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Q: Does Amazon do private cloud? A: It’s complicated

If the CIA cloud being built by Amazon(s amzn) Web Services is not a private cloud, I’m not sure what would be. In theory, it will be used by single, albeit large, customer so there is no shared infrastructure and no “noisy neighbor” problem, but it would provide the elasticity to spin up/shut down workloads for that single customer. Sounds pretty private to me.

AWS SVP Andy Jassy speaking at AWS re:Invent.
AWS SVP Andy Jassy speaking at AWS re:Invent.

But not so fast. AWS execs parsed their words carefully when asked this question this week at the Amazon re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

Asked if this single-user cloud, which AWS will build under a $600 million contract, is a private-cloud departure for the public cloud giant, Andy Jassy, AWS senior vice president, said: “Not really. I would say no.”

AWS might in the future work with a small number of companies that for regulatory or other reasons cannot move some workloads to a public cloud, he said, provided the opportunity is big enough. “The most cost-effective and scalable option is to use the public cloud that provides elasticity you don’t have to manage.”

But in that small number of cases, AWS might help those companies pursue the same ends in a slightly different way which is to build their cloud with “our hardware, our networking and everything delivered as a service” to give those customers the advantages of AWS, Jassy told the media in a Q&A after his keynote at AWS re:Invent.

Adam Selipsky, AWS VP of Marketing, Sales, Product Management and Support, echoed those words almost verbatim in an interview Wednesday afternoon. The CIA cloud is not really a private cloud, he said, because “we deliver it as a service that we manage, we do the hardware and storage” in a way that might be applicable for a small number of customers.

As we have reported (or speculated) in the past, it wouldn’t be all that difficult for AWS to package up a bunch of “mini me” AWS clouds and set them up in geographies where there is sensitivity about where data resides and where workloads are executed.

Okay, the CIA project is a cloud for a single customer, but then again that customer paid $600 million, presumably up front for this monster, so that pretty much blows that whole pay-as-you-go cloud thing out of the water.

So, there you have it.  

5 Responses to “Q: Does Amazon do private cloud? A: It’s complicated”

  1. Not sure why there is confusion. EC2 is divided into regions. If you pay AWS enough, it justifies them building a region for you because you’re providing enough run-rate revenue to cover the cost. The cases of this are GovCloud and the CIA. Maybe others will pop up.

    There’s no mystery and there is nothing being hidden and done in “special cases” for anything less than that scale. There really just isn’t.

    “Private cloud” honestly has little to no meaning. Few customers are anywhere *near* the level of maturity in terms of abstraction and automation to even pretend to label their operation a “cloud” and as a result, any virtualization infrastructure is being given the label “private cloud”.

    What AWS is providing the CIA is an SLA backed service, that fully matches the operational model and consumption model, of any other region.

    It’s simply a single customer region. As “special cases” go, government is as special as it gets. They’re doing what they had to do to compete with IBM essentially. People read way to much into it.

    Little mini-EC2 pods aren’t coming to a datacenter near you. Not only would such a thing be diametrically opposed to their philosophy, but it’s something that Microsoft *already tried* and proved to be pretty useless with Azure. The point of “cloud” is to consume resources as an abstracted commodity from a provider who covers you with an SLA. The idea is to *free* you from capex and capacity planning at the infrastructure level and move your organization to programmatic consumption of resources on-demand.

    AWS has no intention of breaking from that model since they helped define it and believe very strongly in it (not to mention all signs point to it being the clear industry direction since the *business* and *developer* communities love it and it is only legacy IT – who has a pretty poor report card from the business and developers in most cases – that balks)

  2. Dave Fellows

    Given Andy Jassy bagged the crap out of private cloud at the last re:Invent conference I’d say they’d lose credibility by suddenly going all in on private cloud. But if someone gives you a check for $600 million that’s a different story…

  3. When even the CIA can’t get an irrefutable, clear-cut, private cloud — “I would say no” — it seems there’s no such thing as privacy in cyber space. If you’re worried about data security you have to check out Their TEAR-A-BYTE service is the best in the industry.

  4. PrincetonAl

    I believe they do private cloud for standard commercial customers today. They may not promote it, but my understanding is that they do it. They do it for a few private customers in heavily regulated industries.