Cloud Computing

Amazon WorkMail: Amazon AWS is moving up the cloud stack

For a long time the Amazon Web Services portfolio was the place to go for developers and startups which used the public cloud infrastructure to start test balloons or try to make their dream come true to become the next billion dollar company. Over the years Amazon understood that startups don’t have the biggest jewel cases and that the real money comes from established companies. New SaaS applications have been released to address enterprises, which still haven’t found their way to the Amazon cloud. The next coup is Amazon WorkMail a managed e-mail and calendar service.

Overview: Amazon WorkMail

Amazon WorkMail is a fully managed e-mail and calendar service like Google Apps for Work or Microsoft Office 365/ Microsoft Exchange. This means that a customer doesn’t have to administrate the e-mail infrastructure and the necessary servers and software and only need to take responsibility for managing the users, email addresses and security policies at user-level.

Amazon WorkMail offers access via a web interface, supports Outlook clients and mobile devices via the Exchange ActiveSync protocol. The administration of all users is handled with the recently released AWS Directory Service.

Amazon WorkMail is integrated with several existing AWS services like AWS Directory Service, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and Amazon Simple Email Service (SES). The integration with Amazon WorkDocs (former Amazon Zocalo) allows sending and sharing documents within an email workflow.

E-Mail as a starter drug

E-Mail. A no-brainer? You’d think. However, after IBM and Microsoft recently invested in this topic e-mail is still a slow-burner. E-mail belongs to the category of “low hanging fruits”, thus those products with which it is possible to gain success quick without much effort.

In the case of Amazon WorkMail the portfolio extension is a logical step. The service catalogue development with services like Amazon WorkSpaces (Desktop-as-a-Service) and Amazon WorkDocs (File-Sync and Share) is especially targeting enterprise customers for whom the Amazon cloud wasn’t a contact point so far. This has different reasons. The main reason is that the Amazon cloud infrastructure is a programmable building block and primarily attractive for those who want to develop own web-based applications on it. With the help of “Value-added services” respectively “Enablement services” an additional value can be created out of the pure infrastructure resources like Amazon EC2 (compute) or Amazon S3 (object storage). Because at the end of the day an EC2 instance is just a virtual machine and offers no additional value of its own volition.

Most of the companies, who want to deal with low complexity and less effort on infrastructure level and gain success in the short run, are overstrained with the self-service modus of the Amazon cloud. For this, most of them lack the necessary cloud knowledge and developer skills to ensure scalability and high-availability of the virtual infrastructure. In the meantime the AWS service offering is versatile but still addresses real infrastructure professionals and developer.

The continuous portfolio development lets AWS moving up the cloud stack. After infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), WorkSpaces, WorkDocs and WorkMail make sure Amazon finally arrived in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market. Amazon has started to use its own cloud infrastructure to offer higher value services. Oracle is exactly doing the opposite. After the database giant started on the SaaS layer it is now moving down the cloud stack to IaaS.

E-mail is still an important business process in the enterprise world. Thus, it is just a logical step for Amazon also to be part of the game. At the same time WorkMail can act as a starter drug for potential new customers to explore the Amazon cloud and find other benefits. Furthermore, the partner network of system integrators can use Amazon WorkMail to offer its customers a managed e-mail solution. How successful Amazon WorkMail will be remains to be seen. Google Apps, Microsoft Hosted Exchange, Zoho or (powered by Open-Xchange) are only some mature solutions on the market.

In the end one important issue must be considered: IaaS the Amazon style is the ideal way to develop own web applications and services. Managed cloud services and SaaS are helping to adopt new technologies in the short run. Amazon WorkSpaces, WorkDocs and WorkMail belong to the last category.

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.