How to beat AWS: Be cheaper, personalized and free of the PATRIOT Act

Life can be hard for American cloud providers trying to compete with Amazon Web Services, but a group of European cloud providers speaking at Structure:Europe on Wednesday don’t appear too concerned about distinguishing themselves from their larger counterpart.

On the highest level, the easiest way is simply to have a better business model. Whereas AWS offers predefined instance sizes that users must choose from, every provider on the stage lets users choose the exact amounts of compute, storage and memory they need. “We sort of see [AWS] as the Walmart, in a sense,” said UpCloud General Manager Antti Vilpponen — it’s the biggest provider around and probably has what many workloads require, but there are specific workloads that require customized infrastructure.

According to Andreas Gauger, CMO of ProfitBricks, cost is a big point of distinction, too. “It’s actually very easy to beat Amazon on price because Amazon doesn’t care about price,” he said. “… I’ve never seen a product with such a high margin as this.”

In fact, Gauger added, if all cloud providers were willing or able to drop their prices, its effect on business would be even greater than it already is. He believes the only reason the industry is still talking about things like private clouds and hybrid clouds is that it’s just too expensive to run anything at scale in most public clouds.

The good news, CloudSigma COO Bernino Lind noted, is that it’s easy enough to cut costs even if you’re not operating at AWS’s scale. With the innovation taking place at the chip level, cloud providers can get better energy efficiency, for example, that lets them reduce their costs even without being able to demand lower prices from vendors because they’re buying so much gear and bandwidth.

Supporting native languages helps win European customers as can supporting Europeans currencies, said ElasticHosts CEO Richard Davies.

Oh, and being subject to European laws rather than government-leaning U.S. laws is a big draw for some customers. CloudSigma has been approached by the Swiss government to hand over data, Lind said, and when the company declined, that was the end of the story. U.S. laws, of course, often require the disclosure of data in many cases.

The recent NSA spying revelations have only driven this point home. “I think the PRISM scandal didn’t hurt [European providers],” Gauger joked.

Check out the rest of our Structure:Europe 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page