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GCN : January 2013
THE WEEK AFTER Thanks- giving, I attended the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. This was AWS s first global developers conference and was attended by 6,000 people from 60 countries. Some of the milestones reported by AWS and its partners were impressive. For example: In its sheer scale, AWS is turning the vision of "com- puting as a utility" -- just like the power grid -- into a reality. Amazon can provide compute capacity in nearly unlimited quantities, cheaper and faster than you can do it in-house and metered so you only pay for what you use. AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a robust computing utility. While there are a few skirmishes to be fought, AWS is clearly winning the Infrastructure- as-a-Service (IaaS) war and has graduated from being the 800-pound gorilla to a 2,000-pound T-Rex. But the real story is the growing ecosystem of de- velopment services around those virtual servers. It s about a vendor building on its success to climb the cloud services stack and turn its infrastructure o erings into a robust development plat- form. Now let s explore the AWS ecosystem and how it equates to a new style of Plat- form-as-a-Service (PaaS). The AWS ecosystem can be divided into three distinct axes: application services, software development kits (SDKs) and vertical solu- tions. The application servic- es give developers the ability to communicate, coordinate and architect EC2 instances into a working IT system. For example, there are services that provide message queu- ing, workflow, caching, email delivery, notification and of course many flavors of stor- age. These services can be knit together into a complete IT system. On top of these services, AWS o ers deployment and management services that provide common solutions as templates for reusable, o -the-shelf solutions. In my opinion, the sessions that demonstrated the architect- ing and development of robust cloud-based solutions running on top of AWS EC2 were the main purpose of the conference. In other words, build the AWS developer base to grow beyond a cloud computing infrastructure provider to a cloud-comput- ing development platform. Feeding into that is the second axis of the AWS ecosystem which is the SDKs that expose Amazon services via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). There are also SDKs for multiple pro- gramming languages, smart phones, and development environments. The third axis for AWS is packaged vertical solutions that take on a particular domain where Amazon can o er a pre-packaged solution. Currently, AWS provides vertical solutions for big data and data warehous- ing. For big data, AWS o ers the ability to spin up Hadoop Clusters (of any size) in a service called Elastic MapRe- duce. For data warehousing, AWS can spin up to 100 node database clusters with each node containing two to 16 terabytes of storage. Each of these platform axes is expanding rapidly and AWS plans to roll out many more services in 2013. What is the ramification of all this for government IT managers? In a previ- ous article, I talked about cloud granularity and how it impacts the design of cloud architecture. What we see occurring with AWS is a shift in the definition of PaaS to a more loosely coupled archi- tecture. Given this evolution, gov- ernment IT managers should hold o on PAAS implemen- tations until it shakes out or su er vendor lock-in. In the meantime, hang on to your seats because cloud comput- ing is growing and evolving before our eyes. • --- Michael C. Daconta (mdaconta@incadencecorp. com) is the vice president of advanced technology at InCadence Strategic Solu- tions and the former meta- data program manager for the Department of Homeland Security. He is currently working on the second edi- tion of his book, "Informa- tion as Product: How to Deliver the Right Information to the Right Person at the Right Time." HOW AMAZON IS CHANGING PLATFORM-AS-A-SERVICE RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES GCN JANUARY 2013 • GCN.COM 15 REALITY CHECK BY MICHAEL DACONTA (What is) occurring with Amazon Web Services is a shift in Platform-as-a-Service to a more loosely coupled architecture. Given this, government IT managers should hold off on PaaS implementations until this shakes out or suffer vendor lock-in.