In pivot, AWS acknowledges private, hybrid clouds

Amazon Web Services is the leader in the public cloud, but private and hybrid clouds have been a weak spot. That may be changing

In just five months Amazon Web Services has changed its tone. Not significantly, but in a slight way that could have big implications for the future of enterprise cloud adoption and the company's efforts to fend off competitors.

Last November at AWS re:Invent, the company's annual customer event in Las Vegas, senior vice president Andy Jassy - the man credited with building AWS into one of the leading cloud providers - basically spent an entire keynote dissing private clouds, and extoling the benefits of the public cloud. (Read: Amazon bashes private clouds, launches virtual desktops)  Public cloud offers scale, efficiency and pricing dynamics that can't be matched by an enterprise's in-house IT team, was Jassy's takeaway message.

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Fast forward five months and at the company's AWS Summit in San Francisco today, Jassy had a slightly different tone. He spent the tail-end of his keynote acknowledging that customers may have applications that will not be run in the public cloud. "We know that many enterprises have data center assets they're not ready to retire yet," Jassy said. What they really want, Jassy said, is a way to more seamlessly run those apps in AWS's cloud. He went on to list the various capabilities Amazon has in its cloud to accomplish this, including AWS Virtal Private Cloud (VPC), AWS Direct Connect, and its Hardware Security Module (HSM).

Cloud watchers took notice:  

Feels like the Amazon story @ private cloud is evolving in a positive way. #awssummit http://t.co/8zcR2nMCVs

— Tim Crawford (@tcrawford) March 26, 2014

And...

Could #AWS and private cloud become friends? #AWSSummit pic.twitter.com/LJBLiynDn5

— Holger Mueller (@holgermu) March 26, 2014

Why is this a big deal? AWS is seen by some as being the public cloud leader. But one hole in the company's offerings has been its lack of a private cloud options for customers. Sure AWS has Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), but that is still hosted in AWS's data centers and could be on a multi-tenant infrastructure.

AWS competitors have pounced on this. VMware entered the IaaS public cloud market by naming its flagship product 'vCloud Hybrid Service,' clearly emphasizing the "hybrid" nature of it. Microsoft officials reiterate whenever they have a chance to that the company's Azure public cloud is based off of the same software customers can get in Windows Server and Windows Systems Center. AWS doesn't have software that customers can run on their own premises, and that's how some of AWS's fiercest competitors are going after the company.  

Jassy today is acknowledged those workloads. While he didn't announce any new products, AWS did offer some significant price cuts and some new instance types in its virtual compute offerings. But, Jassy did mention that AWS has VPC, Direct Connect and third-party partners that will offer direct connections between a customer's on-premises storage and AWS's public cloud. NetApp is one example Jassy specifically called out.

The point here is that Jassy and AWS are clearly feeling the pressure of other companies chomping at their bit, particularly on the hybrid and private cloud fronts. And they're fighting back.

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.

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