Cloud IaaS Becomes Accessible to SMBs with Limited In House Technical Expertise

An earlier post to this blog remarked on what then appeared to be a set of considerable technical hurdles facing small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) in the US considering a migration to cloud, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers. But this writer recently identified technical communications pieces, published by Microsoft Azure and Amazon EC2, which may serve to lessen the challenge of these same hurdles.

WordPress is, arguably, the most popular blog platform available to consumers in the US. SMBs looking to launch an online content promotional effort can, and do implement new instances of WordPress every day. But while acquiring WordPress is a free-of-charge process, hosting one’s blog is not. One can argue hosting is also available, free-of-charge, on WordPress’ corporate (.com) site. But there is a cost to everything, so most SMBs will look to find a hosting partner, rather than give up the SEO equity in repayment for a tenancy on this corporate site. Conventional hosting isn’t cheap. So many SMBs consider partnering with a cloud, IaaS like Azure, or Amazon EC2 on the promise of substantial cost savings, as compared to conventional hosting resources.

In an online presentation titled How to host a Scalable and Optimized WordPress for Azure in minutes, Sunitha Muthukrishna, Program Manager, Azure Websites, provides a step-by-step procedure SMBs should be likely to easily follow. The short presentation includes a lot of imagery, which should make the process easier.

Amazon EC2 also offers documentation on the same task, titled Tutorial: Hosting a WordPress Blog with Amazon EC2, but the presentation is geared more for the technical user. Nevertheless, the objective is still the same, to encourage SMBs, and any other sized organization contemplating a move to cloud, IaaS for its blog, to overcome some of the technical intimidation of the process.

The Microsoft Azure piece is of particular interest as it is an example of Microsoft’s movement away from a parochial view of just which pieces of software ought to be supported on a Microsoft cloud. If this new, welcoming and expansive approach reverberates over a wider set of possible applications to be hosted on Azure, Microsoft should accelerate the sales pace for Azure.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


When Enterprise Business Chooses Amazon AWS, or Google Compute, Microsoft Often Wins, as Well

Anyone following Microsoft should develop an understanding of how a decision by a prominent enterprise IT organization to purchase IaaS from Amazon, AWS, or Google Compute,, more often than not, is a win for Microsoft, as well.

Scott Guthrie, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft, and head of Cloud and Enterprise Business, made this point during the Citi Global Technology Conference, on September 3, 2014. Guthrie observed ” . . . in the Azure world, or even in the AWS world, we still will make money from that Windows Server license”.

One can argue most of the needs for desktop computing for enterprise businesses, and their peers in the public, and not for profit sectors, remains all about the Microsoft Office suite, so when a Microsoft competitor, either Amazon AWS, or Google Compute, lands a big deal (for example, the US CIA decision to award a contract for a private cloud to Amazon, rather than IBM), Microsoft wins, as well.

If one keeps this understanding in mind, then the question of who actually dominates the market for cloud IaaS becomes less pressing. Additional details provided by Guthrie in his presentation, and his answers to questions posed by Walter Pritchard of Citigroup portray a different picture of this market than, perhaps, would otherwise be the case based on media pronouncements about it.

The commingling of ISVs throughout the whole process is much more extensive than one would otherwise expect. Pritchard focuses on instances where Microsoft Azure provides the IaaS for enterprise customers running higher value services (like analytics, CRM, ERP, etc) from other ISVs, and asks Guthrie: “How do you ultimately think about monetizing that type of an offering, where it is a premium service, but it’s not your IP and it might be something that either others get paid on, like Oracle, or is an open source no IP technology running on top of that?” Guthrie’s answer speaks to, perhaps, a new willingness, on Microsoft’s part, to embrace an extensively different enterprise computing world, where services from many ISVs are consumed by the same organization: ” . . . [t]here’s an analogy I’ve used within the team, which is keep your old friends and make new friends.” In other words, Micorosoft has transformed itself into something of a “platform agnostic” business, with much more confidence in its ability to make money either way. This should be good news for anyone following Microsoft.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Google May Come Up a Big Winner After All in the Cloud IaaS Market

Amazon AWS may be the largest cloud AWS provider, with Microsoft Azure a somewhat distant second, but Google’s Kubernetes may change all of that. This likelihood runs counter to an opinion of this writer, which provided the content of an earlier post to this blog.

The earlier post, titled Is Google’s Compute Engine (GCE) a Direct Competitor to AWS or Microsoft Azure? contended Google’s cloud, IaaS offer, Google Compute was an unlikely direct competitor to Microsoft® Azure, given its lack of direct support for Microsoft’s line of proprietary servers.

There is no indication of any changes to this status quo in an article written by Quentin Hardy and published to the New York Times Bits Blog. Rather, this blog post, titled Cloud Computing Giants Add to Open Source Credentials With Kubernetes presents an opportunity for Google’s efforts in this market of, potentially, much greater magnitude.

As Hardy notes, and Mary Jane Foley confirms in another article on this topic, this time published on ZDnet, Kubernete is Google’s effort to offer the very rich set of tools it has developed to support its Search and eMail products to the developer community via an Open Source approach.

If the initial list of committed partners — including IBM, Microsoft and Red Hat — simply add Kubernete to their lists of supported IaaS components, the rate at which users consume these tools may take on geometric proportion.

In the case of Azure, the Kubernete tool set, per Mary Jane Foley, will be made available within Azure’s lineup of IaaS components for Linux. Since Google search remains Google Search, with every implementation, more consumers will be exposed to Google products, including PPC advertising.

The benefit to Microsoft looks to be the opportunity Kubernete provides, which may transform Azure into a much more appealing solution than has been the case.

In turn, since Amazon AWS has expressed no interest in signing on, a clear differentiator will likely be created between Azure and Amazon AWS.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Is Google’s Compute Engine (GCE) a Direct Competitor to AWS or Microsoft Azure?

Google publicly introduced its Google Compute Engine (GCE) as an actual product back in December 2013. A lot has been written about GCE since its debut, with specific reference to this product as a direct competitor to Amazon AWS. But the lack of support for any Windows O/Ss, databases, etc (at least as far as I could find) says they are in a market of their own.

Virtual machine offers for operating systems are limited to two Linux distributions: Debian, and CentOS. Where Amazon offers RDS for managing Oracle, and even SQL Server in the cloud, GCE does not offer a competitive solution. Neither has GCE magnetized a level of support from the developer community to successfully compete with AWS. Quite a number of third party Apps are available for AWS, including quite a few useful for managing SAP database products.

So what should anyone following the cloud market for IaaS and SaaS solutions make of the dramatic price reductions Google recently announced for GCE. I think it’s a mistake to plan on a lot of pressure on AWS from these price reductions. I think it makes more sense to read the price discounting as emblematic of difficulties Google has experienced spreading the word on GCE and capturing a sufficient share of the market for these services. Perhaps it’s safe to say Google GCE has simply been successful magnetizing interest from the Open Source community, all the way from early stage ISVs to larger organizations like the Institute for Systems Biology portrayed in a case study on the GCE web site.

In contrast, AWS has been adopted by organizations, here in the US, of considerable size, not the least of which is the Federal CIA. A lot of this success is likely attributable to the availability, through AWS, of support for databases, and related applications, written for Windows computing environments.

It’s likely Google will expand the list of GCE available VMs to include support for the Microsoft Windows computing paradigm sometime soon. But in the meantime, Azure looks a lot more like a direct competitor to AWS than does Google GCE

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


What’s Behind Amazon’s AWS Activate Offer?

Back on October 13, 2013, Amazon debuted its AWS Activate offer. This program includes promotional credits, developer support, training, coaching, and a special toolbox along with the usual community support offer. There are two tiers of service: “Self Starter” and “Portfolio Package”. The latter refers to early stage businesses working with a set of venture capital firms.

All of the above makes sense. But early stage ISVs can’t, enmasse, simply sign up for the AWS Activate offer. An application is required for one of the tiers offered — “Portfolio Package”. The other tier — Self Service — also requires an application and isn’t available to some current AWS customers.

So how does Amazon benefit from the program? Some of the information required to answer this question can be found in a blog post written by Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon and published on the same day as the press release. The title of the post is AWS Activate – Supporting Startups on AWS. The post lists several successful businesses, including Pinterest, Spotify, Etsy, and Instagram. In the last paragraph of the post Vogels lists some other prominent businesses, not the least of which is Netflix, who are using precisely the same services as the ones offered in the AWS Activate service.

The real benefit to Amazon is, of course, the substantial usage charges the successful businesses listed on Vogel’s page pay for the use of the AWS services once they graduate from the program. Assuming the list of moderately successful businesses continuing to use, and pay for, AWS services post incubation stage is an order of magnitude greater than the handful of their enormously successful cousins, then it’s clear Amazon is benefiting substantially from the program. It may be safe to say most of the success of AWS, itself, as a profitable business unit within Amazon can be directly attributed to the kind of early support services and tools offered in this program.

At another level the AWS Activate service can be seen as Amazon’s effort to do its part to reduce the complexity of its IaaS and SaaS offer. Perhaps the approach they’ve taken with the AWS Activate service should serve as a model for competitors looking to make their own effort to ease the entry of new customers to their own Cloud offers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved