Amazon achieves its innovation because it approaches cloud computing as a software discipline, not an extension of hosting, as most of its competitors do. Next year will see further evidence that the software approach delivers customer value much more quickly than the hardware approach.
7. Google, Microsoft Will Get Serious About the Cloud
In a way, AWS has had a free ride to this point. Most of its competition has come from the hosting world, and, as noted, is unable to take a software approach to the domain. The inevitable result: AWS has improved, and grown, much more rapidly than other CSPs.
That unopposed free run will end in 2014. Both Google and Microsoft have AWS in their crosshairs and are rolling out serious competitive offerings, designed for an all-out battle royale. Both have, finally, recognized that their initial cloud offerings were inadequate. (Both, in my mind, seemed like offerings that customers should find superior to AWS, and both companies appeared baffled that the advantages of the offerings, though clear to them, went unappreciated by potential customers.) With Version 2.0, both companies deliver directly competitive cloud offerings.
Microsoft has an obvious opportunity here. It has an enormous installed base and a huge developer community. Its offering integrates directly with existing development tools and makes it easy to host an application in Azure. Its greatest challenge may not be in technology, but in redirecting the inertia of its existing business and partner base. I've heard rumblings about touchy Microsoft resellers wondering what their role in the Microsoft future will be. The inevitable temptation for the company will be to water down its Azure initiative to placate existing partners. That would be crippling, but it's understandable why the dynamics of existing relationships might prevent (or hamper) Microsoft's Azure progress. Nevertheless, Microsoft has plainly come to understand that AWS represents a mortal threat and has wheeled to go up against it.
Google is in a different position. It has no installed base threatened by AWS. Nevertheless, it has decided to come right after Amazon, using its deep pockets and outstanding technical resources as weapons. This very interesting post, describing numerous advantages Google Compute Engine has vis-à-vis AWS, makes it clear that Google is directly aiming at technical shortcomings in the AWS offerings. In a way, this is a refreshing change from the feeble attempts of other erstwhile competitors, who insisted on trumpeting "advantages" over AWS that nobody really cares about.
The Google offering is, perhaps, the more intriguing of the two. Over the past decade, Google has been far more innovative than Microsoft; that alone implies that it might be the most creative opponent AWS faces over the next year.
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