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Amazon Trots Out More Ways to Get Your Stuff Onto Its Cloud

April 19, 2016, 6:40 PM UTC
Amazon Web Services

Amazon unveiled several new cloud computing services on Wednesday including a way for business customers to identify the applications they already run internally so that it’s easier to switch them to Amazon’s public cloud.

The new AWS Application Discovery Service is intended to solve a big problem for companies: They don’t necessarily know about all the software they use or the “dependencies” between those applications and the computers they run on. That means if you change one, there can be (and usually are) ripple effects so knowing how all that software relates to each other is important.

Matt Wood, general manager of product strategy for Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, announced the product, slated to go to preview in a few weeks, at an event in Chicago. While the new services will point the way, Wood said Amazon’s partner—companies like Accenture (ACN), or 2nd Watch, or Cloud Technology Partners—can provide the support and handholding to do the whole migration.

AWS and these service partners have a sometimes complicated relationship given that AWS, like Microsoft and other tech providers often ends up offering services that compete with what these other partners do.

This new offering joins an existing database migration service that Amazon says has already enabled lots of companies using Oracle (ORCL) or Microsoft (MSFT) databases move to its own, less pricey MySQL-compatible Aurora database service.

AWS Customers Fear Cloud Lock-in

Also new is an 80TB version of Amazon’s Snowball appliance, a piece of hardware that customers can pack with data and then physically ship to Amazon facilities. Amazon already fielded a 50TB version.

When it comes to moving large amounts of computer data, the process can be time consuming and expensive. That is why actual physical delivery of disks like Snowball can be a better alternative in many cases. Or, as Wood noted: “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a UPS truck.”

If you sense a trend here, it’s that Amazon wants your stuff, all your stuff—your applications, your databases, the underlying data—to be in its data centers. So far, Amazon is focusing pretty much on a one-way trip into its cloud, which irks those who say that hybrid cloud, a model where companies keep sensitive data and applications in their own data centers while offloading less sensitive work to Amazon’s shared infrastructure.

The exception to rule is that the company recently announced a version of the Snowball that can export, as well as import, data.

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Also debuting on Wednesday were two new flavors of Amazon’s Elastic Block Store (EBS) storage service that the company says are well suited to big data applications. As background, block storage is the cloud version of your PC’s hard drive that stores your persistent data like your Word documents. To continue the analogy, most AWS customers buy chunks of the company’s EC2 compute service (the PC equivalent), which comes with its own memory or RAM. They then use EBS as the hard drive to store data that doesn’t change on the fly.

More block store options are in line with AWS’s typical “more is more” strategy. But there’s a downside to that, said David Mytton, CEO of Server Density, a London-based tech firm who follows cloud providers closely.

More EBS volume types certainly provide more flexibility and a detailed level of control. But, Mytton added, as with EC2 so many options adds complexity and requires a lot of forethought and planning. That contrasts with what Google’s doing with Google (GOOG) Cloud Platform which focuses on simplicity rather than complexity, he said.

Also at the event, Wood said Amazon Inspector, which sifts through customers’ applications running on AWS to identify security vulnerabilities is now available. The product was announced last fall at AWS Re:invent, Amazon’s annual customer conference.

Amazon which pioneered the public cloud starting ten years ago, is the leader (by far) as ranked by Gartner (IT) and others. In a public cloud scenario, many users buy or rent computer processing power, storage space, and networking bandwidth that is aggregated and operated by one company.

So, while Gartner said last year that Amazon runs 10 times the computing capacity of the next dozen or so cloud providers, it is also seeing increased competition from well-heeled competitors, especially Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. So expect the feature and functions to keep rolling out at a furious clip.

Note: This story was updated at 7 p.m. EDT to correct a word. The correct quote is “never underestimate the bandwidth of a UPS truck.”