Friday, November 15, 2013

AWS refreshed take on the enterprise and a thought on innovation

I didn't make it out to AWS re:Invent this year but I've been following along virtually using this thing called the Internet. A few observations.

Even Amazon now accepts it's a hybrid IT world. In Amazon Web Services grudgingly accepts hybrid cloud, Nancy Gohring quotes Andy Jassy, senior vice president of AWS:

We understand that enterprises have a number of on premise data centers that they aren’t ready to retire yet,” he said. “What they really want is the ability to use those on premise data centers easily with AWS. That’s what we’re spending considerable resources enabling.

It's worth noting that statements like this are in no way inconsistent with an Amazon vision that, in the long term, most computing will happen on public clouds rather than private IT resources. But it does represent something of a concession for the nearer term.

At Red Hat, we've been very focused on hybrid approaches to cloud. On example of this is our

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 OpenShift platform-as-a-service. We just announced enhancements to our Online offering. Alternatively, organizations can implement a PaaS on-premise using OpenShift Enterprise. And, for managing hybrid environments, we offer Red Hat CloudForms; the recently announced CloudForms 3 added support for both OpenStack and for additional AWS features.

The acknowledgement of hybrid also represents something of a shift in how Amazon is positioning itself in the context of (traditional) enterprise cloud adoption. It's less about going all-in on public cloud today and more about evolving to a cloud computing architecture. That said, many of the new features that Amazon announced at the event fall squarely into the "removing enterprise objections to the public cloud" bucket. Traditional enterprises aren't the only organizations that care about security, reliability, and performance of course. But something like fine-grained access control seems particularly relevant to the must-haves list of a large IT organization.

Amazon's Workspaces virtual desktop service is also something that's likely to be primarily of interest to traditional enterprises. On the one hand, it struck me as a bit of an odd announcement. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is an idea that's been around for a while and everyone and their brother has taken a crack at it. There are some big VDI deployments out there but it's also never truly hit the mainstream. Higher costs than promised. Too many gotchas. More incremental alternatives. On the other hand, a lot of the VDI that is out there is already handled through some sort of managed service. Furthermore, to the degree that traditional fat client desktops increasingly revolve around running some legacy applications, perhaps that's a pretty good reason to run them using an ahgressively-priced cloud service.

As was the case last year though, the customers on stage are still dominated by the usual suspects. Of course, there was the mandatory appearance by Adrian Cockcroft of Netflix. (I don't think you're allowed to run a cloud conference without Adrian in attendance.) But, even Netflix aside, the speaker list was heavily dominated by startups with greenfield Web-oriented products like Narrative. Especially given Amazon's interest in promoting a message that it's not just for this sort of company, their high profile at the show shows that public cloud use at scale is still far more about Silicon Valley than about Main Street. 

A final thought.

In his keynote, Amazon CTO made a big deal about innovation and listening to customers. I was struck though by his point of comparison, which was to traditional proprietary software companies. What I find interesting about this is that Vogels was effectively arguing that Amazon does a better job of proprietary software development than the competition. Yet, although Amazon makes extensive use of open source software, this approach doesn't really tap into the open source software development model and the innovation that stems from that. So how different is Amazon really from Oracle?

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