Amazon Web Services gets serious about enterprise

Amazon is moving aggressively to make its cloud computing services palatable for enterprise users. Today it fixed big shortcomings, introducing two enterprise-class paid support options and a Service Health Dashboard.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

It now seems that Amazon is moving aggressively to make its cloud computing services palatable for enterprise users — not surprising, given that enterprises including The New York Times and Nasdaq are now customers, according to a BusinessWeek report this week. Today it announced two enterprise-class paid support options along with a Service Health Dashboard (screenshot after the jump) that's clearly modeled on the one pioneered by Salesforce.com a couple of years back. From a business perspective, these new services are even more significant than the new storage options announced earlier this week.

As posted by Amazon Web Services evangelist Jeff Barr today in a blog posting titled May We Help You?, there are two support levels:

  • Silver, starting at $100 per month, gives access to new AWS Support Center, with personalized Web support, case tracking and guaranteed response times during US office hours (6am - 6pm Pacific) Monday to Friday.
  • Gold, starting at $400, includes all of the above plus personalized phone support and around the clock (24x7x365) coverage.

If you're a big user of Amazon Web Services, your support fees are calculated at a base rate of 10 percent on top of your monthly usage fees. Barr's blog post makes it absolutely clear that the new services are in direct reponse to demand from serious enterprise customers:

"Increasingly, we see that organizations of all sizes are putting AWS to use in new, innovative, and mission-critical ways. These organizations have told us that they need a more direct and more discreet way to request assistance and to report problems."

That little word "discreet" is the big giveaway — customers want to report problems and get them fixed without the world at large knowing about their involvement. That's classic large enterprise behavior.

The status dashboard is openly published and will particularly appeal to users who aren't paying for personalized support, as it mean they'll no longer be in the dark when Amazon Web Services goes dark (which inevitably will happen, even if only very rarely). According to ReadWriteWeb, "Amazon says that during outages, users can expect to see updates from the team every 15-30 minutes until things are fixed."

The Service Health Dashboard (screenshot above) gives current status of every Amazon Web Service, plus historical data for the previous 35 days. A couple of clever new embellishments introduced by Amazon:

  • A "Report an Issue" link where users can notify issues they suspect may be system-wide problems
  • An RSS feed of status updates for each individual service. SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill calls this "Especially cool ... you can programmatically poll the status and take steps as necessary."

It's especially satisfying to see Amazon take this step today after I wrote this in February:

"Sooner or later, it was inevitable that a server outage would expose Amazon’s lack of preparedness for failure. ... [Companies that] rely on Amazon will be looking for far better outage management and service level reporting in the future than they’ve tolerated to date ... What I can’t understand is, why do providers only understand this after they’ve suffered a major outage? Salesforce.com learnt its lesson two years ago ... Why on earth Amazon couldn’t have invested in a similar system to keep customers informed is beyond me ...

After all this, do I really think SaaS providers are going to trust cloud infrastructure? I think it keeps the debate open, but I think what today’s outage shows is not that the model is broken but that the execution needs fixing.

Well done, Amazon, for finally fixing it. It's been a long time coming, but AWS is now starting to look like it could fulfil the role of IT utility to the enterprise.

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