AWS re:Invent 2013 Recap — Taking On the Enterprise

This week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) held its second annual re:Invent conference. For the past two days, Amazon has been announcing a wide variety of feature enhancements to existing services as well as publicizing new services. Even before these announcements, AWS was so far ahead of their competition in features, customers, and rate of innovation that comparing competitors’ offerings to AWS was almost comical.

Here are some mind-boggling numbers:

  • AWS has 5 times more server capacity than their top 14 competitors combined
  • AWS is so far ahead of their competition that the Gartner Magic Quadrant had to be rescaled just so the other vendors would show up on the chart
  • In 2010, AWS offered 60+ services to its customers; today they offer 235 services
  • AWS has reduced their prices 38 times since launching over 7 years ago
  • AWS deploys more new infrastructure each day than it takes to run their $7B eCommerce site.

Even with all of these impressive numbers and thousands of impressive case studies of businesses both large and small built on top of AWS, many companies are still afraid of the public cloud. Most of these fears center around major enterprises and their concerns around security, privacy, and high availability. This week, AWS released a number of new services and enhancements to existing services to address these concerns. Here is a short list of those announcements:

  • RDS (Relational Database Service) now supports PostgreSQL – a large roar of applause erupted when this was announced
  • RDS enforces full encryption – this greatly improves the security of data at rest
  • RDS automatically backs up databases across regions – huge improvements to disaster recovery and availability
  • Released CloudTrail, a new service for logging all AWS API calls, which can integrate with most centralized logging solutions – huge improvements to auditability
  • Released Appstream, a streaming service for any mobile device – a great boost towards mobile development and enablement
  • AWS Identity and Access Management now supports SAML 2.0 – this greatly improves federated security capabilities
  • Released Kinesis, a managed service for real-time processing of streaming data – greatly improves capabilities for ingesting and processing big data
  • Released a new generation of compute-intensive EC2 instances – an enabler for high-performance computing
  • Redshift now supports cross-region snapshots – major enhancement in disaster recovery and availability for large petabyte-scale data warehousing as a service.

Amazon’s competitors are still working hard to master basic cloud APIs around compute, object storage, networking, and identity services and the like, while Amazon is delivering new services and enhancing existing services at a rate that is continually widening the gap. Most vendors are at least two to three years behind in features and maturity of the most basic services and have not even begun to try to match a majority of the 235 services available on AWS today.

AWS has finally acknowledged that businesses have the need for hybrid clouds. They believe that over the time the demand for private cloud services will decrease, and public cloud services will become more acceptable in the enterprise, to the point that many enterprises will go “all in” with regard to the public cloud. Instead of fighting the hybrid cloud model, AWS is determined to meet the enterprises where they are today in their hybrid thinking ways and provide capabilities to allow them to go “all in” when the time is right.

The constant innovation in areas of security, logging, high availability, cross-zone and cross-region replication, and certifications is making the public cloud decision a much easier and much more compelling one than it was just one year ago. AWS is now in a position to start a path towards dominating the enterprise. The other vendors should be very worried.

The groundbreaking announcements did not stop there. AWS also announced WorkSpaces. WorkSpaces is AWS’s answer to virtualized desktops. The entire desktop user experience can now be provisioned from the cloud as a service. Users can now switch seamlessly between PCs, laptops, and mobile devices and access all of their applications, documents, and other internal assets. I am sure this announcement has scared the daylights out of the traditional desktop services providers. It is too soon to tell how widely adopted WorkSpaces will be, but it has the potential to be extremely disruptive.


Amazon is innovating at an incredibly fast rate. They are the trailblazers of cloud computing. The competition is far behind and falling further behind each day. Companies like IBM are relegated to launching AWS-bashing marketing campaigns in hopes of distracting customers from the reality that no vendor can come close to matching AWS’s services, both from a feature set perspective and from a maturity perspective. In my opinion, most cloud service providers will require two to three years just to catch up to where AWS is today (if they are even capable). To make matters worse for these vendors, in those two to three years of playing catchup, AWS will be innovating at a fast rate and will possibility even be widening the gap more. Over time, the public cloud option will become more acceptable in the enterprise, and AWS will be grabbing large amounts of market share for many enterprise workloads. Fasten your seatbelts, because the next few years are going to be quite a ride.

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