company quickly outgrew the capacity. Migrating workloads to the cloud after just making a large investment in dedicated infrastructure was not warmly received at the company, he says, but it seemed like an even better idea after the data center experienced two outages. Soon thereafter, Otillio migrated about a dozen applications into AWS's cloud, but none that had PII data of customers in them.
One of the biggest advantages of using the cloud, he says, is the speed and agility the company has in being able to try new products and applications, host them in AWS's cloud, spin them up when they launch, scale them as they grow, or terminate the resources if it is not well received in the market. Startup competitors use AWS and have been doing that. Now that Intuit has the same access to dynamic resources, he feels the playing field is leveled. "They move fast, now we can too," he says.
Despite stories like these, some believe that AWS still has a long way to go before it's truly considered an enterprise company. David Linthicum, a SOA and cloud computing consultant at Blue Mountain Labs (Ed. note: David Linthicum is also InfoWorld's cloud computing blogger), says working in the enterprise market takes special attention from vendors. Enterprise IT decision makers want to feel comfortable with their vendors; they want open lines of communication and sometimes special attention. Amazon.com and AWS, Bezos says, are "dwarfed" by the salesforces of competitors, though, which is why the company's chief says Amazon has to compete on products and services. Linthicum questions if that will be enough.
"Enterprises are used to relationship selling, and special treatment," Linthicum says. "They will sign multimillion-dollar deals with cloud providers, but enterprises will need a traditional sales process to drive the larger strategic deals. This is not to say that AWS, and others, won't get a good bit of business from the bottom up, but most of the larger, more strategic deals will come from relationships with IT leaders, not developers and engineers. Good technology will only take you so far."
Selipsky, the AWS marketing chief, says the company has made a concerted effort to focus on the enterprise in recent months. Whether that's enough will certainly be a big question to watch in 2013.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.