In a thoughtful interview given shortly before Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) annual AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon Web Services (AWS) chief Andy Jassy declared AWS to be a "customer-focused" business rather than a "competitor-focused" or "product-focused" one.
In other words, Jassy claimed the cloud infrastructure giant builds its offerings by closely listening to what customers are looking for, rather than by reacting to what rivals are doing or relying on its own views of what AWS products and services should look like. "[I]f you're driving your roadmap based on what you hear customers telling you, you can just act much more quickly," he insisted.
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The deluge of new products and services Amazon has unveiled at re:Invent, many of which touch on technology fields that enterprises, startups and/or software firms are showing far more attention to now than they did a year or two ago, back up Jassy's claim. And -- like the speed at which Amazon has done things like build new warehouses, grow Alexa's ecosystem and move to integrate Whole Foods -- drive home how rapidly the company tends to move in markets it takes seriously.
They also suggest that being "customer-focused" can at times look a lot like being "competitor-focused," as several of Amazon's new offerings strongly resemble ones from leading cloud rivals that have seen decent uptake.
- "Bare metal" cloud computing instances that (unlike Amazon's traditional computing instances) provide direct access to server resources and don't feature any virtualization software for workloads to be run on top of.
- EKS, a service for running clusters of app containers -- lightweight software packages containing individual apps that can be easily moved around -- using a popular software platform (Kubernetes) for managing container deployments.
- Fargate, a solution for running containers without having to set up or manage AWS virtual machines.
- Aurora Serverless, a version of Amazon's popular Aurora managed database service that isn't tied to any particular cloud computing instance, and Aurora Multi-Master, a service that lets a database be replicated across multiple AWS "availability zones" around the planet.
There's also Global Tables, a globally-distributed version of Amazon's DynamoDB managed database service (meant for less structured data).
- AWS Serverless Application Repository, which lets customers find and deploy apps that don't need to be run on a particular computing instance.
- Machine learning services for language-translation, understanding sentiment and phrases within text, converting speech to text and for identifying objects, people and other items within images and video.
- SageMaker, a service for quickly building, training and deploying machine learning models on AWS. And DeepLens, a video camera that lets AI developers run trained machine learning models against footage right on the device.
Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) , whose GPUs are included in AWS computing instances targeting AI developers, stands to benefit.
- New services for managing and securing IoT devices, as well as for analyzing, acting on and running machine learning models against the data they produce. There's also a new operating system (called Amazon FreeRTOS) for powering IoT devices that can easily connect with AWS' IoT services.
- Alexa for Business, a set of services that allow the Alexa voice assistant to be used in office environments via compatible devices.
Whether Amazon was thinking about customers or competitors first, a lot of these new offerings serve to counter services offered on rival platforms. IBM Corp. (IBM) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL) have been offering bare metal cloud servers for a while. Alphabet Inc../Google (GOOGL) , leveraging the giant AI investments it has made over the years, has rolled out popular machine learning services for cloud clients. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has launched popular IoT cloud services, and both Microsoft and Google have rolled out innovative services for managing Kubernetes clusters and running globally-distributed databases.
Yet Amazon is clearly doing more here than trying to neutralize potential selling points held by rivals. It's also rolling out a number of services that are arguably one-of-a-kind, some of which touch on high-interest areas such as AI, analytics, video and IoT. And -- given both Amazon's speed and the cloud R&D resources it can justify thanks to AWS' unmatched scale -- it's tough to imagine any rival simultaneously launching as many new offerings as the company just did.
And that serves to strengthen a feature-set lead that Jassy highlighted during a re:Invent keynote address, through a slide showing the big leads AWS has over rivals (Microsoft, Google and Oracle, judging by the color-coding used) in areas such as storage features, database support and security capabilities. When one factors in the big software and services ecosystem edge Amazon claims thanks to the AWS Marketplace, the lead becomes even larger.
All of this provides some context to the customer wins unveiled at re:Invent, the largest of which are major deals with Disney (DIS) and Expedia (EXPE) . Though many enterprises rely on multiple cloud platforms and will continue to, it's tough for a Global 2000-type firm to justify not meaningfully using AWS. And when it comes to enterprises looking to fully shut down data centers and move hundreds of workloads to the cloud, AWS' scale, feature set and ecosystem arguably make it the best partner for doing so.
All of these announcements follow a Q3 in which Amazon's AWS revenue rose 42% annually to $4.58 billion. They also come about a month after research firm Synergy Research estimated AWS claims nearly 35% of the combined market for cloud infrastructure (IaaS), cloud app platform (PaaS) and hosted private cloud services, or more than its next five rivals combined.
The public cloud market isn't a zero-sum game, as the impressive growth delivered by Microsoft, Google and Alibaba's (BABA) cloud businesses drives home. Rivals do have strengths of their own -- for example, Microsoft in supporting hybrid clouds, Google in providing advanced AI and analytics services and Alibaba in servicing the needs of Chinese clients.
But in terms of revenue, customers and features, AWS is still in a league of its own. And when taken in aggregate, the latest announcements from Jeff Bezos' company provide fresh evidence that this isn't going to change in the near-term.
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