If there is any doubt as to just how big an impact Amazon is having in the corporate market, it came through loud and clear at the VMware partner conference earlier this year when VMware President and COO Carl Eschenbach rallied partners to take the fight to Amazon. "I look at this audience and I look at VMware and the brand reputation that we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books," taunted Eschenbach. "That is our challenge." It is, of course, now the challenge for Pivotal, which is grappling with a growing Amazon Web Services presence in corporate America.
Chris Lynch, a big data entrepreneur and now a partner in the technology group of Boston-based venture capital firm Atlas Venture, credits Maritz for a "bold" and "big" vision, but points out that Amazon is already executing in the big data market with a "proprietary" Web services technology. "Amazon is clearly ahead from a business model technology standpoint," said Lynch, the former CEO of Vertica Systems, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard two years ago. "I have had experience with Amazon in my Vertica life. They have got one of the top three computer science departments in the world inside their company. I would not underestimate them."
Lynch points out that EMC failed to stop Amazon with its Atmos object-based Web storage service and Greenplum has not exactly set the world on fire. "The question is, is Pivotal able to execute on this big disruptive [Pivotal] cloud OS vision?" he asked. "I agree with that vision. Someone is going to do it, but is the accumulation of Greenplum and the other [Pivotal] technologies the equivalent of the land of misfit toys? I know what Amazon can do. They are off-the-charts smart. They have already done what these guys are talking about."
All that said, Lynch, whose venture capital bets include next-generation big data upstarts including Sqrrl, a multitenant big data cloud database rumored to be used by the National Security Agency to track down Osama bin Laden, applauds EMC and VMware for establishing Pivotal as a beachhead in the big data war. "What they are saying is they are going to cannabilize traditional IT infrastructure and deliver a product in the cloud," he said. "They are going to eat their own before Amazon and Google do. That strategy is spot on. The stand that EMC and VMware are taking is smart. Amazon and Google are the new competition for enterprise IT. I like what they are doing, rolling the dice on 33 black and trying to win. I'm not saying they can't do it. The question is, how are they going to execute and what lessons have they learned when they went after the cloud business with Atmos a couple of years ago?"
Lynch is one of many big data entrepreneurs who credits Amazon with delivering a game-changing platform. One top executive for a big data startup that uses Amazon Web Services said Amazon has made it extremely easy to spin up big data services, especially with the February release of Amazon Redshift, a data warehousing service being touted as a lower-cost big-data-ready alternative to traditional enterprise data warehouses. "I think at the very least Pivotal and others are playing fast followers, and that is being generous," said the executive, who asked not to be named. "Amazon has a full stack in the cloud, which requires you to only log in and start spinning things up."
The big data executive credits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for building out a "mind-blowing" platform by insisting early on that the company's programmers open up the company's Web services platform with APIs. That put Amazon in the position to deliver the Web services platform of choice. "That was brilliant," said the executive. "That laid the foundation for the Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure. That changed the game. The results speak for them themselves. It was a brilliant move, and now Amazon is reaping the benefits."
NEXT: The Maritz Factor