Amazon solidifies its reputation as a dominant force in enterprise tech

Bezos banks on private clouds
Bezos banks on private clouds

Although news that Amazon is now producing and distributing original TV shows and movies is hogging all the headlines, cloud computing news from the Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference in Las Vegas is certainly as momentous, especially if your interest lies in enterprise technology areas such as database, networking, virtualization, storage and development tools.

AWS has been the clear market leader in public cloud computing since it began operations in 2006. In the early days, AWS attracted a slew of startups and open source developers looking for a cheap and flexible development environment that could be readily scaled up depending on resource demand. Now it's becoming the platform of choice for enterprise developers looking for a place to create and deploy state-of-the-art web-scale applications.

In the last two months, AWS has begun shipping a number of new products and services targeted at the enterprise segment of the market. These include three new Application Lifecycle Management tools, CodeDeploy, CodeCommit and CodePipeline, that make it easier for developers to build, test, and deploy their applications on the AWS Cloud by automating AWS software release and deployment processes.

The new AWS Service Catalog allows IT administrators to set up and configure a portfolio of services (such as SharePoint or Office 365), which end users can access and deploy via a portal without IT help. The Service Catalog allows IT to maintain control - by individual, group, department, or cost center - over who is allowed to use which products in the catalog as well as limiting how many times an application can be used each month in order to comply with licensing or for other reasons.

AWS cloud security

One of the major concerns regarding cloud computing has always been security.

AWS's new Key Management Service (KMS) is a managed service that makes it easier for enterprises to create and control the encryption keys used to encrypt their data. The KMS dashboard offers a single place to create, store, view, and disable keys, and provides an audit trail of any activity involving encryption keys. KMS can be used for managing encryption keys for Amazon resources such as Elastic Block Store, Redshift, or Relational Database Service, as well as an enterprise's on-premises resources.

Powerful new database

Perhaps the biggest recent AWS news is the announcement of Amazon Aurora, a new enterprise-scale RDBMS. AWS has numerous database related services (both SQL and noSQL-based), including ones that can be used for petabyte scale data warehouses for big data and analytics.

AWS's Relational Database Service (RDS) is a suite of relational database types, instances and services that includes SimpleDB, MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, SQL Server and the new Amazon Aurora offering. According to Andy Jassy, Senior AWS Vice President, Aurora is "a fully MySQL-compatible, relational database with 5X the performance of MySQL and 1/10th the cost. It's also as durable, available, and fault tolerant as a proprietary database system." AWS has been working on Aurora for three years and Jassy says it will be available in early 2015.

AWS is the big kahuna

Not all the newly announced products and services are available in all the 11 regions, 28 availability zones and 52 edge locations that currently make up the AWS infrastructure, which has data center locations in the US, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Singapore.

Gartner Research last year estimated Amazon had five times the cloud capacity of its nearest 14 competitors combined. And its growth rate isn't slowing. As AWS chief Jassy pointed out at the re:Invent conference, AWS has more than a million active customers using AWS at this point, with a revenue growth rate of more than 40% year over year. Although retail remains Amazon's primary revenue source, Jassy said he expects "in the fullness of time" that AWS revenues will exceed those of retail.

AWS competitors

Despite strong efforts by cloud infrastructure competitors like Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Azure, Amazon has retained its strong lead in cloud IaaS. One of the many factoids that came out of the recent AWS conference is that each day AWS adds the equivalent server capacity to power Amazon when it was a global, $7B (£4.67B or AU$8.86B) enterprise (circa 2004).

While still a long way from offering AWS's product breadth and scale, Microsoft Azure has made strides to improve its cloud infrastructure and build on its position as the top alternative to AWS. As part of that effort, Microsoft recently announced three new Azure features, including support for massive virtual machines, Docker container support and a cloud-based encryption key system similar to AWS's KMS.

Leapfrogging cloud vendors

Amazon, Google and Microsoft continue to leapfrog each other with new IaaS features. Last week, just days after Microsoft introduced its G series that it claimed was bigger than any virtual machine size currently available in the public cloud, AWS introduced its new C4 Series instances designed for the largest data-processing and e-commerce workloads sent to the cloud, which was even larger.

An enterprise cloud in your future

Over the past few years, cloud computing has seen explosive growth with no signs of slowing down. According to a report from Gartner, cloud computing is expected to comprise the bulk of IT spending by 2016 with the majority of large enterprises adopting hybrid cloud systems by 2017.

Because it continues to grow and innovate, it's likely AWS will maintain its lead in the public cloud space where it's generally accepted as the number one vendor. But the maturing and diversification of the cloud market, the rise of hybrid cloud infrastructure and increased competition from Microsoft and Google, should keep AWS from resting on its laurels anytime soon.