On Thursday, Amazon Web Services announced their free cloud offering for developers and this news sent many in the cloud community dizzy. Whether AWS expected such a round of free marketing or not, the tech media gave them a round of applause for this move. As far as I am concerned, this fell in the yawn category and I feel that this is not enough even from a pure marketing gimmick point of view.
What is the offer?
AWS Free Tier gives the following cloud services to the developers at no cost
- A Micro Instance
- Elastic Load Balancer with 15 GB data processing
- 10 GB of Elastic Block Storage plus 1 million I/Os, 1 GB of snapshot storage, 10,000 snapshot Get Requests and 1,000 snapshot Put Requests
- 5 GB of Amazon S3 storage, 20,000 Get Requests, and 2,000 Put Requests
- 30 GB per of internet data transfer (15 GB of data transfer “in” and 15 GB of data transfer “out” across all services except Amazon CloudFront)
- 25 Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hours and 1 GB of Storage
- 100,000 Requests of Amazon Simple Queue Service
- 100,000 Requests, 100,000 HTTP notifications and 1,000 email notifications for Amazon Simple Notification Service
- Plus, the usual AWS management console
Ok, what are the caveats?
- Most of the free services are for new customers only. This is understandable in a way.
- Most of the free services are for one year only (except SimpleDB, SQS and SNS which are free forever)
That’s really good. What is your problem dude?
Well, this is not a new or novel idea as many in the tech media made it out to be. Joyent has been running similar program for the Facebook developers. Microsoft offers a similar program on Azure cloud which is free for 8 months (someone from Microsoft: please explain to me how you arrived at the number 8 ) and it is available under their Bizspark program. So, this is not a new or novel concept even among the cloud infrastructure providers. This is a time tested campaign to lure developers into their cloud and lock them in for sometime (till the developer one day wakes up to find that he can get similar service for cheap with another cloud provider).
If Amazon genuinely wanted to help the developers get started, they should instead offer this program free forever. Let me explain why this should be the case.
- First, Amazon can easily afford to give out a micro instance for free to a developer forever. This good will will help them get the developer to pay them as his/her needs shoot up. Amazon can easily recover the money as the developer starts to scale the app beyond the capabilities of a micro instance
- A developer cannot do much with a micro instance. Micro instance is only capable of hosting a small low throughput web app. It is quite likely that the developer will scale up/out of a micro instance fast
- Usually, the developers in the social space play around with their apps for more than a year before they decide to focus on one single app that will be part of their startup. Giving a free offer that doesn’t even last till they start exploring the business opportunities around their app is of no use to the developers. Instead, by standing with them during the early stages and gaining their goodwill, Amazon can easily tap them to stay with their platform
Even though it is a good offer from Amazon, it is not enough to convince today’s smart developers to bet their future on Amazon platform. When there are PaaS services like Google App Engine that offers some level of free services forever, Amazon one year free offer appears like the 30 day trial versions we had during the traditional software days. Developers in the current era are much smarter and they don’t easily fall for such traps. Overall, it is a missed opportunity for Amazon, especially when developers find PaaS more attractive than IaaS. What do you think?
- Amazon Web Services Offers Free Cloud Access (avantrasara.com)
- Amazon announce free web services (edugeek.net)
- Try out Amazon EC2 (zdnet.com)
- Amazon offers free EC2 cloud instance for a year (v3.co.uk)
- Amazon Launching ‘Free Usage Tier’ For AWS [TNW United States] (thenextweb.com)
- Amazon Web Services offers EC2 access at no charge (infoworld.com)
- Amazon Web Services Unveils Free Service (readwriteweb.com)