Nov 30, 2022 - Technology

Cloud computing grows up and takes on more jobs

Illustration of a glowing cloud icon being measured by a hand holding a marker.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New offerings from Amazon Web Services on Tuesday highlight how far the cloud computing business has evolved beyond its roots.

The big picture: AWS pioneered cloud services as a provider of raw computing and storage accessible over the internet, but Amazon and its rivals are increasingly offering services tailored to specific industries or designed to solve one problem for a wide range of businesses.

Why it matters: Amazon, Microsoft and Google now remotely handle a vast amount of work that businesses once did on their own servers — and with consumer spending slowing, all three tech giants are counting on the cloud for much-needed growth.

Driving the news: At its AWS re:Invent conference on Tuesday, Amazon announced several new products that show just how specialized the cloud has become.

  • AWS Supply Chain, which can help companies in many industries get a better handle on their flow of components and goods, is an example of a service where Amazon sees broad appeal.
  • Although there is an industry for such tools already, it is highly fragmented and the necessary data is often stored in fragments spread out among multiple locations. That makes it well suited to the cloud, according to AWS senior VP Matt Garman.

Other new services are targeted at a single industry, or a handful of industries.

  • AWS Clean Room is designed to allow multiple companies to benefit from one another's proprietary data without having to share it directly.
  • Instead, they can share in the insights their proprietary data provides without giving partners direct access to the raw information.
  • Advertising is a key initial market, Garman said, but Amazon also sees opportunities in healthcare and financial services.

State of play: Amazon is not alone in the push toward more specialized cloud products, with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure also evolving in a similar direction.

Yes, but: Basic computing and storage remain a key part of the cloud business.

  • Amazon and Microsoft have both begun offering customers a wider range of options for the type of chips their cloud servers use, providing more flexibility for businesses whose software is written or optimized for a particular chip architecture.
  • What was once an all-Intel market now includes chips from rival AMD as well as ARM-based options from Nvidia as well as Amazon's own ARM-based processor.
  • In the past, market demand didn't support the cost of expanding chip options, but today even a modest sliver of the cloud market equates to billions of dollars in revenue. "That's a big business," Garman said. "There's a lot more we can invest in."
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