ProfitBricks says it can out-Amazon Amazon’s cloud

ProfitBricks is nothing if not ambitious: It plans to take on Amazon(s amzn) in massively scalable cloud infrastructure. That’s  no mean feat, but Bob Rizika, CEO of ProfitBricks USA, says the company — which launches cloud services in the U.S. this week — is attacking it from a position of strength.

Robert Rizika CEO of ProfitBricks, USA

The company was co-founded by Achim Weiss and Andreas Gauger, the duo who built the global hosting company 1 & 1 and sold it to United Internet for $3 billion a few years ago. That gives them financial resources to devote to this project, Rizika said.

ProfitBrick pushes scale-up cloud

One thing that distinguishes ProfitBricks from Amazon is its different take on scale. While Amazon’s cloud epitomizes massive scale-out architecture, ProfitBricks’ focuses on vertical scale. Customers can elect to use 1 to 48 processor cores and 1 GB to 196 GB of RAM which they can consume and pay for by the minute —  not by the hour. (Amazon EC2 instances come with 1 to 16 virtual cores and from 1 to 60 GB RAM.)

Unlike its rivals, the company also offers an all-Infiniband backend and  a graphical deployment tool that lets users design their cloud infrastructure by dragging-and-dropping their servers, load balancers on screen, avoiding the input-intensive spreadsheets that people use to plan resources to be deployed in other clouds.

Target users include e-commerce and media companies that  typically see very spiky workloads and need to scale up or down quickly. For those companies, the difference between paying for an hour of AWS when only 15 minutes are used and paying for ProfitBricks by the minute, could be a big cost saver, he said. ProfitBricks has been up and running in Europe for six months or so, is running 70,000 servers. Now it’s entering the US market where cloud adoption has been faster. (The disparity between US and European cloud adoption rates will doubtless be a topic of discussion at GigaOM’s Structure: Europe 2012 conference in Amsterdam in October.)

Visibility will be tough

One-upping Amazon, Rackspace et al in technology is one thing. Stealing the spotlight from them is another. Melanie Posey, research VP for market research firm IDC,  finds the ProfitBricks proposition intriguing but said getting its message heard above the noise will be tough.  “It all comes down to marketing. If no one knows now unique your cloud is, and that it’s faster, better whatever, it won’t matter,” she said.

It’s certainly not too late to gain a toehold in what is still a very young market. But, as most companies still mull their  cloud decisions, more options are coming on line seemingly by the day.  In the past few months alone, Rackspace, SUSE, Piston,  (see disclosure) and HP(s hpq) have launched OpenStack-based clouds, with Red Hat(s rhat), Nebula and others on deck.  The OpenStack crowd is fighting it out with Eucalyptus  and CloudStack  open-source aficionados, and Amazon churns out new features every month,  ProfitBricks will have to fight to get its message heard.

Disclosure: Piston is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.