If other cloud providers — the Rackspaces, Hewlett-Packard’s, Joyents, Softlayers, Terremarks and GoGrids of the world — don’t take advantage of Amazon Web Services data center snafus over the past year, they should have their heads examined. What competitor would not tactfully point out to corporate prospects that AWS US-East has been ground zero for at least three major sets of outages over the past 12 months?
For all the talk of Amazon’s dominance in public cloud, we’re still very early on in this game. Outside of web startups and SaaS companies, many businesses have barely dipped their toe in the cloud to date. That means there is big opportunity for those vendors that can provide an enterprise-class cloud. At the very least, Amazon’s miscues have definitely prompted these companies to think of using multiple clouds and/or evaluate private vs. public cloud where they feel they have more control. So the other cloud players have to play up their strengths either as a replacement or an adjunct to AWS.
Differentiate your cloud from the rest
Not surprisingly, Rackspace is turning up the volume on its “fanatical support” pledge to woo business users who really really want a phone number to call and a hand to hold during cloud deployment — and as needed thereafter. Many customers also like that Rackspace lets them mix workloads between private and public clouds. That private-public-cloud mix is one advantage HP, Softlayer, Joyent and others can offer over AWS. To be fair, Amazon has not stood still here. It’s pushing its own Virtual Private Cloud, that lets users cordon off a chunk of AWS infrastructure for their own use. It has also struck an alliance with Eucalyptus to ease hybrid cloud deployments between AWS and Eucalyptus-based clouds.
Bestfit Mobile has moved some workloads from Amazon to Rackspace because it hit scaling problems with Amazon’s load balancing, said Ray Williamson, VP of software for Bestfit. Rolling out a mobile app for a big retail customer, Bestfit initially launched all the data on Amazon but ran into scaling issues with its load balancer. “Amazon uses a software load balancer — cloud is great for many things but sometimes you need real hardware.” Williamson said.
Sometimes the best cloud is a mixed cloud
Bestfit ended up deploying a mixture of on-premises hardware load balancers and cloud-based infrastructure linked by a fast Rackspace Connect connection without huge additional cost.
But support was also a huge differentiator. “With Amazon it’s hard to get an engineer on the phone. With Rackspace, we get help. We call, they call back and the Rackspace guys can log in and fix the problem if needed. AWS cannot log into your machine by policy,” he said.
San Francisco-based Joyent has some high-profile customers like LinkedIn but remains something of a stealth player — albeit one with a solid reputation if you drill down. It, like Softlayer, has made noises in the past about taking on Amazon, but has not been blatant in doing so. Still, Hoffman’s not shy about saying that AWS US-East outages are not flukes. Instead, he said they result from underlying architectural issues with how its control plane is set up that make some services, notably Elastic Load Balancer, vulnerable, in his view.
“For some of these services one failure leads to another to another and the whole thing has to be rebooted to fix. Theser are not ‘oh gosh, oh golly gee, something happened’ but things that will keep on happening and it’s why they keep happening, “Hoffman said.
Joyent CTO Jason Hoffman said the company sees lots of prospects that are AWS users. “Do we sit down and go after [AWS] in our materials? No. But we do talk about our availability from an uptime perspective and in aggregate we do less than 10 seconds of downtime per year. So from an availability standpoint we do very well and our conversations with customers touch on that.”
Joyent, Softlayer, Neogrid, OpSource and NephoCloud are what David Linthicum, founder of Blue Mountain Labs and a GigaOM Pro analyst characterizes as “found clouds.”
“They are typically not on the A list, but are found through evaluation and analysis. I put them on the radar for my clients, but I always get a ‘who?'”
Beware of AWS bashing
It’s probably smart not to be too blatantly opportunistic in bashing Amazon. “Most cloud providers suffer outages from time-to-time, AWS is just more scrutinized than the rest since they are the leader,” Linthicum cautioned. Any cloud company could blast AWS this week and have an outage tomorrow. “However, they certainly can provide up-time statistics that compare their services with those of AWS, and other players. That’s both fair, and productive.”