A week or two ago I had a heated argument on Twitter with someone who was adamant that Amazon would remain an infrastructure player and avoid the temptation to move up the stack. Even after the release of DynamoDB, we weren’t entirely sure as to their intentions. That kind of changed today with the release of Amazon Simple Workflow Service (SWF).

In the blog post announcing the service, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said that;

Today AWS launched an exciting new service for developers: the Amazon Simple Workflow Service. Amazon SWF is an orchestration service for building scalable distributed applications. Often an application consists of several different tasks to be performed in particular sequence driven by a set of dynamic conditions. Amazon SWF makes it very easy for developers to architect and implement these tasks, run them in the cloud or on premise and coordinate their flow. Amazon SWF manages the execution flow such that the tasks are load balanced across the registered workers, that inter-task dependencies are respected, that concurrency is handled appropriately and that child workflows are executed.

Have no doubt – this is PaaS in all but name. Which leaves a big question as to how AWS will message this move to it’s large number of customers who are PaaS providers – Both Heroku and EngineYard are large consumers of Amazon IaaS.

It’s now almost impossible for Vogels to credibly claim they’re not focusing on moving up the stack as fast as possible, which leaves some of the other services with some choices to make.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t late night meetings going on in the board rooms of a number of PaaS providers – determining the best way to differentiate themselves whilst still on AWS infrastructure, or alternative arrangements if Amazon really goes nuclear on PaaS.

One of those conversations is no doubt occurring in Heroku’s offices and they have the benefit of being owned by Salesforce. Even before this announcement I would have predicted Heroku being available on multiple infrastructure layers in the near future. Now I’d not be surprised to see Heroku rolled into Salesforce’s own data centers to leverage the independence of Salesforce infra along with the obvious connections between Heroku and Force.

Netflix too is in an interesting situation. One of AWSs largest customers, and the creator of a number of platform components many of which have been open sourced to the community. It’ll be interesting to see their response to this as well. CloudFoundry? There’s another interesting story… Oh to be a fly on the wall….

Interesting times – meanwhile Amazon contiues to innovate in pretty amazing ways.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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