Increasingly, Amazon’s bread is buttered by its public cloud provider, Amazon Web Services. And while AWS entered the IaaS market 10 years ago with on-premises data centers in its crosshairs, evolution is pushing the cash cow further into new revenue streams.
While AWS has expanded its range of services at several junctures over the years, two recent offerings — Amazon Lumberyard and the AWS IoT Button — venture off its traditional path reaching for customers beyond its focus on enterprise IT.
Announced in February, Amazon Lumberyard is a cross-platform, 3D game engine. AWS does not charge Lumberyard users, but expects to gain new paying AWS customers who use other services in conjunction with Lumberyard, which might include Amazon DynamoDB for storage, AWS Lambda and Simple Notification Service for in-game notifications and Amazon Cognito for identification management across devices. This is a straightforward foray into a new stream of revenue — Lumberyard is not a wide-sweeping or veiled play for enterprise applications, it’s intended to draw amateur and enterprise game developers to AWS.
The AWS IoT Button, on the other hand, seemed to be more of an experiment on the part of the cloud provider.
The AWS IoT Button offers the same ease of use for developers, who can perform three actions with the button (click, double-click and long press). Enterprises diving headlong into the internet of things must unspool a world of actionable data, and that process is no easy task. But while the AWS IoT Button connects to AWS resources, its practicality may fall outside traditional business development. AWS itself lists among potential uses opening a garage door, calling a cab and tracking common household chores — none of which represents an enterprise use case, and all entirely within the capabilities of everyday devices.
“Why can’t I [close a garage door or call a cab] on my smartphone, my computer or all the other ways I’m communicating with my IoT devices traditionally?” asked David Linthicum, SVP of Cloud Technology Partners and a TechTarget contributor. “From the use cases that [AWS] explained, I don’t really see anything that useful.”
That might be AWS’ gamble: play the long game, nudge a small batch of developers over to its cloud platform for some tinkering, with the hope that this will further infiltrate the enterprise. “Give it to a number of smart people, and they’ll start developing some applications that do some pretty innovative things using the device,” Linthicum said.
Case in point: Cambia Health Solutions, an insurance provider based in Portland, Ore., which was lucky enough to acquire an AWS IoT Button the day it became available and quickly sold out. And they have a plan for it.
“The AWS IoT Button can help IT scale and produce a lot of data,” said Tisson Mathew, vice president of cloud and consumer services at Cambia, at a Portland AWS Meetup last month. The company plans to combine the AWS IoT Button and AWS Lambda to help automate the back-end stack. Mathew didn’t share full details on how the company would use the AWS IoT Button, but he noted the button’s quick programmability will allow developers to point it at one function for a few hours, and then possibly reprogram it for another function a few hours later.
Even if the IoT Button doesn’t draw in new business, the possibilities for customer-driven big ideas are AWS’ potential windfall, tapping the collective brainpower of developers using cloud services and the devices. “I don’t think it’s there to, in essence, become a profit margin; I think it’s there to become a kind of promotional channel for AWS,” Linthicum said. “Developers will come up with some handy things, but I can’t see using it as my Netflix remote or customizing some kind of order event.”
Also interesting is how the AWS IoT Button is a doppelganger of the Amazon Dash button, which consumers use to order household goods from specific brands, Linthicum pointed out.
“It kind of marries Amazon.com with AWS,” Linthicum added. “It’s sometimes hard to understand how the connections exist. They seem like very separate entities and companies.”
The end game with Amazon Lumberyard is clear: reach for a new cloud audience. With the AWS IoT Button, AWS seems intent to get it into the hands of the savviest development teams to see where they can take it in their environments — and once a few strong use cases are out there, others are sure to follow.