Why Amazon’s Cloud Competitors Won’t Follow into PaaS

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Amazon Web Services developed its own flavor of PaaS because it had to. The cleverly named Elastic Beanstalk gives the company a way to keep up with cloud development trends. That doesn’t mean the rest of its IaaS brethren need to follow suit — at least not in the immediate future. Instead, several leading cloud providers are distinguishing themselves by innovating at the intersection of cloud computing and dedicated infrastructure, the one area they can certainly distinguish themselves from market leader AWS, which has to focus on developers because it doesn’t have a legacy business on which to lean.

I think GoGrid might actually be the innovation leader in terms of fusing its dedicated hosting business with its cloud computing business. In 2008, it launched its Cloud Connect program (since renamed Hybrid Hosting) that lets customers deploy dedicated servers and connect them to GoGrid cloud servers via a private network. This week, GoGrid took its hybrid approach a step (or two) further by announcing dedicated infrastructure — servers, network, management software, etc. — as a cloud service. It’s a big deal because GoGrid’s customer base of service providers and more traditional businesses want to leverage — or even resell — GoGrid’s cloud capabilities, but they want to do so in the most secure manner possible.

Rackspace Cloud is a step behind GoGrid in terms of merging managed hosting and cloud computing, but it’s making progress. Rackspace recently announced its Cloud Connect offering that, like the GoGrid offering once bearing the same name, lets customers deploy hybrid cloud environments comprised of dedicated managed servers and shared cloud servers. Additionally, Rackspace is now offering Cloud Servers with a Managed Service Level, which brings the company’s experience in managing customer environments into the traditionally self-service cloud computing model.

Joyent doesn’t have a managed hosting business like GoGrid and Rackspace, but it is differentiating itself by catering to conservative customers that want to build private clouds. Joyent’s SmartDataCenter software brings the Joyent public-cloud experience in-house, complete with IaaS and PaaS capabilities. As far as I know, it’s the only cloud provider actually selling its secret sauce to individual companies and service providers to run on their own infrastructure, although it certainly isn’t the only company pushing cloud software.

What’s noteworthy is that rather than try to keep up with AWS by rolling out feature after feature or jumping into the PaaS space, this collection of providers seem to have chosen to compete by leveraging their own strengths. Such strategies probably won’t result in sheer user numbers comparable to AWS — although Rackspace and Joyent do enjoy fairly large developer bases — but they should result in bigger deals and plenty of long-term business.

For more on these cloud providers’ strategies, see my weekly update at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy of David Wyatt.

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