AWS’ Epic Disclosure of Its Financials – What Does It Mean to SMBs?

Amazon’s first disclosure of its financial results for the first quarter of 2015 of its cloud services division – Amazon’s Web-Services (AWS) – revealed an astonishing achievement that has left many investors astounded. The online giant’s booming operating profit margin of approximately 17% shows the overwhelming success that its cloud computing services have to offer to corporations of all sizes.

This monumental growth of AWS is driven primarily by technologically-inclined small-to-medium businesses (SMB) flocking towards cloud computing services.

“A $5 billion business [that is] still growing fast — in fact, it’s accelerating. We manage by two seemingly contradictory traits: impatience to deliver faster, and a willingness to think long term “

— Jeff Bezos, CEO of

AWS’ success coincides with the exponential growth of the cloud computing market as evidenced by IDC’s research statistics which estimates an astounding $52 billion cloud infrastructure spending to be reached in year 2019. Take a look at this infographics of the rise of cloud computing.

Companies are beginning to realize the large-scale benefits of adopting cloud computing technology that can put them on par with larger corporations. Enterprises, whether SMBs or MNEs, are dedicating a significant portion of their IT budgets on cloud services spending, IDC’s findings reveal.

The question is, what can SMB’s take from this growth and what potential does it offer to them?

How cloud computing can benefit SMBs?

The contention that first needs to be put forward is that AWS owes its $1.57 billion sales revenue growth for the first quarter of 2015 to young and emerging technology corporations which, upon adopting cloud services, have grown immensely. This only seeks to show the prodigious advantages that cloud services have to offer for SMBs.

Here are some of the ways cloud computing can help drive SMB growth:

Substantial cost reductions

Cloud adoption can bring cost savings by significant proportions for SMBs. Building data centers and local servers can be extremely expensive, which can increase further if a corporation wishes to expand to other locations and countries. Costs related to power and energy are also an issue, as price fluctuations in the energy market can adversely impact costs and profitability.

However, with cloud computing, it eliminates the need to build local servers and all data can easily be stored and accessed in large quantities online.

Greater competitive advantage

Cloud adoption eliminates scale advantages which often distinguish large, multinational corporations from SMBs due to their considerable resources and physical assets. However, that reality is in the past as larger corporations have become just as vulnerable to closures as small companies. Case in point: US Steel and Kodak, giants in their respective fields, faced inescapable problems that led to their downfall.

In the era of cloud computing, it leads to a level playing field which allows SMBs to directly compete with MNBs. This is because large-scale data storage and access has become the bedrock of a fast and efficient enterprise. Companies which have not restructured their operations according to it will inevitably be left behind in the competition.

A Harvard Business Review global survey of more than a thousand business leaders on cloud adoption benefits has important findings. The survey finds that more than 60% of respondents favored cloud as an efficient way of allowing faster communication between multiple stakeholders. One CIO says:

“It solves a lot of the technical problems and lets you focus on the higher-level issues. We’ll be able to look downstream to retail or even post-sale repair data and all the way back upstream to second- and third-tier suppliers in real time.”

Higher flexibility and accessibility

Cloud computing allows greater accessibility features that SMEs rarely have otherwise. With shared information infrastructures, firms can be more flexible with regard to consuming data and obtaining it from anywhere, provided they have access to the internet. Also its Pay-As-You-Go model means that SMEs only use data when required.

SMBs can benefit immensely from having greater flexibility and accessibility to data that can allow them to process information in real-time. Through sharing of information infrastructures, it can simplify business processes and make operations far more seamless and smooth.

In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, more than 75% of respondents intend to use private cloud to create a more scalable and flexible IT infrastructure.

Why? Review this extensive list of advantages of cloud computing for SMBs.

What challenges does cloud adoption pose for SMBs?

The benefits of cloud computing are not without a catch. There are a few considerations that SMBs need to consider before jumping on the bandwagon for a hasty cloud adoption.

SMBs need to first bear in mind the escalating threat of cloud security hacks which can compromise their data security and integrity. They therefore need to opt for a proactive approach and invest in security systems that can promise them a secure cloud network.

Secondly, SMBs need to be aware of the different cloud service providers. AWS’ successful financial performance is bound to spawn a host of other service providers in an effort to obtain the slice of the market share. SMBS need to carefully consider the implications of their service provider exiting the market and the monopolistic market conditions that could have an adverse impact on their business performance.

AWS re: Invents Itself Again: New and Improved Products and Services at November Conference

AWS is the undisputed leader in the Cloud Computing world, and their managed Web Services are the benchmark for providers and customers alike. In light of that, the November 11-14 AWS re:Invent 2014 Conference in Las Vegas was a Mecca for all things Cloud.  AWS has rolled out numerous offerings in 2014, including Zocalo and the Fire Phone. Given the host of new products introduced at the conference, it’s obvious that the parade of innovation continues into 2015.

Here are some the new offerings grouped by functionality.

Security and Encryption

Reblaze is an all-in-one private virtual cloud-based security product, implemented with a simple DNS change.

Porticor Virtual Private Data (VPD) platform is a versatile cloud encryption and key management solution. Available as a virtual appliance, and includes a secure, cloud-based API for integration and automation. Pricing starts at $599/month.

Cavirin enhances security by continuously applying OOB policies to your environment. Also generates Compliances Scorecards.

Backup, Storage and Replication

CloudBerry Backup compresses and encrypts data using customer keys before transference to the cloud, and works with all major cloud storage providers.

DRUVA Phoenix eliminates tape and off-site storage, and reduces the costs of managing server backup, archiving, retention and recovery. A 3 year plan starts at $0.60/GB/Month.

Zadara Multi-Zone HA enables a fully disaster tolerant system by distributing application servers across different AWS Availability Zones, and avoid facility-level failure and application. Prices start as low as $0.49/hour to enable the Multi-Zone HA replication feature.

Zerto Virtual Replication for Amazon Web Services (AWS) extends hypervisor-based replication to the public cloud. Will be available Q1 2015 and priced at $745 per protected VM.

Cloudant, the IBM NoSQL database, now replicates JSON data to dashDB. Monthly metered pricing is based on data storage ($1.00 per GB) and the types / frequency of RESTful API calls.

Data Analytics

Xplenty provides integration, processing and preparation of data for analytics without writing code. Three tier pricing starts at $99/Month.

ExtraHop Wire Data Analytics for FireEye Threat Analytics Platform (TAP) provides the events and metrics needed to detect advanced persistent threats, including DNS activity, HTTP payload data, Session tracking, and reconnaissance activity as attackers probe networks.

Logentries Unlimited Log Management & On-demand Analytics allows you to log data from any source or format into a centralized location, and analyze in real-time. Pricing starts at $359/month.

Segment is a hub that collects, translates and routes customer data to more than one hundred analytics and marketing apps with the flip of a switch. It recently announced support for automatic data transformation and loading into Amazon Redshift. Self-service plans range from $0-$350 a month.

Apprenda newest version (5.5) is now available in the AWS Marketplace. Apprenda allows you  to run a powerful private PaaS on public IaaS. The 16 GB image is free.

Administrative Tools allows you to map and visualize all AWS cloud resources and interdependencies, and quickly see unused or rogue resources.

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere now has a self service portal for access to existing vSphere templates and resources, expanded tenancy options, and support for storage policies, and support for vSAN datastores.

VNS3:ms is a single dashboard to manage and monitor your VNS3 networks and VPN connections. $50 per manager monitored per month.

Directory-as-a-Service connects AWS servers to an on premise AD or LDAP directory. Works with Windows, Macintosh and Linux. First 10 users are free, additional users are $10/month.

Testing Platforms

BlazeMeter Version 3.0 Unlimited Testing Platform has redesigned User Interface, a mobile dashboard for iPhone and Android, Selenium testing, Multi-Cloud support, comprehensive REST API, and Multi-Instance tests.

Skytap Dev/Test Environments on AWS utilizes three new AWS support capabilities: dynamic IPSEC VPN, Secure Remote Desktop Client, and third-party URL sharing. Price ranges from $30-$60 per month per VM.

VDI (Visual Desktop Interface)

ViewSonic SC-Z55 Discrete Zero Client utilizes VDI (Visual Desktop Interface) technology to support advanced 2D/3D applications for high-end workstations.

Cloud Management

2nd Watch Cloud Factory automates migration of enterprise workloads to the public clouds with an automated workflow that includes extraction, batching, conversion, importing, configuring, launching, and testing. Pricing starts at $2,000 per server.

Virtual FXT Edge Filer from Avere Systems provides the ability to deploy and scale while using both on-premises and cloud-based storage resources, such as Amazon EC2. $4,620 per month.

CTP Labs for Amazon Web Services (AWS) transforms legacy software products and systems into multitenant, auto-scaling cloud services. $150,000 for 1 month Rapid Minimum Viable Product (RMVP) starter engagement; $450,000 for 3 month RMVP engagement. (Duration and price range varies depending on application complexity.)

vNOC Cloud Management Platform for Cloudnexa now has a User Interface to manage existing resources, audit and troubleshoot change management issues, and view AWS account snapshot summary reports. A free limited version is available.

How Graphics as a Service will Help Design and Manufacturing

Graphic-DesignAs much of the workforce trades in desktop PCs for more portable devices, one group of people remains chained to a desk. Professionals tasked with manipulating graphics-heavy content are still required to purchase high-end PCs with specialized graphics cards to handle the workload.

In a world where cloud hosting is rapidly becoming the norm, many businesses are crafting plans for moving operations to the cloud. Even those who don’t have set plans are in the early stages of considering which devices can be replaced. Instead of leaving developers, graphic designers, and CAD designers out of the equation, a new option is emerging for businesses.

Graphics as a Service

One platform that is emerging as a big contender in the cloud computing game is Graphics as a Service (GaaS). Rather than confining a person’s work to the workstation, cloud providers are now offering the ability to contract with cloud providers to shift that performance to the cloud.

With GaaS, a provider puts the performance in a user’s web browser, allowing such operations as CAD and graphic design to be conducted in a web browser. This opens up businesses to let employees do their work on the same mobile devices others in the organization are doing.

Early Providers

While many providers are working diligently behind the scenes to make GaaS a reality, some vendors are standing out. Amazon Web Services recently launched G2, an instance specifically geared toward businesses that require graphic design capabilities. Web browser Mozilla also announced it is working on a way to make a web browser the way consumers perform high-end graphic design work and gaming.

With multiple technology providers working together, consumers will soon be able to put an end to the days of purchasing high-end PCs to meet their needs. The cloud will allow consumers to use their tablets and basic PCs for all of their needs.

How the Cloud Wars Will Benefit Your Small Business

pricedropThe battle of big-name tech companies has begun, as big names like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all fight to become champions of the cloud computing sector. As the technology goes more mainstream, major companies are each striving to provide the best services at the lowest prices.

This is all good news for consumers and businesses, a tech expert recently pointed out. Mashable’s chief correspondent Lance Ulanoff documented the moves these companies are making, which include Microsoft’s offering of 200 GB of free cloud storage for Surface 2 buyers, Amazon’s offering of free unlimited storage for photos taken with its new Amazon Fire phone, and Apple’s 20 GB of storage for $0.99 per month.

The Business Benefits

Over time, consumers are getting more for less, allowing even small businesses to take advantage of big business technology without exceeding their budget limits. Since the current focus is on file storage, this means businesses can encourage their employees to use cloud-based file storage services like Amazon Cloud Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

On an enterprise level, this increase in inexpensive storage means the move to cloud file storage may happen sooner than many businesses anticipated. Amazon’s competitive pricing has already impacted its EC2 and S3 storage, recently announcing its 42nd price reduction since 2008.

The Time to Buy

As these players struggle to compete in a cloud-evolving world, this may be the best time for businesses to buy in. Amazon is pushing sales of its new smartphone while Microsoft is trying to lure consumers to Office 365. To boost subscribers, Microsoft recently added Office functionality to the iPad with the stipulation that customers must subscribe to 365 to access all the features.

If your business has been considering a move to the cloud, this may be a great time to make the change. As the competition continues to heat up, users will benefit from lower prices and increased services, making cloud affordable for businesses of all sizes.

3 Reasons Your Data Should Be Available in Real Time

As the holiday season approaches, the demand on servers around the globe will reach the highest point of the year. To remain competitive, businesses are feeling more pressure to provide always-up-to-date inventory information, live streaming news, and scaling to accommodate growing customer demand. Smaller businesses may think this type of technology is out of their reach, but with products like Kinesis from Amazon Web Services (AWS), even the smallest businesses can deploy the latest technology to meet consumer demand.

When set up by a managed AWS/Azure provider, Kinesis can begin working for you immediately. No complicated setup is required and you won’t have to hire a high-salaried software developer to handle the code. On your end, you’ll begin to enjoy the benefits of technology many large corporations already have in place.

Real-Time Inventory Information

If your website doesn’t display up-to-date inventory information, your customer service may already be suffering. Items should be noted as out of stock immediately to prevent a customer from trying to purchase them. If you’re still required to occasionally contact a customer to let them know the item they’ve ordered is on back-order and won’t ship for four weeks, you’re probably aware of the customer relations nightmare that can pose.

Big Data Capabilities

You may have heard that Big Data is the next big thing, but assume it doesn’t apply to your business. Big Data is expected to be an integral part of doing business in 2014. Kinesis is designed to process a large amount of data in real-time, giving even the smallest businesses the information they need to make decisions and move their business to the next level. Kinesis users can get back data as frequently as each hour on everything from financial transactions to social media feeds.

Real-Time Analytics

No more waiting until the end of a specified period of time to gain insight about your marketing campaigns, website sales, and similar information. With Kinesis, consumers can see results immediately, which can be particularly helpful in presenting reports to board members, clients, and management.

With Kinesis, AWS brings another level of corporate functionality to businesses of all sizes. Because it’s hosted in the cloud, all data is supported by some of the best technology professionals in the business.

Auto Scaling: A Guide to What It Is, Why Your Business Needs It

Whether a business’s website is geared toward providing information or selling products, its needs will inevitably grow over time. In fact, that growth is the goal. A steadily progressing business will see an increase in traffic that requires an increase in the technology that handles it. Failure to anticipate that growth in time could result in outages that cost customers and damage a business’s reputation.

The answer is automated scaling. Amazon Web Services (AWS), for instance, provides both auto scaling and elastic load balancing to expand as demand increases, avoiding downtime and server slowdown without businesses having to actively request additional capabilities. A Managed AWS consultant is able to pass those capabilities on to customers as part of their service offerings. But what are these features? Here’s a brief explanation of each.

Auto Scaling

With auto scaling, businesses specify up front the behaviors they want. For an e-commerce business that knows big shopping days bring heavy traffic, auto scaling can specify that capabilities be expanded during these peak times. This functionality is crucial to avoid embarrassing server outages that can dramatically impact a company’s credibility with consumers.

Elastic Load Balancing

With elastic load balancing, AWS redistributes the incoming load in response to incoming traffic. The service also searches each pool for unhealthy instances and moves the load to healthier instances until those unhealthy instances can be addressed. ELB increases fault tolerance in order to avoid any downtime. Additionally, with ELB, SSL certificates are managed in one central location for greater convenience.

As businesses take advantage of these capabilities, it provides a perfect opportunity to watch traffic and determine the exact needs of your organization. This insight will let you watch your site traffic grow and will equip you with the information you need to choose the right resources for your business.

A Look At The Major Cloud Computing Players – Amazon Web Services

We continue our look at the major players in Cloud Computing this week with one of its innovators – Amazon Web Services.

As grew, it built powerful cloud-based hardware solutions to grow with them.  Amazon Web Services takes this cloud architecture and offers it to businesses across the world.

Amazon Web Services encompasses a number of very specific offerings, and while Microsoft’s cloud solutions are aimed at the consumer level, Amazon Web Services is targeted primarily at the IT provider level.

Like many other cloud providers, Amazon Web Services prides itself on the unique pricing structure of Cloud Computing – subscribers to their services only pay for the capacity that is actually used.

In Conclusion:

If you’re looking at a solid DIY solution to your Cloud needs, Amazon can be a great provider.  However, if you’re looking for a solution that’s ready “out of the box”, you may want to look at a few of our other featured players.

Stay tuned to our blog for more perspectives on other Cloud players like Google and Rackspace.