Amazon had better watch its flank in 2017. Enemies are looking to break Amazon Web Services from its global domination, and hybrid is the battlefield on which these valiant warriors will make their stand.
In other news: I've been learning about military history. Sometimes I get carried away with the metaphors. I'll tone it down.
Amazon Web Services Inc. has overwhelming domination of the Infrastructure and Platform as a Service (IaaS and PaaS) markets, with a 45% share of worldwide public IaaS, even though Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) are growing faster. AWS is more than twice the size of Microsoft, Google and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) cloud combined. (See Amazon Bigger in IaaS Cloud Than Microsoft, Google & IBM Combined.)
But AWS's competitors are global companies in their own right, with long histories of serving the enterprise market, where Amazon is the newcomer.
Microsoft has 20 years of experience selling into the enterprise, and it's easy for companies to extend their relationship with Microsoft from on-premises computing to Azure.
IBM has the same advantage but more so. IBM makes Microsoft look like a newcomer to the enterprise. IBM's history in the enterprise isn't measured in years -- it's measured in generations.
And Google is, well, Google. It's got a globe-spanning cloud, advanced technology, its brand is worshipped and its ambitions are enormous -- not only taking on Amazon, Microsoft and IBM, but also turning the auto industry upside down with self-driving cars, revolutionizing the energy industry by getting power from sea water and Google's founders are looking to literally beat death.
2017 is the year that challengers Microsoft, Google and IBM, along with a throng of service providers and niche cloud players, look to get a piece of AWS business, or even take Amazon down. In the process of doing that, they'll revolutionize enterprise computing and the business world.
Look for three unfolding stories here, in hybrid cloud, AI and blockchain:
Hybrid cloud is the new battleground
Sirish Raghuram, CEO of Platform9, a managed services provider for OpenStack and Kubernetes, suggested this angle, and it makes sense. Hybrid is a natural bet for Microsoft and IBM, just extending their existing business relationship to the public cloud.
It's also a way for Google to make inroads into the enterprise cloud. Google's strength here is Kubernetes, open source software championed by Google which makes workloads cloud-independent. Anything that weakens Amazon's lock on customers is good for Google, Raghuram says.
"Kubernetes creates a halo effect for Google," Raghuram says. "Google has small market share, so any way they can commoditize Amazon -- even running Kubernetes on Amazon -- helps Google. And Google has a great Kubernetes implementation."
Similarly, next year, Microsoft's Azure Stack is due to come to market, allowing enterprises to run Azure instances locally in their data centers, strengthening Microsoft's already strong hybrid story.
Amazon isn't standing still. Late this year, Amazon cut a deal with VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) to allow VMware to extend its vSphere private cloud platform into AWS. (See Enemies No More: Amazon & VMware Partner on Cloud.)
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And Amazon introduced Greengrass software and Snowball hardware this month to beef up its hybrid cloud technology. (See Amazon Takes Cloud on the Road.)
AI is a big gun
One of the signal benefits to the cloud is that it lets enterprises of all sizes try cutting-edge technologies that would otherwise only be available to a handful of the biggest companies in the world. The cloud provider builds and runs the service, and enterprises just have to connect applications with APIs.
AI is new technology, and it's an opportunity for insurgent cloud providers to gain the lead over AWS. The market is so new that nobody's the leader here -- not AWS or anybody else.
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