2006 is an important year in the annals of cloud computing history. In the spring, about 10 and half years ago, Amazon launched AWS (Amazon Web Services). Initially built to support Amazon’s internal infrastructure, AWS was then made available as a public cloud platform, with its two main services— first Amazon Simple Storage Service, dubbed S3 for short, and then Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, also known as EC2.
Today, AWS is ubiquitous. With solutions spanning networking, storage and content delivery, compute and application services, among others, AWS is widely accepted as the default cloud provider according to Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. That same report found that AWS has more than ten times the computing capacity of the next 14 largest infrastructure vendors combined—including the collective public cloud footprint of Google, Microsoft, CenturyLink, VMware, IBM, and others.
Ten years later, we see that AWS did more than introduce a technological innovation. It introduced us to the cloud business model, marked by three key tenets:
- Self-service provisioning, where users pick and choose from a catalog of services and instantly activate the ones they need
- Elastic infrastructure, with capacity that scales up or down based on demand
- A service-driven operating model, with support, billing, and metering all baked into the solution. This cloud-driven model enabled the agility, elasticity and ultimately, competitive advantage that traditional IT infrastructure models were lacking
Although cloud remains appealing for these reasons, the truth is that public clouds like AWS are, in many cases, non-starters due to the regulatory, security, performance and control drawbacks. In order to fill this gap, smaller, more regionally focused service providers have entered the cloud business in growing numbers.
Using more modern approaches to IT infrastructure like hyperconvergence, these service providers are able to deliver customized service offerings that provide the self-provisioning, elastic capacity, and service-driven benefits of a cloud model, with greater control and assurances over security and geo-location of data. If you want to know how this differs from AWS, you can think of it like buying apparel on, well, Amazon, compared to visiting your local tailor and getting a custom fitted suit.
As one of the fastest growing segments in the $107 billion IT infrastructure market, hyperconvergence provides an opportunity for keen service providers to bridge the IT-innovation gap. Based on the same design principles that inspired Amazon’s cloud – software-defined, scale-out, running on commodity hardware – hyperconverged infrastructure uses a software-defined approach to converge all IT infrastructure and data services for virtualized workloads onto commodity x86 servers. What once gave AWS a leg up over traditional IT infrastructure is now at the fingertips of a number of hungry competitors.
The advent of hyperconvergence marks a shift in the market that Eric Slack, senior analyst at the Evaluator Group, sees as potentially game changing. “For a decade, offerings like AWS have led the public cloud market by providing easily deployed IT systems that many companies chose over their own data centers. This popularity contributed to the assumption that the cloud was less expensive than an in-house infrastructure. But hyperconvergence is disrupting the status quo,” said Slack. “Hyperconvergence has leveled the playing field so service provider customers can better compete in this fast-growing market and enterprises can deploy private clouds that keep data on premises, at a dramatically lower TCO.”
Ultimately, AWS brought much-needed speed, agility, and cost savings to IT that, 10 years later, still make it a valid option for organizations of all sizes, even larger enterprises. But these qualities alone are no longer enough and its limitations have become apparent just as service providers are starting to gain momentum by nipping at its heels. As AWS enters its next decade, its dominance will be threatened by the rise of hybrid models and it will go head-to-head with the players who can deliver that same speed, agility and cost savings, without the tradeoffs.