All Things Distributed
At this 3rd anniversary of the launch of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), it is amazing to see the impact this service has had on the industry. It is truly disruptive technology and its impact has reached far beyond a pure technology offering as the benefits of the cloud have changed the way we view IT Infrastructure. As one of the CIOs at the ACM Cloud Computing Roundtable summarized it: "IT used to be the blocker in anything we did, but with our shift to the cloud IT is now the enabler." From young businesses and established enterprises to hospitals and governments agencies, all are equally enthusiastic cloud customers for whom IT infrastructure has changed forever.
Even though we keep rolling out new services and features, and several existing AWS services are already very successful, this is still Day One. We are only at the brink of what is possible to deliver in the cloud and at Amazon we continue to innovate to make this future a reality.
We continuously listen to our customers to make sure our roadmap matches their needs. One important piece of feedback that mainly came from our enterprise customers was that the transition to the cloud of more complex enterprise environments was challenging. We made it a priority to address this and have worked hard in the past year to find new ways to help our customers transition applications and services to the cloud, while protecting their investments in their existing IT infrastructure.
Protecting investments during the transition
Most enterprises with a datacenter practice have invested significantly over the past decade into the management of their systems and applications. CIOs of Fortune 500 companies are responsible for hundreds if not thousands of applications running in a variety of locations. Keeping track of those resources and managing access to them is a daunting task that continues to require significant investment.
The CIO of a large financial services company in the Northeast explained to me that his teams manage close to 3000 applications and services in 27 different locations. Consolidation of applications, resources and locations is a process that never stops in a world where mergers and acquisitions happen frequently. For him the cloud is attractive as a target for his consolidated services: it allows him to significantly reduce both his capital and operational costs, while gaining significant flexibility and reliability with resources that are globally distributed, without the headache of owning and maintaining them.
He has set the guideline that their current data center infrastructure should not expand any further and that all new development will target the cloud. He expects that the process of moving his existing applications and services to the cloud will take time to complete, as his road map is driven by many internal and external factors. And there are certainly some legacy applications that may never move. He has set the goal of moving 20% of his applications into the cloud by the end of 2010, but to meet this goal he needed to find a solution for a significant obstacle: how to integrate applications running in the cloud into his existing management frameworks. In his world, this especially applies to those management practices that manage policy-driven access controls and required, cross-application regulatory auditing.
This story is typical of many of the conversations I have had with CIOs around the globe. They have bought into the cloud as a target for a significant portion of their services, as the benefits are too obvious to ignore, and most expect that their transition will be a continuous process. They would accelerate the adoption of cloud services if they could access a form of cloud that would give them the best of both worlds: the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of accessing a virtually infinite pool of resources without owning it, while being able to integrate those resources into their existing datacenter environments such that they could continue to leverage existing investments in their management and control infrastructure.
Private Cloud is not the Cloud
These CIOs know that what is sometimes dubbed "private cloud" does not meet their goal as it does not give them the benefits of the cloud: true elasticity and capex elimination. Virtualization and increased automation may give them some improvements in utilization, but they would still be holding the capital, and the operational cost would still be significantly higher.
I often get asked to define "The Cloud," especially because of the many permutations that different vendors use in trying to make their existing businesses look like a cloud offering. I define the cloud by it benefits, as those are very clear. What are called private clouds have little of these benefits and as such, I don't think of them as true clouds.
Elasticity is one of the fundamental properties of the cloud that drives many of its benefits. While virtualization has tremendous benefits to the enterprise, certainly as an important tool in server consolidation, it by itself is not sufficient to give the benefits of the cloud. To achieve true cloud-like elasticity in a private cloud, such that you can rapidly scale up and down in your own datacenter, will require you to allocate significant hardware capacity. While to your internal customers it may appear that they have increased efficiency, at the company level you still own all the capital expense of the IT infrastructure. Without the diversity and heterogeneity of the large number of AWS cloud customers to drive a high utilization level, it can never be a cost-effective solution.
We have been listening very closely to the real requirements that our customers have and have worked closely with many of these CIOs and their teams to understand what solution would allow them to treat the cloud as a seamless extension of their datacenter, where their standard management practices can be applied with limited or no modifications. This needs to be a solution where they get all the benefits of cloud as mentioned above while treating it as a part of their datacenter.
Introducing Amazon Virtual Private Cloud
We have developed Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to allow our customers to seamlessly extend their IT infrastructure into the cloud while maintaining the levels of isolation required for their enterprise management tools to do their work.
With Amazon VPC you can:
Amazon VPC offers customers the best of both the cloud and the enterprise managed data center:
For more details on Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, visit the Amazon VPC detail page and the posting on the AWS developer weblog. For how our partners view Amazon VPC see for example the posting at RightScale
And happy birthday to Amazon EC2!