Don't compete against the Amazon Web Services just with Infrastructure

More and more providers try to seek their fortune in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) hoping to get something from the alpha males cake – Amazon Web Services (AWS). GigaOm recently asked the question: “Will there be an Amazon of Europe?” and they have the clear answer: No. I am also of the opinion, that there will be no significant competition from Europe in the near future. I go even one step further and assume that there is currently no public provider in the world who is able to compete with AWS. Because unlike GigaOm, you have to look at the cloud market from a global point of view. Based on their structure there are no regional limitations for the cloud. Each user can get his ressources from all over the world. I don’t want to exhibit AWS a free ticket, but it will be very tough for the competitors to get a good marekt share in IaaS.

The market is big enough, but…

The IaaS market is big enough and offers plenty of room for multiple infrastructure vendors. However, you should keep in mind who currently decides for the public cloud, and who for the private cloud. After that take a look of each providers offerings to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then it becomes clear why Amazon has the lead, and it will be hard for newbies, if they focus just on pure infrastructure. Some vendors try to compete Amazon, for example with a higher (network) performance. That is certainly a nice try, but not a conclusive argument.

Public Cloud: Developer & Startups

The public cloud is preferentially used by developers and startups. Based on the simple resource access and the pay per use model of the cloud they build their business models. My favorite example is Pinterest. By their own admission they were not as successful without cloud computing. This was partly due to the possibility of an ever-growing and expand the resources to meet the needs without the huge capital for its own server farm. On the other hand, the cloud has allowed Pinterest to work efficiently and experiment cost-effectively. In addition, the website could grow very fast while only a very small team had to worry about maintenance. In December 2011, Pinterest employed only 12 people.

Private Cloud: Enterprise

Many established companies are focused on the subject of data protection and security regardless of the high investment costs and maintenance costs of a private cloud. In addition, I hear in conversations that “investments have already made ​​in hardware/ software” which still has to be exploit. According to a Gartner survey, 75% of respondents plan a strategy in this area until 2014. Many different companies have private cloud solutions in pilot projects and in-production as well. The main goal is to draw the most out of virtualization.

Infrastructure means more than just infrastructure

Most IaaS provider make the mistake to focus on pure infrastructure only. That means they only offer the typical resources such as processing power, memory, operating system images, and other software solutions such as databases. That fits in the basic idea of IaaS, but it is no longer enough to compete against Amazon.

Services, Services, Services

If you look at the offering of the Amazon Web Services in detail, it now consists of much more than just virtual resources, computing power and storage. This is a comprehensive service portfolio, which is being steadily enlarged with a huge pace. All services are fully integrated with each other and form their own ecosystem. With that you are able to built your own virtual data center and develop and host complex applications.

Developers are Amazon’s disciples

On the basis of this cohesive offering Amazon is a popular place for developers and startups, who find a lot of capabilities to implement their own ideas. I have already written about this situation critically and stick to it that Amazon should also focused increasingly on the needs of businesses. Nevertheless, developers are currently Amazon’s trump making the cloud provider to be the leading IaaS in the world.


What Amazon currently missing is comfort, convenience. Here new players combine IaaS resources such as computing power, storage, network components, etc. to an “Infrastructure-as-a-Platform” (IaaP) solution. They allow companies to build their own data center on-demand, thus a “Data-Centre-as-a-Service” (DCaaS). In this area Amazon must begin to catch up and offer their existing and new customers more convenience, to let them use their infrastructure more conveniently and need less time and expertise at configuration. IT departments, especially in small-and medium-sized companies will be watching on these comfort in the future.

Difficult but not impossible

Amazon is one of the first generation cloud providers, and there are areas in which they need to catch up. But the concept is very sophisticated. Under the hood, they may no longer be technologically up to date. But the question is how much a customer is interested, whether technology A or technology B is used in the “black box” as long as the services are available, with which the objective can be realized. In addition, certain technologies are based on the loose coupling of infrastructure and services (building blocks) can be exchange.

As I wrote above, the market is big enough and not all companies will go to Amazon. I just would like to point out that it is now no longer enough to focus only on the basic IaaS properties when sending an IaaS offering against Amazon in the ring. Some time ago I had faced the Amazon Web Services with the Google Cloud Platform (AWS vs. Google) and Microsoft Windows Azure (AWS vs. Azure). To me both are those public IaaS providers that are currently in a position to catch up. However looking at Google’s table particularly, some places still have to many service gaps.

Image source: Bildquelle: ©Stephanie Hofschlaeger / PIXELIO

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.

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