Cloud Computing Vendors
1) Amazon Web Services
Leading cloud pioneer Amazon offers several different in-the-cloud services. The best known is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, or Amazon EC2, which allows customers to set up and access virtual servers via a simple Web interface. Fees are assessed hourly based on the number and size of virtual machines you have ($.10 -$.80 per hour), with an additional fee for data transfer.
EC2 is designed to work in conjunction with Amazon’s other cloud services, which include Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Simple DB, Cloudfront, Simple Queue Service (SQS), and Elastic MapReduce.
Notable: The Amazon Web Services list of partners is high profile, including the likes of Citrix, Facebook, IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, and others.
Yes, they own search – and are working on owning the cloud. With Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Picasa in its lineup, Google offers some of the best known cloud computing services available. They also offer some lesser known cloud services targeted primarily at enterprises, such as Google Sites, Google Gadgets, Google Video, and most notably, the Google Apps Engine. The Apps Engine allows developers to write applications to run on Google’s servers while accessing data that resides in the Google cloud as well as data that resides behind the corporate firewall. While it has been criticized for limited programming language support, the Apps Engine debuted Java and Ajax support in April, which may make it more appealing to developers.
Notable: Google recently revealed its philosophy of cloud computing in this Enterprise Blog post written by senior project manager Rajen Sheth: “As companies weigh private data centers vs. scalable clouds, they should ask a simple question: can I find the same economics, ease of maintenance, and pace of innovation that is inherent in the cloud?”
Although it was somewhat late to the cloud computing party, IBM launched its “Smart Business” lineup of cloud-based products and services in June. For now, the company is focusing on two key areas: software development and testing, and virtual desktops. But the company makes it clear that the cloud model has much wider-reaching implications, noting that “cloud computing represents a true paradigm shift in the way IT and IT-enabled services are delivered and consumed by businesses.” The company has also made noises about partnering with Google – the two companies would be a potent duo in the cloud sector.
Notable: A big part of IBM’s advantage in the cloud is the remarkable reach of its international presence. Early customers of IBM’s cloud computing offerings include South Africa’s Nedbank and China’s Sinochem.
It’s a critical question facing the tech industry: Can Microsoft, the king of the traditional world of packaged software, leverage its hulking muscle to grab a similar position in the cloud world? The answer is unclear but Microsoft is certainly trying. The software giant’s ambitious Azure initiative has a solution for every Microsoft constituency, from ISVs to Web developers to enterprise clients to consumers. Formally unveiled in 2008, Azure is still very much a work in progress. If it succeeds as Microsoft hopes, in future years we’ll be talking about “Windows Azure,” a cloud-based OS that offers remote computing power, storage and management services. To make the dream come true, Microsoft is investing a king’s fortune in a network of $500 million, 500,000-square-feet datacenters around the country. The facilities will presumably form the physical backbone of the cloud network. If all goes according to plan, Microsoft will not only control the software but also the physical infrastructure that delivers that software. In other words, the company is attempting to be even bigger than it is now. (No one ever accused Redmond of being modest.) Perhaps the company’s ace in the hole: it understands enterprise management – a critical building block – more than its top competitors.
Notable: In a March 2009 interview with the New York Times, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer jumped up and drew a diagram on a white board of the company’s cloud computing plans. It’s a squiggly, complicated drawing, leading the reporter to ask if the plan wasn’t overly complex. Not at all, Ballmer explained, detailing how current flagship Windows Server will be replaced by Windows Azure. In a quote that suggests that Microsoft is very attuned to the cloud trend, he told the Times: ““Anything that has been a server needs to be a service.”
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