Amazon Web Services recently rolled out a service called AWS Lambda that promises to continue Amazon’s history of and reputation for disrupting contemporary cloud computing with yet another stunningly innovative product and service. AWS Lambda allows developers to dispense with the need to create persistent applications that reside on virtual machines or servers. Instead, developers create libraries of code that respond to incoming data streams and perform event-driven computing by leveraging predefined Lambda functions. Lambda functions represent code written in Node.js that execute in response to changes to Amazon S3, data feeds from Amazon Kinesis and updates to tables in Amazon DynamoDB. Developers grant Lambda functions permission to access specific AWS resources, thereby enabling them to activate select AWS infrastructure components as necessary to perform their application logic. Part of the magic of Lambda functions is that they spin up infrastructure components as needed in response to incoming data feeds, and subsequently shut them down when they are not being used, thereby conserving resources and minimizing costs.
In a recent interview with The Register, Scott Guthrie, VP of Windows Azure remarked on recently added features to the Azure platform that take it in the direction of feature parity with Amazon Web Services. Notable recent milestones for, and functionality additions to the Azure platform include the following:
•Skype now runs on the Azure platform.
•New storage for SkyDrive will be stored on the Azure platform.
•Xbox Live and Xbox One “heavily use” Azure on the backend.
•Enhanced global presence including availability in China.
•A scheduler service that enables developers to schedule tasks without relying on a virtual machine.
•The ability to read replicated data in the secondary, global storage site of your location by means of the “read-only secondaries” service.
•Authentication, security and access control for Office 365 is hosted by applications that reside on the Windows Azure platform.
•Developer features such as “Visual Studio online, continuous delivery, source control hosting, remote debugging, diagnostics features.”
•Capability to run MapReduce jobs and integrate analytics into applications by means of HDInsight service, which features enterprise grade Hadoop hosted on the Azure cloud.
Taken together, these enhancements illustrate that Azure is indeed progressing down a rapid development path that, if continued, will likely catapult it into second place, behind Amazon Web Services, in the IaaS and PaaS space, ahead of competitors such as the Google Compute Engine and IBM. That said, achievement of feature parity with Amazon Web Services is virtually (no pun intended) a pipe dream for Azure given the breathtaking range of features and functionality offered by the Amazon Web Services platform, many of which, such as the AWS support for Impala and Amazon Kinesis, represent advanced iterations on the AWS commitment to supporting Big Data in the cloud.
However, Azure can certainly match AWS feature for feature for the 10-20 most common set of use cases for enterprise deployments, and its recent news that everyday consumer applications such as Skype and SkyDrive leverage the Azure platform is likely to render customers increasingly comfortable with the reliability, scalability and performance of the platform at large, for starters. To illustrate its competitiveness with its Seattle-based competitor, Azure would do well to define the most common enterprise use cases for public and private cloud deployments and demonstrate the value of its offering with respect to those use cases by using head to head comparisons with the likes of Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, IBM and Google Compute Engine. Without the popular enterprise use case approach to IaaS comparisons, AWS is likely to carry the day in any exhaustive, feature by feature comparison against any other IaaS provider for the foreseeable future.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) today announced the release of Amazon Kinesis, a revolutionary service for storing real-time data feeds that allows developers to write applications that respond to streaming data. Kinesis allows developers to store data from hundreds of sources and subsequently write applications that respond to real-time feeds related to streaming news feeds, financial data, social media applications and log and sensor data. Kinsesis integrates with real-time dashboards and business intelligence software and thereby enables the scripting of alerts and decision making protocols that respond to the trajectories of incoming real-time data. Terry Hanold, Vice President of New Business Initiatives, AWS, remarked on the innovation enabled by Amazon Kinesis as follows:
Database and MapReduce technologies are good at handling large volumes of data. But they are fundamentally batch-based, and struggle with enabling real-time decisions on a never-ending–and never fully complete–stream of data. Amazon Kinesis aims to fill this gap, removing many of the cost, effort and expertise barriers customers encounter with streaming data solutions, while providing the performance, durability and scale required for the largest, most advanced implementations.
Kinesis replicates data across Availability Zones within an AWS Region in order to ensure a high degree of availability. In addition, the product offers a managed service for dealing with incoming streams of real-time data that includes load balancing, failover, auto-scaling and orchestration. Moreover, customers can send incoming data to data stores such as Amazon S3, Amazon DynamoDB or Amazon Redshift either in its raw form, or filtered according to business rules in order to reduce the size of the data store. Overall, Kinesis represents a truly disruptive technology that promises to change the way applications respond to continuous, dynamic data feeds. Use cases for the product include applications that leverage meteorological data, military-related sensor-based data, data streams from the emerging internet of things such as automobiles and appliances, in addition to the typical use case of web-related data. Amazon Web Services continues to push the envelope with respect to technological innovation and proves, once again, that it is so much more than an infrastructure as a service vendor that rents commodity hardware for application development and storage. Google and Microsoft look archaic in comparison, and as such, Amazon Web Services continues to consolidate its position as the cloud-based technology platform of choice for application development and integration.