Why the AWS Console is Good for Cloud Tool Vendors

By George Reese
January 9, 2009 | Comments: 5

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.

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My sentiments exactly! In my post AWS Management Console: One Small Step for Amazon, One Giant Leap for Cloud Computing I wrote a bit about the ecosystem implications and concluded that:

So, by putting out the welcome mat for the less-hard-core of us, Amazon has taken an important step to making cloud infrastructure more accessible to the masses. A very good thing, indeed.


This is great news for AWS customers like me. This investment moves it to the next level because it emphasizes Amazon's commitment to commoditiize AWS and make its services widely usable.



Thanks for a refreshing look at the broader picture, George. As a contributor in this space, we agree that the AWS console will help to expand the overall use of cloud computing, because it improves the ease of use of AWS. But, as you imply, it represents only a subset of even the Free Edition of the RightScale Platform, for example, which we first released over two years ago.
As described in our CTO Thorsten's blog post today -- http://blog.rightscale.com/2009/01/09/amazon-launches-ec2-console/ -- our platform provides enhanced value via a complete environment for designing, deploying and managing applications on the cloud.  It supports deployments that span more than one server, is architected around server templates that are much easier to deploy and manage than machine images, and delivers automation throughout the deployment life cycle, significantly reducing the amount of tedious administration required.  For those looking at multiple cloud vendors for reliability, specific functionality, or to ensure against lock-in, RightScale is a multi-cloud platform that facilitates cloud portability.
Companies investigating the cloud who intend to deploy serious business applications -- whether they start with a web console, or a do-it-yourself API approach -- will eventually see the need for a full management platform. Why? Because they want more than a web GUI. They want, as you point out, a more compelling value proposition, including benefits such as accelerated time-to-release, lower system administration overhead and development costs, reduced risk via pre-packaged solutions that utilize best practices, and services including design & migration expertise as well as ongoing support. Those are benefits that RightScale has been delivering for two years, demonstrated by the fact that our solution powers many of the most notable cloud successes to date.

Michael Crandell

Great to see +ve remarks by RightScale but at the end of the day its a dent for all vendors who had focused on admin consoles for cloud vendors, 1 can beat the competition but not a FREE! offering which conflicts at feature level. We had this in mind since we started at www.attribo.com & yet to arrive at a sustainable revenue model while supporting multi vendor management console. Neverthelsee we are optimistic that we can still innovate & bring out something unique

cheer on

I went to a talk where the CTO of Ylastic gave a demo on his admin console:


I think it is pretty nice as well.

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