Cloud Rivals Aim to Steal Thunder From AWS: re:Invent Keynotes

By Eric Lundquist  |  Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: Amazon convenes its re:Invent customer show here Nov. 13 with its major rivals Google and Pivotal rushing to grab the spotlight with their own big cloud services news.

LAS VEGAS—What better time for competitors to introduce their new cloud services than the day before the big fish makes a splash? With the main keynotes from the Amazon Web Services honchos starting on Nov. 13 at the company’s second re:Invent conference, competitors Pivotal and Google made their own cloud computing announcements.

For enterprise IT pros, the Pivotal announcement of its Pivotal One Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the bigger deal. The Pivotal One platform, based on VMware’s open-source Cloud Foundry, was introduced on Nov. 12 along with a range of enterprise services. The product is pitched as “the world’s first next-generation multi-cloud enterprise PaaS.”

Despite Pivotal's over-the-top pitch, the product and the company have some compelling arguments. The applications and data services run on top of the company’s distribution of Cloud Foundry is named Pivotal CF. The first set of services include Pivotal HD (the Pivotal version of Hadoop), enterprise messaging and a MySQL service.

In introducing Pivotal One, CEO Paul Maritz is trying to position the EMC spin-off as able to draw on the strengths of EMC and VMWare, but independent in its ability to address a wide range of customers. GE is a major investor in this technology. The Cloud Foundry stack can be installed as an on-premise infrastructure or as part of Infrastructure-as-a-Services (IaaS) offerings, presumably including OpenStack or Amazon Web Services.

The attraction is that the Pivotal PaaS stack would not be tied to any one IaaS or in-house system. The product will also compete against Microsoft’s Azure suite of services. Missing from the announcement is the price, which should be available from the company on Nov. 15.

Google also got into the cloud services act. On Monday, Google announced two products: Mobile Backend Starter and Cloud Endpoints. Cloud Endpoints is a free service aimed at helping developers build backend data capabilities. Mobile Backend is a one click deployable cloud backend for Android and iOS.

Google as an enterprise platform vendor has tended to be overshadowed by all the announcements coming from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and others. However, the company has continued to build out its stack and make a Google-like infrastructure available to enterprise customers.

Even more significant than the details of the announcements is the timing. Amazon has a big lead in the cloud services business and competitors are playing catch-up. Those competitors will claim that the cloud business is still in the early innings and in particular the large enterprises are only in the prototype mode with most of their computing resources still tied to traditional on-premise systems.

While the early stages argument has some validity, the need for vendors to attract, maintain and nurture a large development community is at the heart of the race to the cloud. Developers—as Microsoft taught the IT community in the desktop era—are the key to building the applications and marketplaces where users, system integrators and developers thrive.

Developer interest naturally flows to where they can make the most money and see an ongoing business model. Developers build loyalty to the vendors who provide them not only with the best software tools but also access to high-growth markets. Amazon Web Services, with its estimated $4 billion in revenues, is by far the largest cloud market.

The Amazon Web Services keynotes and service introductions will be watched closely not just by the attendees but also by the competitors. Amazon is a leader in establishing not just cloud-service capabilities but also pricing structures with narrow margins that have upended traditional enterprise software sales.

The introductions from Pivotal and other aspiring enterprise PaaS providers will not be complete until they also introduce what users will be expected to pay for the services built on their platforms.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008 authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.

Originally published on www.eweek.com.