Though Amazon Web Services (AWS) is facing stiffer competition now than it did a few years ago, it's still a one-of-a-kind platform in a lot of ways.
Not only is Amazon.com's (AMZN) public cloud still meaningfully ahead of Microsoft's (MSFT) Azure and Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in terms of the amount of software and services it both directly provides and supports through its marketplace, it continues outpacing rivals in terms of the number of offerings it's launching and refreshing.
For evidence, one only has to look at everything that AWS has announced since the start of June. Among other things, AWS has:
- Unveiled Honeycode, a service for building web and mobile apps without writing any code.
- Announced the general availability of CodeGuru, a set of software tools that use machine learning to discover bugs and inefficiencies within code, and RDS Proxy, a service that improves the scalability, reliability and security of apps relying on AWS' Relational Database Service (RDS).
- Unveiled AWS App2Container, a service for placing Java and .NET apps within app containers.
- Unveiled Snowcone, the latest in a line of devices that both provide AWS computing and storage services in on-premise environments and allow data to be offload for transfer to an AWS data center.
- Launched 8 cloud computing instances powered by AMD (AMD) Epyc CPUs that are optimized for customers needing a lot of CPU horsepower.
- Launched a business unit (known as Aerospace and Satellite Solutions) that's focused specifically on military and civilian space clients.
There were several other software and services announcements during the quarter as well. And such a 1-month launch cadence is by no means unique for AWS, as a quick look at the archives of the AWS News Blog drives home.
As discussed previously, AWS' unmatched size among public cloud players -- it's now on a $40 billion-plus annual revenue run rate -- allows it to financially justify R&D investments on a scale that smaller peers could be hard-pressed to get an adequate return on. It can justify investing in developing niche services to a degree that smaller rivals can't, and it can also justify spending more than rivals do to improve and flesh out more mainstream services.
But a larger R&D budget probably doesn't by itself explain why AWS maintains such an unmatched launch cadence, particularly at a time when Microsoft and Google continue dialing up their own public cloud investments. AWS' engineering culture -- a culture that in many ways reflects Amazon's broader product culture -- appears to have a lot to do with it as well.
As a recent ZDNet article highlighted, AWS has put a lot of work into developing best practices for quickly and continuously deploying new code, with an eye towards automating deployments and reducing how much time workers need to spend overseeing them.
And as AWS chief Andy Jassy has repeatedly stressed during interviews, AWS (in contrast with companies that make R&D decisions based on what competitors are doing, or what the company's engineers would really like to see) focuses heavily on what customers are asking for when making product decisions, and focuses heavily on hiring people (referred to the company as "builders") that obsess over improving the customer experience delivered by a service.Public cloud services aren't by any means a winner-takes-all game, and Microsoft and Google each offer some services that are seen by many as best-of-breed (for example, Microsoft's IoT and edge computing services, or Google's machine learning services and BigQuery data warehouse service). But at a time when worries have grown about the competitive threat posed to AWS by Azure and GCP, it's worth not losing sight of what still sets AWS apart.