Amazon ratchets up enterprise cloud focus

With a new VDI, and plenty of customer examples, Amazon says it's an enterprise cloud

If there's one overarching theme of Amazon Web Services' second annual cloud user conference, it's that this company is aiming for enterprise.

At the kickoff keynotes for AWS re:Invent on Wednesday, Amazon’s cloud chief Andy Jassy announced three new services in the company’s already packed public cloud platform, two of which seem focused squarely on serving enterprises. Sprinkled throughout the conference have been not just hints, but overt declarations by company officials that Amazon’s cloud is ready for enterprises.

The question remains though: Are such organizations ready to go all-in with Amazon’s cloud?

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Photo courtesy of AWS

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Jassy kicked off his keynote announcing that there were 9,000 attendees in Las Vegas for re:Invent, one-third of which he says represent enterprises. When he put up slides showing who is using Amazon’s public cloud, one large screen showed dozens of startups that use AWS’s infrastructure, which in the beginning days seemed to be AWS’s bread and butter customer base. Another screen showed a page full of enterprise customers. Logos from companies like Unilever, Shell, SAP, Pfizer, The Washington Post, Adobe, Nokia, Lionsgate, GE, Tata Motors and others were displayed. In Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant report on public cloud vendors, AWS was placed, far and away, in the leaders quadrant, Jassy seemingly bragged.

Stephen Orban, the global CTO of Dow Jones - which operates media companies like the Wall Street Journal -- spoke about News Corp, which is the parent company of Dow Jones, hopes to migrate 75% of the company’s applications to the public cloud over the next three years. He’s looking to slash data centers from 40 to 6.

Jassy showed all of the compliance standards that Amazon’s cloud has achieved, from the government Federal Information Security Act (FISMA), to health care’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the payment card industry’s data security standard. Looking to keep its foot on the gas pedal to drive even more enterprise adoption, AWS announced the following new products, aimed most specifically at the enterprise market:

-AWS CloudTrail

This service provides a log of user activity within Amazon’s cloud that is then stored on the vendor’s storage platform, S3 or Glacier. Almost a dozen AWS partners announced tools that will create alerts when abnormal activity is recorded in these logs, giving customers visibility into not just how their AWS cloud is being used, but providing a mechanism to protect it from intruders.

-Amazon Workspaces

AWS leapt into the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market with the release of Amazon Workspaces, a hosted desktop server platform. VDI was seemingly one industry Amazon had not been in before, but has been dominated by enterprise-focused companies like Citrix and VMware with its recent purchase of desktop-as-a-service provider Desktone. Workspaces gives enterprise IT shops a central way to manage virtual desktops in a hosted public cloud using monthly pricing and providing integration with MS Active Directory.

-Amazon AppStream

The company also introduced AppStream, which uses the new graphics processing virtual machines AWS recently rolled out to stream high-definition application video. The service automatically renders graphic-intensive workloads to be streamed directly on a variety of desktop, laptop or mobile devices.

“The enterprise angle is definitely coming on strong here,” says Holger Mueller, an analyst focusing on the cloud computing market for Constellation Research. In the first few years of Amazon’s cloud service, it was a big hit for the developer community because it gave them easy access to low-cost compute and storage capacity. “They’ve passed the critical market point for developers,” Mueller says, noting that for future growth the company will have to penetrate the enterprise market.

AWS has already made strong strides. It offers GovCloud, which is an entire region of its public cloud devoted solely for government workloads, for example. But there are still holes, such as enterprise support, Mueller says. AWS has been building up its enterprise sales and support staff in order to gain on Microsoft and IBM, he notes.

Paul Burns, an analyst at Neovise, says AWS is doing a lot to appeal to the enterprise market through announcements like VDI support and the compliance certifications. In other areas where AWS has gaps in its offerings, such as in terms of offering a private cloud that can sit on a customer’s premises, the vendor has a wide network of partners that can offer these services.

In a question-and-answer session with media after his keynote, Jassy said that conversations the company is having with enterprises today are much different than ones it had a year ago. They’re in much greater depth, which he says reflects a willingness for companies to move workloads to the cloud.

Some customers will put new, greenfield apps in Amazon’s cloud, others are migrating legacy apps there. Others are taking an all-in approach and getting rid of their data centers in favor of the public cloud. Either way, Jassy said the majority of enterprise workloads will one day be run in the public cloud.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.  

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