Last night—January 8, 2009—Amazon announced the release of its long-planned web console for managing Amazon Web Services (http://console.aws.amazon.com). Prior to this release, people who were using Amazon EC2 needed to use the Amazon command-line tools, Amazon's Firefox plug-in, or a set of third-party tools to manage their EC2 environment. Most commonly, people were using the command-line tools.
Within minutes of the release, Twitter was abuzz with people proclaiming trouble for EC2 tools vendors, in particular RightScale. Nonsense!
The web console is a great addition to the Amazon Web Services offering. In fact, it has been a long-time coming. Anyone who did not realize this day would come from day one—or certainly after the fall announcement—does not have the foresight to be using the cloud in the first place. In short, a basic web interface with the ability to control all aspects of your infrastructure is a key piece of the AWS core offerings and it has been lacking. Amazon took their time to do this right, and I am personally very pleased with the release.
The lack of web UI has been a small barrier to experimentation with the Amazon cloud. Most people have had to learn complex command lines in order to learn Amazon EC2. As a result, people who don't care for command lines or who simply don't have the time to learn the Amazon tools on top of learning Amazon have not gotten into the cloud.
Removing this barrier to experimentation is great news for tools vendors who have a value proposition that extends beyond Amazon's value proposition. Cloud infrastructure management vendors are perfect examples. If you think of these companies as web UIs around EC2, you are definitely using them for the wrong reasons. The web UI is a small piece of what these tools are about. They are necessary features to support a value proposition quite different from Amazon's value proposition.
Without the barrier to experimentation, many more people will enter the cloud. More people entering the cloud can only be good for companies that make tools that compliment the EC2 value proposition.
As AWS and other cloud vendors evolve, there's sure to be feature overlap in the various offerings between AWS and tools vendors. As long as the tools vendors are not focused on a niche aspect of EC2-specific cloud management that fits within the Amazon value proposition, there will always be space for tools vendors that have a value proposition beyond EC2 and Amazon's core offerings.