Guide to cloud formations – Is Amazon still leading the IaaS game?

By Derek du Preez
29 Nov 2011 View Comments
Hand drawing a Cloud Computing schema on the whiteboard

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) aims to provide users with compute, storage and network resources on demand in a self-service model via application programming interfaces. It differs from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in that it means IT departments do not need to own their own computing infrastructure, but instead resources are delivered from a third-party datacentre.

Further reading

Cloud services provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) has played a significant role in persuading enterprises that IaaS is an acceptable cloud computing model by allaying the concerns of chief information officers about reliability, security and data protection.

That was until Amazon’s servers experienced significant downtime on 21 April this year. Many businesses using Amazon’s cloud services went offline, and the IT industry once again began to panic that opting for capital-heavy, on-premise solutions is the only option.

Industry analysts believe the effects of this failure will directly affect enterprises’ IaaS strategies, whereby IT directors will look to insure against potential future downtime. “The world was not the same after 21 April, and a number of effects will be felt,” says William Fellows from analyst firm The 451 Group.

“Many companies got burned because they had their data in one location and couldn’t get access to it. It is ironic that these same people will now probably end up spending more money with Amazon so they can better distribute their data.”

However, analyst firm Ovum predicts this incident will not be the end of IaaS itself, as the success of Amazon in getting companies to take up its cloud services has resulted in a number of Amazon rivals trying to replicate the business offering. This competition, Ovum argues, will help to drive adoption.

Market maturity

There is a variety of IaaS options from many different companies, offering anything from standard remote hosted storage or compute power to memory configuration for servers.

Ovum argues that this variety is a reflection of the current immaturity in the market, and this trend will continue for the next two years. However, it argues that the IaaS market will mature after this initial period, and consolidation and standardisation will follow.

“Amazon is significantly ahead of everybody else competing in this market,” explains Laurent Lachal, an analyst at Ovum. “However, I do not think it will stay this way.

Amazon is facing the Amazon Web Services (AWS) clone army. Everybody and his dog is trying to provide something similar to AWS, and this will help fuel adoption of IaaS,” Lachal says.

Mark Botham, chief operating officer at recruitment firm Bis Henderson, recently migrated his entire infrastructure into the cloud through IT support and services provider Mooncomputers and its technology partner Rise.

Bis Henderson has its main operations in an office in Northampton, but also has users based at Heathrow, and multiple users with remote access.

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