This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Amazon AWS Marketplace an "App Store for the Cloud"

Rent pre-configured applications by the hour or the month on your AWS bill.

Amazon introduced a store where customers can, with a single click, rent cloud business software from providers like IBM, Microsoft, and Zend. The move will further pressure OpenStack, which will struggle to keep up.

The AWS Marketplace (see the introductory video here) will use the billing and fulfillment system of Amazon Web Services. Visitors will have an experience not too different than shopping on Amazon's main site, but they will be buying access to infrastructure or business software by the hour or the month. Charges will show up on their regular AWS bill.

The experience is approximately a cross between SaaS and the Apple App store, according to a NY Times blogger. It brings a new level of ease of use to businesses trying to set up services in the cloud: much of the hard work of getting the software up and running on an AWS instance has already been done by the supplier, who has packaged it as an Amazon Machine Image file.

Unlike Apple's App Store, the AWS Marketplace looks like it will be vetted to allow only established, major software suppliers in. So part of what Amazon is offering AWS customers is a highly curated collection. What it is offering to software vendors is access to hundreds of thousands of cloud customers who may be ready to try out software.

Amazon offers software vendors the option of redirecting customers to their own site for purchase and billing. If Amazon handles those details, it takes 20 percent of software rental revenue, an Amazon spokesperson told Business Agility by email. This compares with the 30 percent that Apple takes for nearly any transaction in the App Store.

Network World's Alan Shimel calls Marketplace AWS's "super weapon" in the battle for the future of the cloud. Shimel assumes that Eucalyptus and CloudStack, which partner with Amazon and expose the AWS API (as we discussed recently in Turbulence in the Clouds), will be able to support Marketplace applications in some form before too long. It's a reasonable assumption. As for OpenStack, Shimel says the would-be AWS challenger will be left "looking in from the outside": "While Rackspace [OpenStack's primary proof-of-concept implementation] already [has] a partner listing of products that run on the Rackspace cloud, it is crude compared to the slick integration of the AWS Marketplace," Shimel contends.

OpenStack supporters can't take much comfort in the presence of IBM software in the initial AWS Marketplace offering. IBM (sponsor of Business Agility) is a major OpenStack supporter. According to the NY Times Bits blog, IBM's participation in Marketplace "indicates that some companies are already hedging their bets" on OpenStack.

Business users in the enterprise may well find the AWS Marketplace compelling. Of the initial offerings there, it is unlikely that internal business users will feel moved to take on IBM Domino Enterprise Server ($0.36 to $0.58/hr.) or SAP's BusinessObjects 5 Named Users (NUL) ($150.00/mo plus $0.49 to $0.79/hr.). But they may very well be interested in deploying a LAMP Stack or Ruby On Rails Web Application Framework (both $0.00 to $0.02/hr.).

So AWS Marketplace could complicate the job of the IT department struggling to nail down a cloud strategy and keep a lid on the number of extant cloud suppliers. And Marketplace will definitely set a high bar for the speed and ease of provisioning of cloud services -- one the rest of the cloud industry, and not just internal IT, will be hard-pressed to clear.