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Amazon Web Services in 2014: How It Will Influence the Cloud Ecosystem

Amazon will take its Amazon Web Services (AWS) to a whole new level in 2014 and with it, change the cloud landscape – or rather, the cloud battlefield. Amazon may be distracting the market with its flying delivery vehicles, but the real game changer is going to happen from its so-called ‘back door’: its perception as a public cloud provider of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). In reality, the perception is the desire by its competitors, including a world of hosting providers, hypervisor vendors and search engines, in order to keep the cloud behemoth pigeon-holed in that role as much as possible.

What prevents AWS from becoming a holistically acceptable alternative to enterprise IT solutions today? Competitors eagerly point to the relative deficiency in security, availability issues, lack of support, surprisingly high prices and quality of service concerns for mission-critical workloads. Rhetorically speaking, would AWS simply sit by then, and accept these criticisms becoming established lore in the market?

What to expect from AWS in 2014

No, so let’s start with the security concerns. AWS has now officially upset the traditional System Integrator with its recent FedRAMP-certified victory in the Federal space. How secure does this make it? AWS received an Agency Authority to Operate (ATO) under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) within the AWS GovCloud region, as well as all US AWS regions. The audit program is considered an extensive, standardized evaluation of information security criteria, as specified in the National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-53 (NIST SP800-53). This Standard provides information security guidance as required under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) for security controls, risk assessment, continuous monitoring, etc. 

In addition, Amazon recently introduced AWS CloudTrail, a service providing a consolidated record of all activity against an AWS account. CloudTrail keeps a record of all API calls to an account, including those made via the AWS management console, SDKs, command-line tools or higher-level services. Cloudtrail is in Beta, so it is still in the early stages. Expect a broadening of security certifications, auditing and regulatory influenced services of this kind in the New Year.

Furthermore, and almost in response to those critiques previously mentioned, Amazon is hiring hundreds of enterprise solutions experts. Add to that the four tiers of support that the company offers to the enterprise level, including Identity Access Management, third-party software support, management business reviews, and Technical Account Managers, and clearly the company is looking to ruffle some feathers.

But when does AWS stop becoming a toolset, and advance itself to being a framework for development? Or, perhaps more appropriately, introduce an easy to use and intuitive interface for operating not just the infrastructure but a series of third-party tools and productivity applications too? Soon. Consider the company’s public facing announcements around business productivity creativities like Amazon Workspaces (fully managed desktop computing), and the warning signs to traditional business-oriented managed services and IT solutions offerings have been officially sounded.

What else will AWS be working on?

Although less glamorous, innovations on the back end need to be considered too. AWS doesn’t want to be building data centers that are Capex heavy – but with increasing regulation around data migration and transactionary geographical limitations, the company is forced to deploy a broader footprint if it wants to remain the leader. Similarly the company must control networking costs, and underutilized infrastructure components, meaning optimizing price levels will lead to continued pricing flux – although, contrary to popular belief, long-term AWS pricing at competitive levels does exist. 

Among the numerous items AWS will be focused on in 2014, one of the most critical will be around performance concerns regarding noisy neighbors in a shared environment, and a lack of significant answer to calls for quality of service (read IOPS) guarantees. And what about support for newer applications in the enterprise world, ranging from Big Data Analytics to vertically specific business agreement, such as BAA’s in the health care sector? I predict all of these to be addressed by the cloud titan in 2014.

How will the Cloud Ecosystem React?

This will cause the rest of the cloud landscape to sit-upright. It’s no wonder that we have seen the cloud ecosystem move quickly to combat each of these scenarios. However, in order to compete, these cloud providers will need to match the FedRAMP, FISMA, support, auditing, applications and pricing models offered by AWS. Not an impossible mission, but an important one to execute seamlessly, given the development resources that AWS has at its disposal.

 

By Antonio Piraino, CTO, ScienceLogic

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