New problem for Amazon: Sony defects to OpenStack

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Updated: Sony’s gaming arm is moving at least some of its workload from Amazon Web Services to the rival Rackspace OpenStack. That move shows that, although AWS remains the leader in public cloud infrastructure, it faces increasing competition from OpenStack and other alternatives for enterprise workloads.

Such a high-profile win is good news for Rackspace, which initiated the OpenStack open-source cloud infrastructure project with NASA two years ago. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Citrix and Cisco all back OpenStack to some degree, and some already host OpenStack services.

The Sony move, reported by NetworkWorld, comes after last year’s massive security breach, which compromised the personal identity information of millions of players of Sony’s gaming networks.

And any defection by Sony is bad news for industry leader Amazon, which continues to release new features and cut prices on its wide array of cloud services.

Update: Jim Curry, GM of Rackspace’s Cloud Builders team, confirmed that his group is working with Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) on OpenStack implementations but would not comment on a possible migration, but there have been public indications of Sony cozying up to OpenStack since last year’s meltdown. It presented at a session on cloud alternatives at the OpenStack Conference last fall, for example.  An Amazon spokesman said that Sony is a big and growing AWS customer. Messages left for a Sony spokesperson were not returned. A Sony spokesman got back Friday afternoon with the following statement:

“Sony Computer Entertainment America utilizes various hosting options, including those from Amazon Web Services and OpenStack, among others, for its game platforms. The reports claiming that SCEA is discontinuing its relationship with Amazon Web Services are inaccurate.”

AWS big and growing — but not invulnerable

While Amazon is the 800-lb gorilla in public cloud, with millions of customers, some see vulnerabilities. For one thing, as Matrix Partners’ Charlie Oppenheimer pointed out in GigaOM recently, in some cases it can be cheaper to host workloads in-house than put them on AWS. And cloud competitors Google and Microsoft continue to cut prices on their cloud services.

Price is one thing. Security and reliability are another, and slippage there could be more perilous for Amazon. Breaches like what happened with Sony, along with another multi-day AWS outage last year, show that Amazon still has room to improve. Last month, another huge AWS customer, Zynga, said it has moved much of its workload into its internal Z cloud from Amazon, although it did not cite any concern over AWS reliability or security as a reason.

But Amazon has been in the infrastructure-as-a-service game for years, while OpenStack remains largely in beta. (Internap is the only company claiming a commercial-grade implementation at this point.)

Glitches cast doubts on the cloud, not just on AWS

The Sony problem started to surface late last April when the company acknowledged — a few weeks after it discovered the issue — that its PlayStation and Qriocity networks had been compromised. In May, Sony acknowledged that the personal information from 24.6 million Sony Online Entertainment accounts may have been stolen, and that other information from an older database was also compromised.

The huge breach caused many to rethink the notion of cloud computing as a safe venue for their personal information and was seen as a black eye for AWS, although Sony said it had no evidence that AWS itself was to blame for the breach.

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