A short while ago, Amazon announced a new offering called Aurora. In a nutshell, Aurora is a MySQL database engine wrapped as a service. It’s relatively cheap, and Amazon handles the nitty-gritty of the thing.
It begs the question, why does it matter? As Amazon declares, it’s the fifth SQL database engine that they have made available. So, why the big deal? It is a big deal because it says quite a bit about how Amazon operates.
First, let’s have a look at the product page:
“Amazon Aurora provides up to five times better performance than MySQL at a price point one tenth that of a commercial database while delivering similar performance and availability.”
The textbook definition of disruption could well-be a description of the pattern that Aurora follows. It’s no more SQL-ish than offerings from established players. It’s the same technology, but it’s offered in a simple package, and at lower cost.
This reflects Amazon’s public cloud offering. Remember that Amazon is a retailer, and retailers win or lose based on miniscule differences in margin, while providing the same-old in interesting ways. Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides Linux and Microsoft instances – that’s not something new. Anyone could spin-up a Windows box, given a couple of thousand dollars in capital to buy a server, and a couple of weeks to rush-order it, rack it, and wire it. With the same credit card, a small operational cost, and a few minutes, someone can spin-up a Windows instance on AWS or Microsoft Azure. This parallels how Amazon put brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business. More value, lower cost – but selling the same books as everyone else.
While the battle lines between Windows and Linux in the datacenter were still being drawn (endlessly), AWS arrived with a compelling proposition – service-based computing. Google pulled the same thing in the browser wars (remember Netscape versus Internet Explorer? Maybe I’m dating myself by not including Firefox…) by bringing a compelling package to the market. In that, there is a lesson – there’s nothing new about the underlying technology, but there is something very new in the packaging. In other words, the delivery is the product.
When announcing Aurora, Amazon made another point clear – they built it because customers asked them to. Perhaps vexed by costs, licensing headaches, and being on the forgotten side of a battle being waged between Microsoft and Oracle (in customer datacenters – no less) organizations are ready for a change. Certainly, Amazon isn’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts - there is money to be made - but they wouldn’t have done it had customers not communicated a need (and obviously, Amazon solicits that communication from customers).
Whether you are an owner, manager, developer, supporter, or whatever else in the chain between creating technology and delivering it, ask yourself one question: could someone pull the rug out from under you by delivering the same technology in a more consumable package? In today’s ‘everything-as-a-service’ world, it’s a question worth pondering, because your business could very-well depend on it.