After a decade of dominance, what’s next for AWS?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Even as it begins its second decade of life today, there’s an undeniable sense that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is only getting started. From a standing start in March 2006 with a single storage product, AWS has created a profitable tech behemoth that is gobbling up huge chunks of the IT landscape. (For a deeper look at how AWS has gone about upending the multibillion-dollar markets where it operates, see a recent report from my colleague Owen Rogers on how AWS handles the pricing and delivery of its vast array of services.)

On its own, AWS is easily worth more than $100bn, a remarkable bit of value creation that’s been done almost entirely organically. Amazon has almost exclusively used R&D – rather than M&A – to build AWS. For the most part, the AWS cloud offering has been developed through reallocation of existing assets and engineering instead of acquiring those things.

In terms of corporate strategy, that sets Amazon and its AWS business apart from most other tech companies, which tend to default to buying rather than building. Each year, tech vendors collectively spend hundreds of billions of dollars expanding their product portfolios and addressable market, only to struggle to put up any growth. (To take one extreme, consider IBM, which has seen annual revenue drop from roughly $100bn in 2013 to less than $80bn this year. In that same period, Big Blue has spent more than $8.6bn on 39 acquisitions, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase.)

The organic value creation at AWS stands out even more when compared with even the biggest and best tech deals. Consider the case of VMware. EMC’s purchase of the virtualization startup in late 2003 for $635m is rightfully cited as one of the most successful tech acquisitions in history. VMware’s market valuation of $21.2bn is currently dictated by terms of Dell’s pending pickup of VMware’s parent, EMC. (Before the transaction was announced, VMware had a market cap of about $34bn.)

Even on an unaffected basis, AWS is at least three times more valuable than VMware. And the case could certainly be made that the gap between the two companies will only widen in the future. After all, AWS is now larger than VMware and growing nearly eight times faster than VMware, which has slowed to a single-digit percentage rate. (AWS increased revenue a stunning 72% to $7.9bn in 2015.) Further, AWS has a large and growing market opening in front of it. 451 Research’s Market Monitor forecasts that the market for cloud computing ‘as a service’ – which includes PaaS, IaaS and infrastructure software as a service (ITSM, backup, archiving) – will hit $21.9bn this year and more than double to $44.2bn by 2020.

Source: 451 Research’s Market Monitor

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