Joyent to Amazon: It’s on

Okay, it’s a bit of a David and Goliath story  — Joyent is a cloud provider that seems to maneuver just below the radar. But on Thursday it will come out fighting with an array of new compute instances — including reserved instance pricing — to position itself as an attractive alternative to big, bad Amazon Web Services(s amzn).

Joyent CEO Henry Wasik

Joyent CEO Henry Wasik

San Francisco-based Joyent has made noises about going up against Amazon before  but now it’s more than tripled the number of instance types it will offer, including 7 different “standard” instance types with RAM allocations ranging from 0.5 to 128 GB; 5 high-memory instances; 6 high-CPU instances; 3 high-storage instances; and 3 high I/O instances (see chart.) But that’s just the beginning, said Joyent CEO Henry Wasik, who joined the company in November.

“We’ve completely reformatted what we do and dramatically expanded the number of instances — originally we had 10 and now 27, but once the portal is turned we’ll have 71,” said he said.

Depending on the workload, Joyent services may well be cheaper than AWS, he said. (Stay tuned for Amazon’s response.) But as many have pointed out, for cloud providers, competing on price alone is a fool’s errand.

Joyent seeks to differentiate itself on how well it runs high-performance applications on its own SmartOS (or on Linux or Windows(s msft));  the tooling it provides; its service and support; and its ability to offer the hybrid cloud option that many companies prefer.

Earlier this week Dell(s dell) said it would offer Joyent as one of three public cloud options it will sell to customers. Dell had promised to deliver an OpenStack-based public cloud this year, but thought better of it.

Face it, in the cloud computing world, it’s Amazon first and then everyone else. In one of my favorite posts of the year comparing cloud providers to hamburger franchises, GigaOM’s Derrick Harris posited that AWS is McDonalds, Rackspace is Wendy’s but a handful of providers — Joyent, Virtustream, CloudSigma — represent the In-N-Out Burger (yum!) or Five Guys of cloud.  He wrote:

These cloud providers, like their analogous restaurant chains, are damn good at what they do and their patrons are loyal. They’re typically designed for maximum performance, maybe security, too, and will play around with new infrastructural or programming components in order to maintain their edge. They might even be the best at certain things and have some major customers (I’ve seen Maseratis leaving the In-N-Out drive-thru), but cost, geography or the desire to get a chicken sandwich, too, limit the number of users they can attract.

I know that we’re early on in cloud adoption and that the potential workloads moving to cloud is high. But to me it’s clear there will be a shakeout as enterprise players like VMware(s vmw) — which announced its public cloud option this week — along with Dell, IBM(s ibm), HP(s hpq) and Red Hat(s rhat) try to preserve their traditional IT strengths in a cloud venue while newer look players  built for the cloud — Joyent, Virtustream, and others — gear up.

There may be a ton of work out there but i would bet that some of these players will not be standing in two years’ time.

Joyent price chart