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AWS Furiously Fights Off Cloud Competitors

Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) -- the original cloud computing platform unveiled nine years ago -- is furiously fighting off challengers to its sky supremacy with new products and services, tit-for-tat price cuts and constant innovation.

The company unleashed a barrage of announcements at its recent summit conference in San Francisco, concerning machine learning, storage, desktop app services and more.

The moves show how seriously the company takes the threat of main rivals IBM, Google and Microsoft, especially in view of recent reports such as:

Studies, surveys and pundits have pointed out the gains made by these top challengers and a bevy of smaller niche players such as VMware, HP and Rackspace.

However, Microsoft seems to be the strongest contender of late, showing up even in informal polls of cloud usage as a serious threat to AWS.

At last week's summit, AWS responded to its detractors on several fronts.

AWS Pointed Out its Innovations at San Francisco Summit
[Click on image for larger view.] AWS Pointed Out its Innovations at San Francisco Summit(source: AWS)

First off, to highlight its customer story and reinforce its status as the big boy on the block, AWS announced new enterprise software vendors who have gone "all in" with the Amazon cloud service. It trotted out supporting statements from companies including MicroStrategy, Software AG, TIBCO and Onshape.

"AWS continues to expand the breadth of AWS services, and the depth of features within them, so that our 'all-in' ISV partners ... can focus on delivering innovative solutions to their customers instead of managing infrastructure," the company said.

In direct response to Microsoft's Azure Machine Learning and IBM's Watson, the company unveiled its own "simplified" machine learning service.

"Amazon has a long legacy in machine learning. It powers the product recommendations customers receive on Amazon.com, it is what makes Amazon Echo able to respond to your voice, and it is what allows us to unload an entire truck full of products and make them available for purchase in as little as 30 minutes," said company exec Jeff Bilger. "Early on, we recognized that the potential of machine learning could only be realized if we made it accessible to every developer across Amazon. Amazon Machine Learning is the result of everything we've learned in the process of enabling thousands of Amazon developers to quickly build models, experiment, and then scale to power planet-scale predictive applications."

On the storage front, AWS unveiled the upcoming Amazon Elastic File System (EFS).

"EFS is designed to support the security requirements of large, complex organizations," company exec Jeff Barr said. "You'll be able to use [AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)] to grant access to the EFS APIs, along with [Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC)] security groups to control network access to file systems. You'll be able to use standard file and directory permissions (good old chown and chmod) to control access to the directories, files, and links stored on your file systems."

Moving to make the desktop "obsolete," in the view of some pundits, AWS introduced enhancements to its desktop service, including a new AWS Marketplace for Desktop Apps where enterprises can choose ready-to-go line-of-business apps or post their own for employee use, along with the Amazon WorkSpaces Application Manager (Amazon WAM) to manage app deployment and other administrative details.

AWS also courted developers with improvements to its Lambda service, which lets coders provide code in the form of a Lambda "function" that gets called in response to events of all types.

"AWS Lambda typically runs your code within milliseconds of an event," the service's Web site states. "The service automatically manages the compute capacity for you and spins up the necessary infrastructure, deploys your code and runs it for each event. Each event is processed individually so thousands of functions can run in parallel and performance remains consistently high regardless of the frequency of events."

The emerging container craze -- led by Docker -- was also addressed, with AWS announcing the general availability of its EC2 Container Service. "Amazon ECS is a highly scalable, high-performance container management service that supports Docker containers and allows you to easily run applications on a managed cluster of Amazon EC2 instances," the company said.

And after the San Francisco summit, AWS continued its fusillade, yesterday announcing the general availability of the Amazon WorkSpaces API and command-line interface (CLI). WorkSpaces is the foundation of its desktop services.

"Today we are making WorkSpaces even more useful by adding API and CLI (Command-Line Interface) support," the company said. "You can now describe available directories and bundles, create and describe WorkSpaces, and perform maintenance operations (rebuild, reboot, and terminate WorkSpaces) from your own code. For example, you could build an internal administrative tool or a self-service 'give me a desktop' portal. The actions that are performed on a WorkSpace via the AWS SDK and the CLI can be recorded via AWS CloudTrail. Also, permissions for these actions and the WorkSpaces resources can be controlled via an IAM policy."

The company is banking on these moves and more to provide fodder for future studies more along the line of recent reports such as "AWS Is Leader in Enterprise Cloud Migrations" and "AWS Enjoys Five-Year-High Market Share."

Look for more news to come from upcoming events, including a bunch more summits.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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