To a large extent, Amazon (AMZN) Web Services (AWS) has achieved a $14 billion annual sales run rate on the back of strong demand for cloud infrastructure services (IaaS) such as on-demand access to computing, storage and networking resources. And the strong growth of those markets has been fueled in part by demand for cloud app platform services (PaaS) from Amazon, as well as third parties, that provide developers with multiple tools for launching and running cloud and mobile apps.
What arguably doesn't get as much attention -- perhaps because AWS is often simply perceived as a "cloud computing provider" -- is the extent to which Amazon has become a major seller of cloud apps, including ones delivered through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription model. A lot of this stems from the reselling of cloud apps through the AWS Marketplace, which now supports over 3,500 products (Amazon often takes a 20% cut). But some of it is also due to Amazon's rapidly-expanding arsenal of SaaS products it has developed on its own.
On Tuesday, Amazon added one more notable product to its cloud software lineup by launching Chime, an online video conferencing, chat and file-sharing solution that's accessible via web browsers, PC apps and mobile apps. Amazon offers a Basic version for free. But a Plus version that supports things like IT admin tools and screen-sharing costs $2.50 per user per month, while a Pro version supporting up to 100 meeting attendees (rather than just 2), conference room video systems and the ability to join meetings via regular phones costs $15 per user per month.
Chime bakes in a few interesting features; for example, it informs conference call participants which users have distracting background noise, provides a running list of who's on a call (no need to constantly hear someone "just joined"), dials users when a call is starting and lets users quickly notify other attendees that they're running late. The solution takes aim at a unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) estimated by Gartner to be worth $12 billion.
Big players in this market include Microsoft's (MSFT) Skype for Business (formerly Lync), Cisco Systems' (CSCO) WebEx and LogMeIn (LOGM) , which both offers a home-grown rival solution and recently acquired Citrix Systems' (CTXS) GoToMeeting online collaboration solution as part of a $1.8 billion deal. LogMeIn shares were down 8.1% as of the time of this article.
Depending on a company's needs, the Pro version of Chime might not be all that cheap. Microsoft charges just $5 per user per month for its Office 365 Business Essentials package, which contains Skype for Business, and $12.50 per month for a Business Premium package containing the full Office suite. Cisco charges for WebEx based on the number of meeting hosts rather than total users, with each host costing $69 per month.
At the same time, Amazon clearly put a lot of thought into fleshing out Chime's feature set, and companies whose meetings need to support a lot of standard phone calls could find it cost-effective. Its launch follows that of several other high-profile SaaS product launches from Amazon in recent years. These include:
- WorkDocs (formerly Zocalo), an enterprise cloud storage/file-sharing service that competes with the likes of Box (BOX) , Microsoft's OneDrive, Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google Drive and Dropbox.
- WorkMail, a managed business e-mail/calendar service that competes with Microsoft, Google and many others.
- QuickSight, a business intelligence/data visualization software tool that undercuts many rival offerings. Competitors include Tableau Software (DATA) , Qlik Technologies and Microsoft's Power BI software.
- WorkSpaces, a solution for providing remote (virtual) PCs hosted on AWS servers. It competes with Citrix and VMware (VMW) .
- Several security offerings, including web app firewall software, a service for analyzing the security of AWS-deployed apps and a service for managing encryption keys.
In addition, AWS has popular PaaS solutions that take aim at big enterprise software players. These include its Aurora managed database service -- it's powering workloads producing over $1 billion in annual revenue, and is thus a problem for the likes of Oracle (ORCL) , IBM (IBM) and Microsoft. As well as its Redshift data warehousing service, which squares off against warehousing solutions from Informatica, Teradata (TDC) , Oracle and IBM.
There have been concerns that Amazon is frequently stepping on the toes of AWS Marketplace partners, as well as some cloud software firms (such as Box) that rely on its core infrastructure services. But there hasn't been much evidence that such channel conflict has seriously hurt Amazon: AWS' popularity gives software firms a strong incentive to use the Marketplace whether or not AWS competes with them, and as Netflix can attest to, Amazon doesn't let the fact that it's competing with an AWS client affect the quality of the service provided to them.
Amazon doesn't break out how much revenue it obtains from the Marketplace or its own cloud software solutions by themselves. But even as of 2015, 10-figure estimates for Marketplace sales could be found. In the wake of a slightly disappointing Q4 AWS revenue print, the potential for cloud apps to provide additional fuel for AWS' sales momentum shouldn't be overlooked.