Should Cloud Computing Startups Beware Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud? No, Says Cloudswitch

Sometimes I worry too much about the fortunes of local technology startups. It usually turns out that they can take care of themselves.

When I saw Amazon’s announcement yesterday about its new “Virtual Private Cloud” service—which is intended to make it easier for enterprises with expensive, existing data centers to tap into Amazon’s own, less expensive cloud computing environment—my first thought was, “Well, so much for Cloudswitch.” From the information that the Burlington, MA-based startup has shared about its technology—which, admittedly, isn’t much—it seemed at first blush that Amazon’s new offering might co-opt Cloudswitch’s entire business before the startup even leaves the gate.

Witness Amazon description of VPC as “a secure and seamless bridge between a company’s existing IT infrastructure and the AWS cloud,” which sounds an awful lot like what Ellen Rubin, a co-founder atat Cloudswitch, told me about the company’s focus back in June: she said the company was “solving problems that would make it difficult for a CIO to take advantage of the cloud…issues like security, simplicity, and being able to take what you have already and not make changes to it, but still be able to use the cloud.”

To me, the overlap in the messaging around VPC and Cloudswitch pointed to one of the hazards for startups entering businesses centered around giant vendors like Amazon: you never know when the giant is going to roll over and squash you. (Seattle-based cloud computing startups like Skytap and Opscode are well aware of this, I’m sure.)

Well, it turns out that my concern for Cloudswitch was misplaced. I reached Rubin again yesterday—she’s vice president of product at the venture-backed company, which is still largely in stealth mode—and she says the Amazon announcement is actually good news for her company.

“This is a really great step, in terms of lowering the barriers to enterprise adoption [of cloud computing] in general,” she says. “This is the kind of thing we are really eager to see, because it helps players like us drive that adoption. It’s one of the ways in which people will feel more confident.”

What is Amazon’s announcement really about? It’s apparently geared toward broadening the appeal of Amazon Web Services (AWS)—which basically consist of Internet-accessible, on-demand, pay-as-you-go processing and storage capacity—beyond the hundreds of small companies that already use the Amazon cloud as a substitute for owning and managing their own computing infrastructure, such as servers and networking software. It will do that by making cloud computing a more attractive option for larger companies that have made significant investments in their own IT infrastructures.

Up to now, many potential enterprise users of cloud services like AWS, Google App Engine, and Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform have balked over questions about the security and reliability of cloud-based resources. Amazon says VPC will allow customers to … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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