Last week, Amazon launched Zocalo, an enterprise file sync and share service. The press chatter has been all about how Amazon is now competing with Box and Dropbox. Dropbox also happens to be an Amazon Web Services S3 customer. This is not the first time Amazon has released a new service that competes against its own customers. Nasuni, Engine Yard, Heroku, OpenShift and MongoDB are just a few technology vendors with whom Amazon can partner/host and compete. This is not that unusual in the era of more open architectures and “co-opetition.” However, with this recent announcement, I couldn’t help but think back to when proprietary hooks and vendor lock-in were common and more explicit. What have we learned and what does it portend for the future of cloud computing and services?
I guess the retelling of the Browser Wars story and the AWS/ Zocalo announcement in the same week was fitting. Of course, neither AWS nor anyone else can command 90% of the cloud services market but that doesn’t mean that technology providers and vendors can’t pursue other ways of building “walled gardens” and monopoly-like power. They just have to go about it differently. But much like Microsoft 20 years ago, AWS has a growing ecosystem of ISVs that get to market via AWS and fill in gaps in AWS offerings. The gaps that AWS identifies as profitable are targets for AWS services that will compete with the ecosystem. ISVs know this, yet still gravitate to AWS due to its simplicity, APIs and low cost/GB. And even with the strong gravitational pull of their ecosystem, Amazon is nowhere near a monopoly. The answer is not a lawsuit, it’s more competition. Competition would foster innovation and give ISVs more choice in how or where to host their applications.
So why is there not enough competition? Many cloud service providers (CSPs) and ISVs have been scared away from competing with public Infrastructure-as-Service (IaaS) providers or hosting their own infrastructure because they fear a never-ending race to the bottom. They don’t believe they can offer or afford a storage infrastructure that features the hyperscale economics and capabilities of public IaaS. And, for the most part, they’ve been right. Until today.
With the introduction of the EMC ECS Appliance, powered by ViPR, EMC brings hyperscale capabilities and economics to everyone. The ECS Appliance is a commodity-based storage appliance differentiated by the ViPR software. For the first time, customers can purchase a complete cloud storage platform in a box with self-service access and universal protocol support. The EMC ECS Appliance features include:
For the first time, enterprises, CSPs and ISVs can build a modern hyperscale storage infrastructure that leverages commodity platforms. Any data center can feature the economics of commodity platforms and the simplicity of cloud. They can offer the same experience; host a broad range of applications, offer developers simple access to industry standard APIs such as Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift, EMC Atmos, HDFS, etc., and be price competitive. I suppose in another decade or so, I can look forward to the next retrospective on the 10s. Maybe a 70-something year-old Rob Lowe will tell the story of how the economics of cloud storage changed in 2014 and ushered in a new era of innovation and economic growth. And how stupid everyone looked in skinny jeans.