Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the brainchild of Amazon.com which is currently the world’s leading online retail sales platform which sells millions of items to consumers all across America, Europe and several parts of Asia (Amazon adds supercomputing service to its cloud 2011, p. 8). AWS was conceived as a means of providing services to other websites and consumers based on the company’s already extensive experience in building, managing and operating its own digital infrastructure.
The company in effect leveraged its considerable financial portfolio in order to open 9 data centers around world, specifically one site in the Eastern U.S., two sites in the Western U.S., and 1 each in Brazil, Ireland, Japan, Singapore and Australia (Amazon adds supercomputing service to its cloud 2011, p. 8).
By spreading out its data centers into multiple locations, this enabled the company to provide services to consumers in multiple locations as well as ensures that the entirety of the service will not go down should a storm or a similar natural disaster impact one of its datacenters (Venkatraman 2013, p. 19).
Studies such as those by Evani et al. (2012) state that one of the advantages Amazon Web Services (AWS) has over other similar providers is the sheer level of brand recognition which, when combined with its online retail sales experience, makes it one of the most versatile and popular services currently available.
Evidence of this claim can be seen in the fact that after the service started in 2006, by 2007 nearly 330,000 developers joined the company with thousands more being added on a yearly basis (Garg et al. 2013, pp. 1012-1023). The success of this service can be seen through its revenue streams wherein it is estimated that AWS made $1.5 billion in revenue in 2012 alone.
AWS is an interesting service to examine given the fact that it did not start off as a technology service provider and was instead a retailer (Garg et al. 2013, pp. 1012-1023). This differs greatly from Microsoft, Google and other cloud service providers which were primarily technology service providers from their inception and, as such, this may result in AWS having a different means by which it approaches the provision of cloud based services.
Cloud Services Provided
- under the computing category, AWS has two distinct services:
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – this service is a type of scalable virtual private service that utilizes Xen architecture (i.e. multiple virtual operating systems can work off the same computer hardware).
- Amazon Elastic Map Reduce (EMR) – this particular system enables the clients of the company to process large amounts of data quickly and efficiently.
- Amazon Route 53 – this service provides a scalable domain system for a company’s website.
- Amazon Virtual Private Cloud – this enables the creation of an isolated cloud service for a company that can be connected to another pre-existing network.
AWS Direct Connect
- Amazon Cloud Front – this service utilizes Amazon’s wide array of datacenters to enable faster and easier access to users located within particular regions.
Storage & Content Delivery
- Amazon Simple Storage Service
- Amazon Glacier
- Amazon Elastic Block Store
- AWS Import/Export,
- Amazon DynamoDB
- Amazon ElastiCache
- Amazon Redshift
- Amazon SimpleDB,
- AWS Data Pipeline
- Amazon Cloud Formation
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk
- AWS OpsWorks
- Amazon Identity and Access Management
- Amazon Cloud Watch
- AWS Management Console
- Amazon CloudSearch
- Amazon DevPay
- Amazon Elastic Transcoder
- Amazon Flexible Payments Service
- Amazon Simple Email Service
- Amazon Simple Queue Service
- Amazon Simple Notification Service
- Amazon Simple Workflow
From a business standpoint, cloud based systems can be considered a cheaper and more reliable alternative as compared to conventional computer systems. The following are the current problems with the use of traditional in-house based systems (i.e. within the company itself):
High Upfront cost of Systems and Personnel
When it comes to creating the systems architecture of a company, it would be necessary to invest significant amounts into the necessary hardware, personnel, software architecture as well as daily maintenance costs of the system itself (i.e. electricity and maintenance costs). As a result, this creates significant costs for a company which can be mitigated through the use of cloud based systems.
Since such systems can be accessed and modified virtually, costs related to daily maintenance and personnel needed to maintain the systems are minimized and instead more money can be placed towards the development of the software architecture which enables the company to produce a better product (Guabtni et al. 2013, pp. 722-736).
Not only that, since cloud based systems can be paid per hour, per month or per year of usage based on the amount of space and computing power required, this enables a company to be more flexible in terms of creating and shutting down services without being saddled with the high costs associated with buying the hardware or getting stuck with the hardware should the program or service that was created result in a lackluster consumer response.
As such, cloud based systems enable companies to “enter and exit” the market so to speak at a rapid pace with an assortment of different types of products and services since they are no longer limited by the initial high investment costs that they used to be saddled with (Guabtni et al. 2013, pp. 722-736).
Speed of technological innovation
Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is the current speed of technological innovation wherein newer and better products come out on a yearly basis. While this is great from a technological development standpoint, it is detrimental from the point of view of consumers since it necessitates yearly upgrades in order to keep pace with the increasing evolution of technology and the type of software that it runs on (Bertolucci 2012, p. 69).
As mentioned earlier, one of the highest costs for any company is the upfront costs associated with purchasing the necessary technological architecture for the company; however, another of the associated costs is the need to constantly upgrade the architecture itself which results in even higher costs for the company in the short term.
It is based on this that cloud based systems can be considered a much cheaper alternative since it is the provider and not the user that keeps pace with technological upgrades (Bertolucci 2012, p. 69). Cloud users can determine the amount of computer power they need for applications and pay accordingly resulting in far fewer upfront and long term costs as compared to the constant need to buy new system upgrades.
Diversity of Data Centers
Another of the advantages associated with cloud based services that should be taken into consideration are the diversity of data centers and how they can ensure that the online operations of a company continue to operate without interference. One of the problems companies often encounter are issues in operations brought about through natural disasters or limitations in local infrastructure (i.e. lack of sufficient power) (Han 2011, pp. 198-206).
As a result, this can cause problems in their ability to provide services to their customers. Cloud based software architecture gets around this problem by providing data centers which have multiple backups and are located in various locations around the world (Han 2011, pp. 198-206). This enables the online operations of a company to continue to run smoothly without any foreseeable problems unless the data center itself is at the heart of a natural disaster (Venkatraman 2012, pp. 20-22).
Cloud Architecture and Technologies utilized by the cloud provider
AWS utilizes a scalable cloud model which provisions processing and storage based on the evolving needs of its consumers. As explained by Brandic et al. (2011), the scalable cloud model focuses on three distinct factors, namely: elasticity, scalability and resiliency.
This means that as the needs of a particular client grow based on the number of customers they deal with, a scalable cloud system is far more dynamic in that it enables a seamless increase in resources which in turn increases the performance and capability of whatever service/software a client is utilizing at the time (Pal & Hui 2013, pp. 113-124).
Another aspect that should be taken into consideration is the manner in which Amazon’s cloud based servers handles internet traffic to its various sites (Brandic et al. 2011, pp. 147-159).
Before proceeding, it should be noted that one of the current problems in the provisioning of online services are the various Denial of Service (DOS) attacks that happen by which people with malicious intent attempt to prevent users from accessing certain sites and in turn hold the site hostage until the owner pays the attacker to stop.
Amazon is capable of countering such instances through its Elastic Load Balancing System as well as its Auto scaling system which enables the distribution and rerouting of unhealthy instances of online traffic as well as enables the “scaling up” of websites to handle increased consumer traffic as it becomes more popular (Butler 2013, p. 49).
This was seen in the case of twitter’s vine application which initially experienced some problems until the service itself was scaled up by Amazon’s systems. Other aspects of Amazon’s system can be seen in its ability to partition numerous systems into individual user accounts under a “master-slave” system which enables the monitoring of different accounts which utilize aspects of the online user system (Levy 2013, pp. 34-35).
This can be seen in the case of various massively multiplayer online role-playing games wherein the master and slave system is utilized in order to give limited access to players to play the game but not necessarily enact changes in the system itself.
This can also be seen in the case where companies utilize the cloud for creation of multiple employee accounts which are meant to access company software and applications for a wide assortment of tasks ranging from billing to customer service (Seff 2012, p. 19). An example of such a system in action can be seen in the diagram below:
(Butler 2013, p. 49)
Evaluation of the Website of the cloud provider
The term “simple” is an adequate description of the website of AWS, it has a simple white background, the graphics are not too flashy, it presents just enough information without overwhelming the average website visitor and has interesting functions in the form of its online customer service portal, descriptions on what products are available and a brief overview of the service itself to entice people to come and try what AWS has to offer.
Unfortunately, when looking at the menu section for selecting the different types of services available for purchase, a slight problem appears wherein the list is placed in a drop down menu style that presents so much information that it results in a rather messy way in which prospective clients can potentially access the different types of services on the site.
While it may be true that drop down menus are a convenient and almost standard way of sharing information through website menus, the fact remains that most internet goers would prefer the convenience of merely reading information on a site that pertains to a specific topic (i.e. storage, servers, data processing, etc) and proceed to the more complex aspects of such services later on in a separate page.
In fact, it really would not take much effort to type the information onto a separate page instead of placing it all into a single menu and it would make customers that much more likely to utilize the services of AWS since they are not overwhelmed early on (Butler 2012, p. 23).
For example, in the case of Google and its own cloud based system, it makes the initial interface much simpler and allows clients to transition into the more complex aspects of the service later on by providing easy tutorials and guides regarding what particular services do and what to expect from their usage. All things considering, this is a far superior method of information presentation since it guides users rather than presenting all the information at once.
On the other hand, this site does have a rather interesting feature placed prominently on the right hand portion of the drop down menu. Located on the right hand side is a button where customers can go for a trial run of a particular service. This is actually a rather brilliant idea since it encourages people to take action immediately rather than give them the option of changing their minds afterwards.
Lack of User Reviews
One of the main issues that needs to be taken into consideration is the lack of user reviews regarding the use of the site’s services. Not only do user reviews help customers know more about the experiences of other people with the website’s cloud services but it acts as a free method of advertising for AWS.
With more and more people integrating themselves into online forms of social media, having this sort of tool on a website is almost a prerequisite in order to make its name known without having to utilize costly and expensive online advertising and marketing campaigns (Vecchiola & Buyya 2013, pp. 1153-1174).
Display and Functionality
Another interesting aspect of this portion of the site is the graphic at the top half of the page which features a slideshow which presents various aspects of the site’s services. When looking at it from a primarily aesthetic viewpoint, this graphic really would encourage people to utilize the services of AWS since it helps to appeal to the need for visual representation of what a site offers.
Overall, it is recommended that AWS change the way in which consumers view information on the site by placing all the services on separate pages. They can then inform clients what they consist of and how much they would cost. This is a far simpler and less complex way of presentation wherein 5 to 6 specific categories, each with their own webpage, would be created to create a much easier means of presenting the data and getting customers to use the services of the site.
Furthermore, it is recommended that the company utilize a “branching type” method of displaying service wherein one particular service leads to another within separate category pages instead of placing it all in one drop down menu bar.
The reason for this is quite obvious, if people are to be enticed into patronizing a particular service, it is usually a good idea to show guides regarding how particular services work along with better visuals so as to create a visual “buffet” for them to make them hunger and yearn for the services even more.
While the dropdown menu style is “alright” in terms of information presentation, it leaves much to be desired as compared to the aesthetically pleasing methods of presentation implemented by Google which has both pictures and guides. It must also be noted that if AWC remains insistent in having a drop down style for the menu there are possible ways to make it less “complicated”.
One way of doing so is to lessen the amount of different categories and focus on: networking, content delivery, storage, database, deployment, management and application services. By focusing on these specific categories instead of the numerous items that are present in the menu, this enables prospective clients to more easily determine what services they need and how to get them.
Summary and Conclusions
Overall, what has been shown so far is that AWS has varied and diversified services which can suit all manner of possible applications and programs. It is still debatable as to whether or not it is superior in terms of technological capacity and price as compared to other cloud service providers such as Microsoft and Google given that each type of provider has its own merits and disadvantages compared to each other.
However, the inherent problem with the growing integration and interconnectivity of various online services such as Amazon.com and AWS is that it effectively shuts out the ability for other players to effectively enter the market. New providers do not have a chance of matching the branding and convenience afforded by popular cloud service providers such as Google and Amazon which in effect drastically reduces their ability to gain user traffic.
With this in mind, the future of cloud based services will eventually reach a point where diversity has come to be replaced with convenience and popularity taking precedence over the possible loss of consumer choice.
For smaller companies specifically dealing with providing services such as server space and online cloud computing, this growing trend presents itself as a problem since it shuts out their ability to effectively enter markets which limits the type and extent of services that are being purchased online which limits the overall diversity of cloud computing at the present.
Since popular online companies such as Amazon.com have also begun to diversify their operations leading them to become players in the online server market, this further concentrates the usage of services towards a specific group of online companies. This results in two possible avenues left for small cloud based service providers, either:
- They attempt to integrate themselves into the growing integrated network of shared services spearheaded by Amazon.com and Google at the cost of a significant loss of control of operations yet ensures the survival of the company
- They innovate services so as to present an alternative to online consumers at the cost of initial profit yet having a higher number of consumers.
Several online cloud platform companies in Asia are actually attempting to do this by offering services at a far lower rate as compared to their integrated competitors, however, it has yet to be seen whether such a method of operation can last.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it can be stated that while AWS has amazing services and can handle an assortment of different needs, the fact remains that its preponderance leaves much in doubt regarding the possibility of continued competitiveness is the online cloud computing marketplace.
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