The cloud computing branch of Amazon.com may have started out as a supplier of simple compute cycles, but it is becoming a whole lot more as an ecosystem grows around it, said Werner Vogels, a leading proponent of cloud computing and CTO of Amazon.
Amazon's ability to provide easily accessible cloud computing and storage is turning it into a set of building blocks for a cornucopia of services. Amazon's infrastructure services are giving rise to a wide variety of platforms built on top of them to distribute geolocation, mapping, collaboration, and programming services.
"The cloud is actually a very large collection of services. Think of everything as a service," said Vogels in a keynote address at Cloud Connect 2011, a UBM TechWeb event at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley.
Vogels cited Aljazeera, the Arab news network, as an example of an organization that had to turn to cloud services to keep up with demand for its content. It moved news stories and video into the Acquia Managed Cloud on top of Amazon's EC2 for more distribution power. Acquia provides high-volume distribution services built with the Drupal open source content management system.
Vogels quickly ran through a dozen new services built on Amazon, including BitNami, which builds open source software stacks as Amazon Machine Images; Aspera for high-speed file transfer; Riverbed for WAN optimization and accelerated file transfer; and SafeNet's DS3 three-tier authentication management as a service in the cloud.
The cloud's ecosystem "is what defines the cloud, rather than the infrastructure services underneath them," said Vogels. He started his talk by citing Alfred Korzybski, the early 20th century Polish scientist who said, "The map is not the territory." Vogels meant Amazon will continue to focus on easy to use infrastructure services in EC2, but the resulting universe of services a few years from now will look far from simple.
"Let a thousand platforms bloom," he said. Cloud services will let startups act like much larger companies with large IT staffs. At the same time, they will let large, established companies become more agile and bring products to market more quickly.
"It's still day one in the cloud. There's still a lot of innovation to come. Amazon will work hard to make sure the ecosystem continues to grow," he said.
Another speaker, Randy Bias, founder and CEO of CloudScaling, said Amazon's Web Services Division, operator of the EC2 cloud, is growing its revenues at a rapid rate and will become a $10 billion business in the next five years. "We've never seen an IT services business like that before," he said.
He advised companies thinking of building out a private cloud in their data centers to think harder about what they were trying to do, and showed his representation of the private cloud as a unicorn. "The myth goes like this: The Amazon model doesn't serve the enterprise correctly," he said.
Bias said the cloud isn't simply another form of outsourcing. Dealing with infrastructure as a service, such as that offered by Amazon, may one day be closer to the norm than operating something that looks like a cloud in your data center.
Vogels declined to confirm or deny Bias' estimate of EC2 becoming a $10 billion business in five years in an interview after his talk. Amazon.com hasn't broken out figures for its cloud services, and projections of Amazon Web Services revenues are based on few facts confirmed by the company, he said.
"We've debated what figures to release, what would be meaningful," he said. But for now the company wants to continue to present one revenue figure to the world.
One of the most rapid areas of Amazon's expansion as base for other platforms has been in programmer services, he noted. Companies like EngineYard and Heroku for Ruby on Rails, PHP Fog for PHP language users, and SpringSource's Cloud Foundry for Java programmers all offer platforms that assist application development on top of Amazon's EC2.