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: From Strength to Strength

Amazon introduces free cloud support, bolsters premium support services, and gains the endorsement of a rival's co-founder.

AWS continues to extend its lead in cloud services. Amazon added free support for all AWS customers and picked up the endorsement of NASA, co-developer of OpenStack.

Late last week Amazon rolled out free basic support for all AWS customers and dropped some prices on its premium support tiers while expanding available services. The company keeps reducing prices as economies of scale and operational experience allow it to do so. This has got to make life difficult for rivals tying to claw back any market share from the leader, and especially for proponents of the OpenStack initiative, which has had issues with software maturity.

Amazon has renamed its service offerings descriptively, dropping the Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum scheme of old in favor of Basic, Developer, Business, and Enterprise. All customers are automatically enrolled in the free Basic tier, which covers account or billing questions in addition to "system health issues" -- in other words, not your own configuration or third-party applications.

The Developer level, at $49 per month, provides access to email support during the customer's own local business hours, and covers "configuration, operation, and maintenance of applications that make use of core AWS services," or "building blocks" as the service summary phrases it.

The Business and Enterprise tiers expand support to "use case guidance" and "application architecture," respectively, and get support tickets routed to senior support engineers. Both also feature access to the automated AWS Trusted Advisor, which "inspects your AWS environment and makes recommendations when opportunities exist to save money, improve system performance or fault tolerance, or close security gaps."

Enterprise customers also get 15-minute response, a Technical Account Manager, access to short-term consulting for planned events (such as an advertising or product launch), and access to a solutions architect for long-term infrastructure planning.

Help from the skies
Amazon got a boost recently from NASA. The space agency had been instrumental in the early development of OpenStack, a rival technology to Amazon's AWS. Last month NASA announced that it was withdrawing its participation with the OpenStack initiative. Karen Petraska, service executive for computing services at NASA's CIO office, said that NASA is "not interested in competing with commercial cloud companies, and would rather be a 'smart consumer' of commercial cloud services," according to Web Host Industry Review.

Being a "smart consumer" apparently means getting service from Amazon. NASA's CIO wrote in a blog post that the agency had "shifted to a new web services model that uses Amazon Web Services for cloud-based enterprise infrastructure," saving $1 million per year, reports Wired's Cloudline. OpenStack was not mentioned in NASA's post. Proponents of the open-source cloud technology might have felt stung by NASA's characterization of AWS as "interoperable and standards-based" -- the aims of OpenStack.