isn't just the world's biggest online retailer, it's also the world's biggest provider of cloud computing services
. With Google, Microsoft and HP entering that market
, it's time to armchair quarterback Amazon's decision to use its consumer brand for an enterprise IT offer.
Over the last 6 years Amazon Web Services (AWS) has built a solid reputation as an IaaS and PaaS provider, facilitating 1% of North American internet traffic
on any given day (or not facilitating it
, as millions of Netflix
users found out last month).
It's hard to second guess a company that's built a tidy little $1 billion-a-year commodity business. But that was when they were the only game in town. Now, CIOs, IT directors and forward-thinking small business owners are going to have the option to buy web services from three of the biggest names in technology as well. Which will they choose?
Features, performance, support, pricing and the possibility of buying SaaS products from Google and MS (but not from AWS) will all play into the decision.
So will brand.
While the people influencing and making the decisions intellectually know about Amazon's tech chops, deep in a place they don't like to tell their procurement departments about, they also 'know' that Amazon is a consumer shopping site that originally started AWS as a sideline, and that Windows Azure
, HP Cloud Services
and Google Compute Engine
come from hardcore technology companies. Sure, Amazon has world-class technology too, but emotionally, subconsciously, intangibly speaking – it's a retailer.
So should Amazon have launched its b2b offer under a different name? Yes.
The market was nascent with no dominant players. Amazon had the money to launch a new brand and cement awareness among relevant audiences. They had the vision to see accelerating growth in demand for cloud services. And the only people who would have cared that the retail and web services businesses were part of the same company were analysts and investors - highly-engaged audiences that pay close attention and don't have any trouble understanding a business built of differently-named parts.
When features, performance, support and pricing are similar - or even when they're different but meet a prospect's minimum requirements – brand matters a lot. AWS's 6 year history won't be undone overnight, but not having had the foresight to give a future $1 billion business its own brand may end up turning a basic brand decision into a serious business problem for Amazon.