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Amazon’s EBS Will Push Enterprise Apps to the Cloud August 22, 2008

Posted by John Vrionis in Cloud Computing, Infrastructure.

Amazon announced Thursday that its Elastic Block Store (EBS) feature is now available to all of its EC2 Web service customers. This is a big deal. The move rounds out Amazon’s offering and provides a full storage suite that is delivered as a service.

S3 and EC2 previously combined to be Amazon’s storage and compute services but lacked many of the critical elements needed to push enterprise class applications to the cloud. The previous holes didn’t matter much for non mission critical applications or batch jobs, but they were prohibitive for enterprise customers who need flexibility in the software stack and guaranteed service levels. With EBS, Amazon is sending a strong message and hosting providers should take notice – the Ecommerce giant is planning to be a significant player in the fight to offer cloud services to enterprise customers.

According to Amazon CTO, Werner Vogels, adding the Elastic Block Store offers customers “persistent, high-performance, high-availability block-level storage which you can attach to a running instance of EC2.” Vogels goes into further detail about the components of Amazon’s offering in his blog.

EBS volumes, which range from 1GB to 1TB, can be mounted as a file system or as raw storage. What this means is that customers can now deploy applications that work with any number of relational databases or file systems, not just the software stack specified by the cloud vendor (an example would be SimpleDB in Amazon’s case). This is critical to enterprise class customers because they are not going to lock themselves into a niche technology just to work with a certain service provider, while startups have been more willing to deal with this constraint because the cloud offered such a cost effective way to get an app up and running.

The EBS upgrade is a major move towards offering enterprise developers the flexible and reliable infrastructure they absolutely must have combined with the cheap and easy access to cloud resources they love. There are still plenty of questions about true reliability and performance that need to be answered before we see a massive migration, but this is a major step forward in providing the necessary building blocks.

Amazon was always going to be a tough competitor to beat on cost, but by adding flexibility and reliability to its story the implication for hosting providers is they will have to find another way to differentiate. My prediction is that we’ll see hosting providers attempting to move up the stack and looking to offer application management and monitoring solutions on top of their infrastructure as a way of separating themselves from Amazon. That’s good news for startups in that space like Singularity (a Lightspeed portfolio company), WeoCeo and Rightscale.


1. Robert Brackenridge - August 22, 2008

One has to wonder… If Amazon has figured out that the profitability of online commerce takes a back seat to web services, why has eBay decided they want to get further into Amazon’s business model? Do they sense that Amazon is deserting their post? Or, are they going to cut the margin even further… Is eBay trying to pull a Wal-Mart? But, in eBay’s case the margin risk resides with their associates.

As far as moving up the stack goes, many of the current hosting providers are already trying to differentiate themselves. Rackspace, with their “fanatical” support is no longer competing on commodity computing (where Amazon is). They are betting on a complete service solution that offers the monitoring and application management you are mentioning.

2. Chris Larson - August 27, 2008

Jon – thanks for the great post. You helped me clarify this latest announcement from AWS from the flood of cloud press releases that are flowing from every company.

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