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AWS acquisition to attract more developer use

The latest AWS acquisition fills a gap in the developer experience on its platform by potentially folding in IDE tools, as it tries to simplify the experience for customers.

The latest AWS acquisition looks to improve the developer experience on its platform -- but also could be a sign...

it's finally feeling the heat from competition.

Amazon this week acquired Cloud9 IDE Inc., a web development company that offers a browser-based integrated development environment (IDE) for building mobile and web applications.

It's hard to gauge the effect this will have on more sophisticated IT shops that do things in-house or rely on partners to fill gaps, said John Rymer, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

But because AWS can be viewed as a complicated set of services, it could benefit users who want a simple, unified approach to using the platform.

"This expands the portfolio of tools, and I suspect what they're going to do is work with Cloud9 to simplify the developer experience in working against the various Amazon services," Rymer said.

This deal makes sense if Amazon is trying to round out its developer tools, said Greg Arnette, CTO of Sonian Inc., a cloud archiving company and AWS partner based in Waltham, Mass. Arnette has a personal account with Cloud9.

"A lot of developers love to deploy their code on top of AWS, but are writing that code elsewhere," he said.

Amazon has historically left developer tools to third-party partners, but that has changed in recent years, Rymer said. It previously added CodeCommit, CodeDeploy and CodePipeline for continuous integration and delivery, and Cloud9 extends that push to fill the last major gap in its developer tool chain.

"They're feeling the pressure from Azure to provide an Amazon developer experience, and not just relying on partners," Rymer said. Visual Studio, for example, is a conventional IDE and development tool chain adapted to the cloud by Microsoft. And while Visual Studio is not a web IDE, it is an environment that people like and respect, Rymer said.

Much of the focus on the product going forward will be on how Amazon incorporates Cloud9 into its own services, but with an AWS acquisition like this, there are also questions about how it will affect Cloud9 users.

I-Y-I, a tech consulting agency in Forrest Hills, N.Y., uses Cloud9 extensively as its online development platform. The company has some workloads on AWS, but puts more of its workloads on DigitalOcean.

Being acquired signals a company is doing something well, but in the case of this AWS acquisition, there's concern Amazon's bias toward its own tools could take away from the innovation Cloud9 has been so good at, said I-Y-I's CEO Jonathan Jaffe.

"I just hope it doesn't get folded into an AWS service," Jaffe said. "I do hope it retains its independence."

Ruben Daniels, CEO of Cloud9, said in a blog post he looks forward to working collaboratively with AWS, but it will be "business as usual" for Cloud9, which will continue to invest in the product work with its Ace open source community.

There are a handful of online IDE tools, such as Codenvy and Koding, and these browser-based tools are hugely beneficial to teams working in different locations. Cloud9 serves as more of a collaborative online developer platform that keeps it mostly textual-based, but still gives the visual elements, such as folders, Jaffe said.

Dancing with the giants

This deal also comes back to the balancing act Amazon faces with its partners and whether it will fill the gaps through its ecosystem or displace its partners with native tools. Amazon is in such a strong position that it's unlikely partners will say anything, Rymer said.

"They're the big dogs, and if you want to play, you have to support them," Rymer said. "This is the game you play when you dance with the giants -- eventually, your specialty that you've been selling against their ecosystem becomes interesting to the giant vendor and they basically start to be obsolete."

Jaffe said he considers AWS the Wal-Mart of service providers -- it offers lots of good things, but it's not the best at anything it does. I-Y-I backs into AWS with Heroku, but this AWS acquisition likely won't give the company any more reason to move more workloads directly to Amazon, he said.

"We need that flexibility on our development servers, and Amazon tends to be slower to spin up servers and destroy them for development purposes and just has more restrictions," Jaffe said. "It's counter to what you want to do when you're developing code."

AWS declined to comment on the deal.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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