Amazon Web Services continued to push the IaaS market forward today by challenging established cloud players like Box and Dropbox with the company's own document collaboration platform and rolling out new features to its public cloud focused on supporting mobile applications.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from Amazon's Summit in New York City today:
Amazon's cloud targets mobile applications
Amazon launched a number of new features to optimize its cloud for hosting mobile apps. The main new product is named Cognito and it provides shortcuts for mobile application developers. The idea is that there are a variety of core features that many mobile apps need that do not differentiate the app from others, says AWS VP of Mobile Marco Argneti. These include the ability to save user profiles and provide support across multiple devices, and save the state of the app when a user changes devices. Cognito provides these services so that app developers don't have to build them, and it allows the developers to focus on the truly differentiated features of their app. The logon credentials integrate with Facebook, Google and Amazon usernames and passwords. Here's a video describing the service from Amazon:
The move shows that in addition to being at the forefront of hosting startups and enterprise workloads, AWS wants to be the place to host mobile apps, too. It also shows Amazon turning into more of an application development platform as a service (PaaS) and Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS). Amazon isn't alone though. Microsoft has a robust set of tools for hosting mobile applications as well. Time Warner Cable's NaviSite rolled out new Enterprise Mobility Management tools this week for managing mobile workforces, which VMware is heavily invested.
Amazon launches document collaboration and file sharing business
Amazon announced Zocalo, a new file storage, sharing and synchronization platform based on its popular Simple Storage Service (S3). Think of it as Box or Google Drive, but in Amazon's cloud and aimed at the enterprise market. Through a slick web interface, users can upload a variety of files -- documents, PDFs, slides, spreadsheets and photos, among others -- and synchronize them across devices that have a Zocalo client installed on them. Users can share documents and can also provide and solicit feedback.
The move puts Amazon in direct competition with some darlings of the consumer cloud marketplace, like Box and DropBox and puts Amazon head to head with Google, again (those two companies compete on the IaaS cloud platform too). The move follows Amazon's launch of Workspaces, a virtual desktop tool it debuted last year.
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Amazon targets, and shows off, enterprise customers
Perhaps equally as important as the new products launched were the portions of the keynote where Amazon customers shared their experiences using the company's platform. One perception the company is attempting to overcome is that it is focused on startups and developers, but not enterprise users. One way to get more enterprise customers is to show nervous potentially customers that their peers are using your platform.
Vogels outlined how startup Airbnb - which processes 150,000 stays per night on its site - has grown from using about 400 Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers a year ago to now more than 1,300. The company has a five-person IT team that manages it all in Amazon's cloud. Siemens, which had $5.5 billion in sales last year, uses Amazon's cloud to process HIPAA-complaint diagnostic images. Publishing company Conde Nast is selling its data center and servers because it's moving into AWS's cloud. It's one thing to have enterprise customers using your cloud-based platform in some small test and development capacity; it's another for them to be shutting down data centers in favor of using the public cloud.
Amazon eats its partners
Another new product the company launched today is named Logs for CloudWatch. Last year Amazon released CloudTrail, which is a stream of information customers can sign up for that reports every action that is made in a user's account. That information alone is not extraordinarily valuable because it needs to be processed in a way that makes sense. A variety of third-party AWS partners have taken that data and made applications out of it that customers can use to track their cloud usage and find unusual behavior. Today, Amazon rolled out some of those features themselves.
The point here is that Amazon continues to develop features in its cloud, even if it has partnering companies who do the same thing. AWS has done this before; it made life difficult for companies that had built up cost optimization tools when it launched its own service that does the same thing named Trusted Advisor. It can be tough being an Amazon partner; the key for these vendors is staying ahead of Amazon's fast innovation cycle.
Lots of interest
One of the most notable aspects of the day was the amount of interest it drew. AWS said that more than 10,000 people registered to attend the event, which included a keynote by CTO Werner Vogels and then breakout sessions throughout the afternoon. Thousands of others watched a live stream. The biggest takeaway of all is that the cloud is real, and a lot of people are interested in it.