Amazon’s growing cloud computing business, and why “one cloud” won’t rule them all

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John Foley of InformationWeek published a nice bit of investigative reporting in his recent post Amazon Web Services Secrets Revealed. The post tries to get at growth estimates of Amazon’s Web Services business from a number of angles and provides evidence of some impressive growth rates.

One data point cited in the post is some nice research done by Guy Rosen, posted to the InfiBase blog. Using his company’s tools he’s looked at the top 500,000 Web sites and determined that while only a small number of them are hosted on EC2, Amazon (a) hosts a disproportionate number of the large sites and (b) has experienced dramatic growth.

The actual estimate Guy provides for AWS hosted sites is very small on a percentage basis (0.28%) but it must be kept in mind that the hosting business is extremely fragmented and in fact a market share as low as 3.25% is all it takes to make it to the top of the “top hosts” list, according to data from the Netcraft Web site.

I find it interesting to see the AWS business measured this way because it supports a perspective I’ve held for some time: While some believe cloud computing results in the eventual dominance of just a handful of “big computers” (e.g. data centers, the list of which always includes Google, Amazon, Microsoft and whatever company employs the person telling this story), it’s always been my opinion that there will be many cloud providers and in fact, at some point in time, every hosting provider becomes a cloud provider in some sense of the word.

Cue up the arguments about “what really defines cloud computing” if you will, but this strikes me as an inevitable market shift.

At the highest level, what separates a hosting provider from a cloud provider are technology and business models. (And the former enables the latter.) The core technology required to launch an infrastructure-oriented cloud hosting business, e.g. one that provides access to virtual machine instances via an on-demand pricing models, is readily available today and the complex integration work that’s currently required to offer a complete solution will eventually give way to packaged tools.

Consider the fact that Plesk, one of the leading providers of “hosting automation systems” (i.e. control panel software) is owned by Parallels, a leading[1] provider of desktop and server qwwavirtualization software and emerging cloud computing player, and it’s easy to see the beginnings of the convergence of the hosting and cloud worlds.

Bonus Links:

[1] A forum post found via a quick Google search suggests Plesk/Parallels holds some 30% market share relative to competitors like cPanel and H-Sphere; not hard data, but consistent with what I’ve seen out in the market.

  • Gary Elfert

    John Treadway, a cloud industry observer and blogger, had this to say about about regional cloud players in a recent blog post: “An analogy comes to mind: Think of the big hosting companies as giant boulders. They take up a lot of space, but they leave a lot of space between them for rocks, stones, pebbles, and sand. Local and regional clouds are there to fill the empty space, and there are a lot of them.” You can read the full post at

  • Don Trojan

    In the Midwest small to midsize companies are not ready to had off their information assets to a cloud. They are ready to be hosted in a private cloud with a trusted provider where they can form a business relationship with a team of professionals that they are willing to trust there data to.

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