There’s some great announcements in the cloud computing world from both Amazon and Rackspace.
First, Rackspace is making a credible effort at providing an alternative to Amazon by acquiring two startups to broaden their offering. Rackspace is now using the “Cloud” moniker to identify both their old and new cloud computing services:
– “Mosso” is now “CloudSites”. CloudSites makes it easy to put web sites and email into the cloud.
– CloudFiles is a new service announced after Rackspace acquired Jungle Disk that competes with Amazon S3. It goes a step further by offering a desktop backup service that makes it easy to use. In other words, they bundle an app with the cloud platform offering. Ironically Jungle Disk today stores its data on Amazon S3.
– CloudServers is a new service offering virtual machines ala Amazon EC2. It’s based on technology Rackspace acquired called SliceHost.
Michael Cote suggests these kinds of acquisitions are the sort of thing he has been suggesting and hoping the likes of IBM and Sun would sign up for, and he is absolutely right. Making it dead easy to play in the cloud is a great move for Rackspace, and it only cost them $12-16M to move ahead of many other vendors (not neccesarily Amazon). In addition, it got an API in place, which their earlier Mosso offering lacked.
These acquisitions also point to what I think we’ll see as a major trend and that Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm has picked up on: hosting vendors need to start thinking about how they can transition to being cloud vendors as well. These acquisitions successfully position Rackspace ahead of many of its competitors in that respect.
But wait, there is more. Scoble says the company will continue making new annoucements over the next few months, so there are more shoes to be dropped. It promises to be interesting to watch.
Amazon, for it’s part, had even bigger news. While others are just trying to get into the Cloud marketplace with a comprehensive enough offering, Amazon continues to broaden their offering and make it more robust with the following announcements:
– EC2 is officially out of Beta test. Thank goodness Amazon won’t operate like Google where everything seems to perpetually continue in Beta indefinitely. They realize that’s not good enough for others to bet their companies on.
– EC2 now has a real SLA. Also important if you’re betting your company on the platform.
– Microsoft WIndows and SQL Server are available on the platform in Beta. A friend checked it out and noted that SQL Server seemed extremely expensive. If you have to have it, you have to have it, but this will be a problem for Microsoft as the world moves more into the Cloud.
– Amazon has announced it will be adding management consoles and load balancing in 2009. These are two very important and basic functions for larger Cloud deployments. There are alternatives available today (these announcements are problematic for those companies who tried to fly too close to the sun), but having an official alternative from Amazon is better. These are very generic problems that it’s simpler to let the Cloud vendor solve unless you have some very special needs. And, they’re problems Amazon must have solved for themselves as well.
As TechCrunchIT mentions, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels is saying that a down economy favors a shift to Cloud Computing, and Amazon is certainly very much in the leadership position.
Much of the world will read Rackspace as challenging Amazon and wants to pit the two against one another, but I don’t see it that way yet. Rackspace provides an alternative to those evaluating the Cloud–nobody likes to have just 1 vendor. But, I think more importantly for them is that they have a set of offerings that make it easy to move very basic IT services such as web site hosting, email, and backup into the cloud quickly and easily. That’s a little different than the app platform business that is Amazon Web Services and Rackspace has a little ways to go to be effective on that side.
A whole lot of other companies ranging from the IBM and Sun that Michael Cote mentions to Microsoft, which is unveiling its own offerings soon, have a lot of catchup to play. If they wait too much longer its going to be hard to gain ground on Amazon.