Questions remain as to just how private Amazon VPC really is,
but it might not matter.
When the 800-pound gorilla moves, people notice. In a week that brought a new partner portal program for the Rackspace Cloud and an entirely new cloud from SaaS-platform king OpSource, all anybody wants to discuss is Amazon Web Services’ newly announced Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) service. I have read more than a dozen posts on the topic, with takes ranging from “VPC is everything and more” to “Amazon VPC is a terrible virtual private cloud and is not ready for primetime.” Because users’ instances remain, non-isolated, on Amazon’s multitenant infrastructure, some have questioned whether Amazon VPC is a private cloud in any sense of the word. All this terminological hair-splitting aside, however, the real question simply is whether Amazon VPC will be enough. I think it will.
Almost every public cloud to emerge since EC2 has sought to be more enterprise-friendly than the rest. They took heed of the early criticisms leveled at Amazon for being too developer-focused, not having an SLA and not supporting Windows images, and they set out to address these issues, and more, in their own offerings. The results are commendable, with providers like Rackspace looking like real threats to Amazon’s dominant position. Some offer dedicated virtual private clouds to distinguish their offerings from Amazon’s multitenant-only offering. But customers really want to use Amazon.
Every time Amazon adds an “enterprise-friendly” feature – and VPC is no exception – it garners more attention than entirely new cloud platforms from other providers. Although Amazon has innovated in certain areas, like Elastic MapReduce and Availability Zones, Amazon was late offering an SLA, late supporting Windows, late offering a management interface and is late offering a virtual private cloud. Yet each of these moves was celebrated as truly legitimizing the cloud computing paradigm. This is because Amazon is cloud computing, and its level of automation, near-bare-metal access and strict pay-per-use business model are what most people think of when they think of the cloud.
Amazon VPC will be enough because it brings these characteristics to the virtual private cloud space. Even though it does not allow Internet-facing IP addresses or offer dedicated real estate, VPC is easy to use and does make EC2 more enterprise-friendly, and that is all Amazon needs to do. Any degree of improved security will lead more enterprises to experiment with EC2, and when Amazon ultimately does beef up the VPC feature set, there will be even more rejoicing. Playing catch-up on the enterprise front undoubtedly has cost and will continue to cost Amazon some customers, but its reputation and attractive business model ensure Amazon will remain a major cloud player as long as it eventually makes an effort.