How AWS has become harder to predict and to beat

AWS used to be reasonably predictable in its public cloud focus. As AWS remembers its customer-centric mantra, it's more difficult to know what the company will do next, and even harder to compete.

Amazon: The world's most innovative tech company From Alexa Skills Blueprints to AWS to Prime, Larry Dignan and Bill Detwiler make the case for Amazon as the most innovative tech company on the planet.

Pity those that must compete with Amazon, whether in retail or cloud computing. Amazon made its mark as an online disrupter of brick-and-mortar retailer, yet it has launched a variety of physical locations and is now sending out a printed catalog. Commenting on this latest development, venture capitalist Benedict Evans recently said, "Amazon has no dogma—it will push into every corner of the retail model regardless of whether it's 'supposed' to do that as a website."

In cloud computing, Amazon Web Services might be even less dogmatic, and more difficult to beat.

SEE: Vendor comparison: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud (Tech Pro Research)

Faux cloud no more

This is largely because AWS has changed. The company, which has long insisted it focuses on customers rather than competitors, used to take a strident tone toward the "fake cloud" products like OpenStack that its customers kept buying. As AWS chief Andy Jassy declared, a private cloud was "not a 'real cloud' model."

He was right, of course, but also out of step with his slower-moving enterprise customers, who couldn't figure out how to easily dump their data centers.

SEE: Cloud v. data center decision (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Hence, by AWS re:Invent 2015, Jassy noted, "We've had a strong belief ... that over the fullness of time—10 to 20 years—relatively few companies will have their own data centers and those that do will have much smaller footprints." In the meantime, AWS has been building plenty of hybrid capabilities into its cloud offerings, ensuring it meets the needs of enterprises that want to move fast or slow toward that inevitable public cloud future.

And so we saw AWS partner with VMware, thereby (according to Jassy) "mak[ing] it easy for customers to set up, operate, and scale databases in on-premises and hybrid environments, as well as migrate them to AWS." That last phrase ("migrate them to AWS") is key, as it remains the long-term strategy for AWS. They're not making it easy to get workloads off AWS and into data centers, be they private or run by competitors. No, they're simply savvy now about using hybrid as on-ramps to AWS.

SEE: AWS re:Invent 2018: A guide for tech and business pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Competing with a shapeshifter

This is why, whatever comes out of the mouth of Jassy at AWS re:Invent 2018, it's almost certainly not going to be positive for competitors. Once AWS' insistence on public cloud gave room to Microsoft and even Google to position for hybrid cloud and steal away a few customers in the process—no more. Now that AWS has remembered its "customer first" dogma, it has become much harder to beat.

SEE: Amazon expands machine learning services ahead of re:Invent (ZDNet)

It used to be easier to know what AWS was "supposed" to do. Now the only thing we can reasonably expect is that AWS will launch more new services, or significant improvements to old services, as to exhaust re:Invent attendees desperate for a bio break.

Also see