AWS is moving beyond IaaS and PaaS

Last week, Amazon Web Services launched Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact center service. The objective is to provide enterprises with an easier-to-use and faster-to-deploy call center system. But there’s deeper meaning to Amazon Connect than simply a new service from AWS.

From a technology perspective, Amazon Connect works the same way as Amazon’s customer service system, incorporating its Lex AI technology for natural language processing, which is also used by the Alexa virtual assistant—yes, Alexa from the Amazon Echo.

The service lets users to dynamically configure customer interaction processes. Of course, it’s easy to integrate with AWS’s IaaS cloud.

But what’s unique about Amazon Connect is that AWS is moving up the stack. Although storage and compute are AWS’s bread and butter, higher-level services like Amazon Connect are likely to be AWS’s focus going forward.

The reason is simple: Such services are usually more profitable for vendors, and customers historically stay with them far longer than they do with infrastructure services (it’s much easier to change a server than a software system).

AWS won’t be the only one looking to use its cloud to move up the stack. Microsoft already offers a few business services, and I suspect it will buy more this year—ditto for Google.

Both Microsoft and Google started with SaaS, moved to PaaS, then IaaS. AWS seems to be going in the opposite direction.

What should enterprises think about this development? Anything that can solve a problem that you don’t have to build yourself—that’s a good thing. Amazon Connect is an instance of a solution for call centers. Similar solutions are likely to follow from AWS, as well as Microsoft and Google, building upon their existing basic cloud services.

While most will be tempted to call these SaaS, they are really a hybrid of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Connect, for instance, is fully extensible using a configuration approach, but you can also broaden it with the vast number of AWS tools. Thus, these types of cloud services become more valuable, considering that most SaaS providers give you only what they got, and extending their capabilities is not an option for most.