SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Amazon Rolls Out Better Service: The Cloud Wars Continue

Posted by Bob Warfield on April 18, 2008

The good stuff just keeps right on coming in the Cloud Computing world.  No sooner do we get the Intuit QuickBase announcement than Amazon is piping up with news that they now have Gold and Silver Premium Support Plans

The rates on these plans are pretty comparable to what I’m used to from the Enterprise Software (e.g. the bad old perpetual license) world:  10% for Silver of your monthly Amazon fees and 20% for Gold.  What you get is:

Both plans include fast and predictable response times, an unlimited number of support cases, and personalized support from our team of developer support engineers. Because it can be tricky to figure out exactly where a problem resides, developers with AWS Premium Support also have access to a set of client-side diagnostic tools.

The Gold plan also includes round the clock (24 hours per day 7 days per week 365 days per year) coverage, telephone support, and 1 hour maximum response time for issues designated as urgent.

I have to say that while I can see the premium support is valuable for those who view Amazon as Mission Critical, something about it just doesn’t feel right to me.  I guess it’s just that it’s a holdover from the old days, and costs about the same in terms of being a percentage of what you paid for the software/service.  It feels wrong to me because SaaS is a Service, so why do I need to pay for Service? 

It also doesn’t feel right that it costs about the same as my old perpetual license maintenance contracts.  SaaS is supposed to be cheaper, and it’s supposed to be demand-driven.  I’d expect to have fewer incidents too, so given all that, I would have felt better about a by-incident fee.  In other words, Tech Support On Demand.  Don MacAskill at SmugMug apparently feels the same way.   Commenters on SmugMug also bring up another way of looking at the, “Didn’t I already pay for the Service?” issue when they say that the SLA situation has still not been adequately addressed.  Likewise, the comments over on TechCrunch have others echoing, “Why must I pay more when I already bought a service I just want to have work?”

Perhaps this is just a temporary bout of cognitive dissonance.  The fact is, you’re paying for additional service and this is a practice that other SaaS companies follow.  It should also be a fact that you will need it a lot less from a SaaS vendor but you’ll probably still want to have it if you view the service as mission critical.  Unfortunately, you pay the same regardless of how much you use it, which is decidedly not-SaaS.  In general, the service ought to just run. 

Amazon is in an odd position too since they deal with your code in their cloud.  That’s going to create more opportunity for cases where the experts in Tech Support are needed to help you figure out what’s happening and how to fix it.

This is a good move for Amazon, and it also signals we’re starting to move out of the Platform-as-a-Service as an experiment stage and into the PaaS as a production business reality stage.  As others have commented, it’s a natural stage of maturation.

Phil Wainewright suggests that this about Amazon getting serious towards the Enterprise.  Stacey Higginbotham and Josh Catone echo much the same sentiments.  It’s a step, but there is so much more that Enterprise IT hits you with when you want to sell to them that I have a hard time seeing it as a big push, but it’s a step.  Everyone, of course, says they’re serious about the Enterprise, but there is a lot entailed.  That’ll be the topic for a blog post here at some point. 

I think Phil’s most telling insight is that Enterprises want to be able to ask their support questions in private so nobody can see their dirty laundry.  That’s worth paying a little bit for. 


One Response to “Amazon Rolls Out Better Service: The Cloud Wars Continue”

  1. A lot is moving fast…

    Seems like Cloud computing is catching up with the enterprise market fast. Amazon released enterprise support packs for their web hosting EC2 and storage solutions S3 in response to enterprise customers along with a service health dashboard….

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