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Tech Arguments 2012

Cloud computing showdown: Amazon vs. Rackspace (OpenStack) vs. Microsoft vs. Google

In the cloud, it's a question of who has the ability to scale to meet enterprise needs

By , Network World
December 03, 2012 07:08 AM ET

Network World - It wouldn't be a mischaracterization to equate the cloud computing industry to the wild, wild west.

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There is such a variety of vendors gunning at one another and the industry is young enough that true winners and losers have not yet been determined. Amazon has established itself as the early market leader, but big-name legacy IT companies are competing hard, especially on the enterprise side, and a budding crop of startups are looking to stake their claims, too.

 
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In its latest Magic Quadrant report, research firm Gartner lists 14 infrastructure as a service (IaaS) companies, but Network World looked at four of the biggest names to compare and contrast: Amazon Web Services, Rackspace (and OpenStack), Microsoft and Google.

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Amazon Web Services

It's hard to find someone who doesn't agree that Amazon Web Services is the market leader in IaaS cloud computing. The company has one of the widest breadths of cloud services - including compute, storage, networking, databases, load balancers, applications and application development platforms all delivered as a cloud service. Amazon has dropped its prices 21 times since it debuted its cloud six years ago and fairly consistently fills whatever gaps it has in the size of virtual machine instances on its platform - the company recently rolled out new high-memory instances, for example.

There are some cautions for Amazon though. Namely, its cloud has experienced three major outages in two years. One analyst, Jillian Mirandi of Technology Business Researcher, has suggested that continued outages could eventually start hindering businesses' willingness to invest in Amazon infrastructure.

That sentiment gets to a larger point about AWS though - the service seems to be popular in the startup community, providing the IT infrastructure for young companies and allowing them to avoid investing in expensive technology themselves. But Mark Bowker, a cloud analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, says Amazon hasn't been as popular in the enterprise community. "Amazon's made it really easy for pretty much anyone to spin up cloud services or get VMs," he says. Where is Amazon getting those customers from? Some are developers and engineers who get frustrated by their own IT shops not being able to supply VMs as quickly as Amazon can, so they use Amazon's cloud in the shadows of IT. "Taxi cabs pay for a lot of VMs," says Beth Cohen, an architect at consultancy Cloud Technology Partners, referring to users expensing Amazon services on travel reports. The point is there's a hesitation by some enterprises to place their Tier 1, mission critical applications in a public cloud.

Amazon is looking to extend its enterprise reach though. In recent months the company has made a series of announcements targeting enterprises and developers. It rolled out Glacier, a long-term storage service, while it's made updates to its Elastic application development platform and its Simple WorkFlow Service, which helps developers automate applications running in Amazon's cloud.

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