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Amazon's Next Steps Toward Cloud Domination

Amazon Web Services adds Zocalo file sharing, mobile app services, and log-monitoring and analysis capabilities to its ever-expanding portfolio.

Cloud Contracts: 8 Questions To Ask
Cloud Contracts: 8 Questions To Ask
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Amazon Web Services introduced five new services to its vast and growing list of cloud capabilities on Thursday at the AWS Summit in New York. The headliner was clearly Amazon Zocalo, a file-sharing service, but the announcements also included new mobile app-support capabilities and a log-data-retention service called Logs for CloudWatch.

Amazon Zocalo is a managed file-storage and sharing service aimed squarely at enterprises, and it appears to fit somewhere between DropBox-like offerings and Microsoft SharePoint Online. AWS CTO Werner Vogels introduced Zocalo as a "secure and reliable" service that will please IT, since it integrates with Active Directory and provides "easy" management and audit capabilities. It also gives IT the option of storing data in specific availability zones to meet data-location requirements. Zocalo will also please users, said Vogels, because it's extremely easy to use and offers native apps for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire mobile devices.

[Want more on new competition for Amazon? Read Amazon Strikes Back With Lower Cost Instances.]

Zocalo is more than just file storage and sharing, in that it also supports collaboration with version-control, shared annotation, and commenting capabilities. You can notify colleagues that documents are ready for review and give them deadlines for feedback. Comments from all collaborators are consolidated in a panel along the right side of the interface. Unlike SharePoint, Zocalo is limited to a file-and-folder directory metaphor, with what appeared to be limited group functionality and nonexistent website publishing capabilities. Amazon contrasted Zocalo with incumbent systems that have "tried to do too many things."

"Customers have told us that they're fed up with the cost, complexity, and performance of their existing old-guard enterprise document and collaboration management tools," said Noah Eisner, GM of Amazon Zocalo, in a statement. "AWS was increasingly being asked to provide an enterprise storage and sharing tool that was easy to use, allowed users to quickly collaborate with others, and met the strict security needs of their organizations. That's what Amazon Zocalo was built to do."

Zocalo is priced at $5 per user per month, including 200 GB of storage, and it's free for Amazon WorkSpaces (virtual desktop) customers, with up to 50 GB of storage.

The panel on the right shows comments from multiple collaborators on a Word document shared through the Amazon Zocalo service.
The panel on the right shows comments from multiple collaborators on a Word document shared through the Amazon Zocalo service.

To support a mobile-first world better, Amazon introduced a trio of new mobile capabilities: Amazon Cognito, Amazon Mobile Analytics, and Amazon Mobile SDK. Aimed at mobile application developers, Amazon Cognito manages user identifies across multiple devices on multiple operating systems while keeping data in sync. Think of it as bringing Evernote-like content continuity across devices to any application. The service supports multiple identity providers for logon, including Facebook and Google, and Amazon says it provides granular permission controls.

Amazon Mobile Analytics is designed to give app developers fast and reliable engagement analytics, including daily and monthly active user figures and retention metrics. The analytics toolbox also supports custom events, so you can watch for specific desired (or not-so-desired) user actions.

Amazon Mobile SDK gives mobile app developers a quick path to Amazon's broad services portfolio for native apps on iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire, and supports actions including upload, download, stop, start, and mobile push.

Amazon added five services to its growing services portfolio at the AWS Summit in New York.
Amazon added five services to its growing services portfolio at the AWS Summit in New York.

The fifth service introduced at AWS Summit is Logs for Cloudwatch, which works with Amazon's existing Cloudwatch monitoring service. Vogels said anybody in business today should "measure the pulse of the business relentlessly" to drive continuous improvement, but he acknowledged the difficulty of doing that, particularly in a cloud-based environment like Amazon's, where apps may run on instances and services that are continuously spinning up and shutting down in a flexible, as-needed delivery model.

Logs for Cloudwatch is designed to ensure that the log records behind application services are stored and retrievable to ensure continuity in business analysis. Working with Cloudwatch and supported by the Amazon Kinesis streaming service, the new service automatically aggregates and monitors all logs, provides a single tool for infrastructure and application metrics and reporting, and provides exception-handling and notification functionality.

Logs for Cloudwatch can monitor hundreds of thousands of sources and myriad formats, according to Amazon, and with Kinesis streaming bandwidth it can scale up to millions of records per second, replicating log data in three availability zones.

Customers presenting at AWS Summit, including FINRA and Novartis, rattled off stunning multi-million-dollar savings claims, while media company Condé Nast described how it has migrated all of its data center operations over to Amazon and put that facility up for sale. Vogels pointed to more than 40 price decreases "without competition" since the founding of AWS, and he pointed to a portfolio (shown above) that will undoubtedly continue to grow.

Even if investors finally exert enough pressure to get Amazon to start taking more profits, at this stage in its history it's hard to imagine the AWS cloud getting anything but bigger, stronger, and more price-competitive.

Managing the interdependency between software and infrastructure is a thorny challenge. Enter DevOps, a methodology aimed at increasing collaboration and communication between these groups while minimizing code flaws. Should security teams worry -- or rejoice? Get the DevOps' Impact On Application Security report today (registration required).

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 6:37:16 AM
Re: Secure
From an enterprise perspective, the cloud still appears to be the safest storage for digital data. Of course today the cloud has evolved into more than just a safe storage space, as even this article on Amazon's latest clod products clearly shows and the ever increasing apps thatcan be linked to any given cloud infrastructure can pose a serious danger to enterprises that do not have talented IT teams to cover all the security loophole. But when it comes to personal data, call me old fashioned and what-not but I will still go with the hard drives.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
7/11/2014 | 1:58:07 PM
The value of Cloudwatch Logs
Cloudwatch Logs may be the undervalued part of this announcement. It shines a light on something that had been in shadows when it came to EC2 operations. It gives the cloud customer a chance to look at the application event log data and search out key indicators of application health and performance. That's been hard to do with a Cloudwatch log filled with general purpose infrastructure data as well as application data. Now the application indicators can be sorted out and delivered to the customer's management console for analysis and review there. "We've stopped leaving all that value on the table," noted Matt Wood, noted AWS data scientist.
User Rank: Strategist
7/11/2014 | 1:02:59 PM
Just makes the cloud paradigm stronger
These announcements are certainly good for the cloud industry as a whole. I do wonder if it's just the business users who are reticent at this point or if we're still dealing with IT and IT executives as well. The problem is we still need wholesale operating model transformation so that we aren't having discussions about whether ITaaS, PaaS, etc. are good for the enterprise. 

Great blog post here about convincing the business to embrace the cloud:


D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
7/11/2014 | 9:18:34 AM
A point of clarification on Logs for Cloudwatch
I'd like to underscore that Cloudwatch has long been there as Amazon's option for monitoring and analyzing your use of Amazon infrastructure, and for that it does a comprehensive job, now matter how much your spinning up and spinning down services. What has been lacking has been a way to monitor the logs/actitivty/events of applications running on top of Amazon infrastructure. That's where data-collection and monitoring has been lacking and it's the hole that Logs for Cloudwatch fills. This service relies on the monitoring and analysis tools provided by Cloudwatch, but now you can capture application, as well as infrastructure service, activity.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 7:38:17 PM
Re: "Secure"
Not too cynical at all. Certain compliance regulations require a level of security that does not appear to exist in this product.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 6:23:27 PM
Cloud Servers
It is time to start purchasing hard drives to store your essential and private data on since they will soon be obsolete or unavailable to the everyday 'Joe' in an attempt for large companies like Google and Amazon to force you into the cloud where all of your data is searchable and sellable to appease investors.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 5:57:28 PM
Re: "Secure"

Yes, too cynical. We've been living under an illusion that on premise is secure for a long time. The reality is that security is completely dependent on the talent and vigilance of the team running each individual service. That talent level varies a LOT. 
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 5:14:28 PM
Whenever I see that word now in association with cloud services, I want to add an asterisk. Too cynical?
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