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Amazon Lumberyard may hold Easter egg for enterprise developers

What does a new 3D game engine have to do with enterprise application development? Users say they could be more closely related than first meets the eye.

When Amazon Web Services released a 3D game engine called Amazon Lumberyard this week, some AWS shops spied a potential windfall for enterprise users.

Cloud Canvas is "a visual scripting interface to AWS services," according to Amazon's documentation, which couches the product in game development terms. The offering is based on flow graphs that work much like a flow chart for visually programming AWS services by game developers who may not be highly technical.

Some enterprise techies, though, see Cloud Canvas as a welcome way to let programmers visually build Lambda functions for enterprise applications.

"Instead of having to write code, I can choose from a bucket of functions like Lego bricks, and just attach them together," explained James Young, CTO at VidRoll LLC, an advertising technology firm in Santa Monica, Calif. "Rather than writing the function from scratch and molding it like clay, it's more about taking predefined functions that you know work and just clicking them together."

This may let people transcend Docker and go straight to a pay-per-CPU-cycle model.
Jason McMunncontractor, REAN Cloud Solutions Inc.

As such, Cloud Canvas could be a potentially strong play in the tug of war between serverless computing and container-based computing.

"It's got huge potential," said Jason McMunn, a contractor with REAN Cloud Solutions Inc., an IT consulting firm in Herndon, Va. "This may let people transcend Docker and go straight to a pay-per-CPU-cycle model."

Cloud Canvas also could be a salvo in Amazon's ongoing battle with Google Compute Platform, which this week announced an AWS Lambda alternative, Cloud Functions, Young said.

"You don't even have to change any of your code to move it from AWS Lambda to Google," which diminishes AWS Lambda's differentiation in the market, Young added.

"My prediction is that they'll take what they've released in the 3D game engine with the flow graph and just add that as a generalized service," he said.

Whether Cloud Canvas is offered as a standalone service is still anyone's guess; Amazon declined to comment.

Without direct knowledge of the actual AWS roadmap in this instance, analysts agree it's still a possibility.

"A visual scripting interface is easy to build -- it's something you used to do as an exercise when you set up a Java environment," said Carl Brooks, analyst at 451 Research. "They could certainly just extend the capability and say here's Cloud Canvas for DevOps, here's Cloud Canvas for Amazon reporting and AWS Config."

Other users remain skeptical of the Amazon Lumberyard feature.

"I'll believe it when I see it," said Joe Emison, CTO and founder of Asheville, N.C.-based BuildFax Inc., which provides real estate property data to other businesses such as insurance companies.

Amazon already has other tools that are a bit like this, such as AWS CloudFormation, and "they are not incredibly magical," Emison said. "Often they are not full-featured enough to do anything without writing a lot of custom code."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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