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Can Amazon Web Services be stopped?

Eric Knorr | Nov. 24, 2014
A deafening buzz at Amazon's AWS re:Invent show and eye-popping AWS adoption numbers signal gathering momentum.

Splunk CEO Godfrey Sullivan said it in the fewest words: "Cloud is the new data center, and AWS is the best data center."

Sullivan was part of a chorus of corporate chieftains and tech leaders singing praises to the No. 1 cloud at AWS re:Invent, which drew an estimated 13,500 attendees to Las Vegas last week. Enterprises from Johnson & Johnson to Major League Baseball to the AWS poster child, Netflix, touted their production cloud deployments. Dozens of startups, many native to AWS, explained how they're cleverly leveraging Amazon infrastructure and services.

Yet does Sullivan's claim that AWS is "the best" stand up?

Well, it's certainly the biggest. Last year, Gartner estimated Amazon had five times the cloud capacity of its nearest 14 competitors combined. Even more stunning is the momentum: AWS claims to have more than one million active customers, with a revenue growth rate of more than 40 percent year over year, according to AWS chief Andy Jassy (2013 saw $5 billion in revenue).

Mind share is another indicator. Check out this chart from a recent survey of 1,700 respondents conducted by IDG Enterprise, a division of InfoWorld's parent company, which shows AWS 13 percent ahead of nearest-rival Microsoft Azure in thought leadership:

IDGE Cloud Computing Survey
IDG Enterprise

More important, as AWS execs proclaimed over and over at the keynote sessions, is the sheer breadth of services. Many have been around for a while, such as autoscaling, load-balancing, Elastic Beanstalk for developers, Redshift for big data processing, and hundreds of others, not to mention the countless third-party services built on AWS by partners. But the highlight of re:Invent was the rollout of new and noteworthy services built by AWS itself.

The wave of re:Invent announcements began with a new MySQL-compatible database engine, Amazon Aurora, followed by a trio of application lifecycle management tools, the AWS Key Management Service, an EC2 service to manage Docker containers, the AWS Lambda event-driven compute service, and the AWS Service Catalog.

This bounty of old and new services, plus the general cloud notion of no longer having to worry about physical infrastructure, led an attendee I randomly met on an elevator to marvel: "If you're a developer, why would you develop anywhere else?"

Indeed, the lead that AWS has is almost worrisome. For a variety of reasons, I am more and more convinced that the bulk of business computing will move to the public cloud over the next 10 or 15 years. Personally, I don't want to see one cloud achieve total domination.

A multicloud future

That won't happen for a number of reasons. For one, AWS is an IaaS provider that has evolved to become sort of a multi-PaaS provider -- but it will never be a SaaS provider like Salesforce or Microsoft. That's not Amazon's business, and SaaS remains the biggest segment of the public cloud market. After all, in our cloud future, SaaS will inevitably replace COTS software.


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