5 things to watch for at Amazon's re:Invent cloud conference

Amazon Web Services is the IaaS market leader, but it's facing increased pressure from Microsoft and Google. re:Invent is AWS's chance to redefine the cloud conversation.

Amazon Web Services is in a unique position in the cloud computing market. It has been anointed the market leader in IaaS, with a scale and spectrum of services offered from its cloud that is unmatched by any other company. Researchers have recently estimated that AWS's Iaas cloud revenue is 30x that of Microsoft Azure's.

But in the past year AWS has faced stiffening competition from a variety of vendors. Microsoft is building up its cloud strategy, focusing on a hybrid cloud platform that is enterprise-ready. Google is priming its cloud platform for enterprise users by rolling out new features to take on AWS. Even VMware is looking to play in the IaaS market.

+ MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Cloud giants to battle backed by distinctly different partner networks +

At re:Invent this week in Las Vegas, the third annual conference for AWS's users and partners, the company has an opportunity to reset the market discussion in the cloud industry, project its market-leading position, and continue to push the envelope with innovative new cloud-based services.

Below are 5 things Network World will be watching for at AWS re:Invent:

1) How Amazon deals with hybrid clouds

AWS has focused on being the dominant public IaaS cloud computing provider. Three years ago, AWS Senior Vice President Andy Jassy lambasted private clouds and said the public cloud can handle any workload. In the past few years that view has evolved though. Today, the company offers options for customers to connect their on premise data centers to Amazon's cloud. Examples include Direct Connect (a dedicated network connection between users and the AWS cloud), Virtual Private Cloud or VPC (which is a logically isolated section of AWS's cloud for users), as well as the AWS Storage Gateway (which manages data both on premises and in AWS's cloud).

The lack of a broader hybrid cloud strategy is the biggest knock that AWS's competitors make against the company. Microsoft has its Azure public cloud and Microsoft Systems Center private cloud management platform - which combines to seamlessly create a hybrid cloud. VMware has vCloud Air public cloud and the vRealize management suite for private clouds. HP has an OpenStack based Helion public and private cloud. The list goes on.

How will AWS address this issue at re:Invent? Will it acknowledge that enterprises are not willing to go all in on the public cloud and need ways to bridge their on premise workloads with the public cloud? Would AWS ever launch an on premise private cloud management platform? Or will AWS rely on its broad network of partners to provide these integration points for a hybrid cloud?

2) Price cuts and new virtual machines

Like clockwork, whenever AWS has big news announcements it cuts its prices. It would be news if AWS does not cut prices at re:Invent. So then, the question is by how much will its prices be slashed this year? AWS, Microsoft and Google seem to be in a race to the bottom when it comes to cloud prices. AWS already offers a substantial "free tier" for many of its services. How low will AWS prices go?

In years past AWS has also launched new virtual machine instance types at re:Invent, so expect that to happen this year too. Microsoft just launched a new G-Series of VMs, which some call the Godzilla size because they are so big. Google offers per-minute billing and automatic discounts based on how much its customers use the cloud. AWS could roll those features out. Expect some innovation in this area, since it is a core AWS feature.

3) Data data data

One of AWS's priorities during the past few years has been to position its cloud as the spot to store and process data. Two years ago AWS launched Redshift, a data warehouse and analytics tool. Last year it launched Kenesis, a real-time data processing engine. What's in store this year? Housing as much customer data as possible is a goal of all the big cloud providers. The more data in their cloud, the more money they collect. The cloud is also a natural landing spot for large amounts of data, given the almost unlimited storage and massive computing power to process it. How's AWS going to attract even more customer data into its cloud?

4) New apps

Another trend from AWS during the past few years is to move beyond just providing commodity infrastructure services like compute, network and storage. It has rolled out a variety of enterprise apps too. These include the WorkSpaces VDI announcement and the introduction of Zocalo, the document storage and sharing services (think of it as a DropBox competitor). Just recently AWS launched a new Directory service. Expect AWS's drumbeat of new apps to continue.

5) Mobile computing and containers

A big push last year at re:Invent was mobile. AWS launched Cognito, an identity and user synchronization tool for mobile app developers. AWS will likely continue to court mobile app developers. It's an area that Google has focused on, particularly in marketing its cloud as the one for Android developers. AWS has a couple of sessions for developing apps for the company's Fire Phone, but if AWS is smart they will make a stronger play for its cloud to be the landing spot for hosting apps for any devices on AWS.

And then there's the container issue. Perhaps the hottest buzzword in tech right now, AWS has hinted that there will be some container news, so stay tuned to hear exactly what it is. Google beat them to it last week with the announcement of Google Container Engine (GKE), which is a hosted container management service. Your move, AWS.

Stay tuned to Networkworld.com and the Cloud Chronicles blog to stay up to date on all news from AWS. Follow Network World Senior Writer Brandon Butler's twitter stream (@BButlerNWW) to get even more up-to-date news from the conference.

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