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Does AWS’ Cloud Service Naming Strategy Deliver a Competitive Edge?

You can debate which public cloud provider offers the best cloud services. One thing you can’t debate, however, is which cloud has the most creative name for its services.

Clearly, AWS takes the cake on the latter front. Unlike the others Big Three public cloud providersAWS has opted to christen its services with names that, while they may be hard to master, they at least stand out and are certainly not boring.

AWS’ cloud service naming approach may just seem quirky, but arguably it has also been a factor in the cloud provider’s success and dominant market share. Here’s why.

AWS’ Unique Approach to Cloud Service Names

A brief glance at the list of services offered on each of the major public clouds makes it pretty clear how AWS’ cloud service naming approach stands apart.

Consider AWS’ virtual machine service, for example, which is called Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2 for short. That’s more interesting than Microsoft Azure’s bland Virtual Machines service or Google Cloud’s Compute Engine: Virtual Machines offering.

The same goes for object storage. At Google Cloud, that service is known, boringly enough, as Cloud Storage. Azure uses a slightly more creative moniker for its object storage service, Blob Storage. But AWS’ Simple Storage Serviceor S3, has a name that rolls off the tongue — and is arguably more memorable than even the Azure Blob terminology.

The same goes for AWS CloudWatch and CloudTrail, whose equivalents on other clouds have boring names like Azure Monitor or Cloud Monitoring. Likewise, on AWS, serverless computing is called Lambda, while Azure and Google Cloud call their equivalents Azure Functions and Cloud Functions, respectively. And so on.

Acronyms for the Win

Another differentiator for AWS’ cloud service naming approach is that many (though not all) of its service names are commonly referred to using acronyms. To use AWS, you have to master a long list of (mostly) three-letter acronyms, like ELB, BPC, EBS, VPC, and — last but not least — AWS itself.

The other clouds have some acronyms, too, but they are mostly limited to generic terms such as IAM.

Does AWS’ Cloud Service Naming Strategy Drive Its Success?

It would be easy to write off AWS’ creative approach to cloud service names as something that doesn’t actually impact the AWS cloud’s success. After all, does it really matter what a cloud service is named, as long as it works well and is priced attractively?

Arguably, it does. Research shows that giving children unique names helps them stand apart from the crowd and makes them more memorable to others. It seems reasonable to assume that AWS’ naming strategy may have had a similar effect. By assigning creative, unusual names to its various cloud services, AWS helps to make those services appear different— even if, technically speaking, there’s not a whole lot of difference between, say, AWS EC2 and Azure Virtual Machines, or AWS Lambda and Azure Functions.

I’d hazard a guess that AWS’ unique cloud service names and acronyms might also help breed a sense of community among AWS customers. It’s easier to feel like you’re part of a unique constituency of forward-thinking technology practitioners when you have to speak a cloud computing language that outsiders can’t understand. In this respect, AWS’ naming strategy probably has a positive effect on developer relations and community-building for the platform.

Admittedly, AWS isn’t the only tech company that tends to prioritize original, and occasionally arcane-sounding, names. VMware comes to mind as another example of a vendor whose product names often sound like alphabet soup: NSX, vSAN, vRealize, and so on. Likewise, learning Linux requires gaining mastery of a variety of terms whose meanings are hardly obvious to the uninitiated, like pam, ext4, GIMP, and on and on.

So, it’s not as if AWS is the only organization to bestow unique names upon its products and services. But within the cloud computing ecosystem, at least, AWS stands far apart for its approach to naming.

Conclusion

To be sure, AWS’ cloud service naming strategy isn’t the main reason it controls the majority of the cloud computing market. The facts that it was the first major public cloud provider, that it probably has the broadest selection of cloud services, and that it has a history of underpricing the competition probably matter much more.

But its service names have probably helped it to stand out, too — and other cloud providers should take note the next time they’re tasked with coming up with a name for a new offering.

About the author

Christopher Tozzi headshotChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

Android mascots are lined up in the demonstration area at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Beck Diefenbach | Reuters

Googlethe developer of the Android, is increasing the pressure on Apple to adopt RCS, a next-generation standard for text messaging.

It argues that Apple’s support of RCS would help prevent some of the problems that arise when iPhone users text with Android owners. Currently, images and videos don’t show as clearly as they could, for example, and texts can’t be sent over Wi-Fi networks.

Google executives have suggested that Apple won’t support RCS because its own system, iMessage, helps the Cupertino company retain iPhone users by locking them into the Apple ecosystem.

In a website and publicity campaign on TuesdayGoogle blamed Apple for creating a substandard experience when iPhones text Android phones or vice versa.

“We’re hoping that Android users stop being blamed for ruining chats,” Google global vice president for integrated marketing for platforms, Adrienne Lofton, said. “This is Apple that is responsible, and it’s time to own the responsibility.”

The campaign is a notable escalation in an ongoing compatibility spat between the two companies that dominate software for smartphones. Nearly all smartphones in the world either run Android or Apple’s iOS, and Apple’s iPhone has over 55% of the US market, according to StatCounter.

Google wants Apple to support the RCS “standard,” or specifications that allow many different companies such as carriers or phone makers to develop apps that can send and receive RCS messages. Many Android phones already have built-in messaging apps that support RCS.

A key battleground

Messaging services have become a key battleground for tech giants because if a user’s contacts all use the same service, then the user is “locked-in” and less likely to switch to another platform or app.

Facebook parent Meta, which owns WhatsApp, has said that it competes directly with Apple because of how widely used iMessage is in the United States. Messaging has also drawn attention from some policymakers who are pushing to force competing services to work with each other under fair competition rules.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, a Google senior vice president in charge of Android, said earlier this year that Apple is using its own text messaging platform to lock in its customersreferring to internal Apple emails that were made public during a lawsuit last year that showed senior Apple executives shooting down proposals to bring an iMessage app to Android.

“I am concerned iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” current Apple senior vice president in charge of software Craig Federighi wrote in 2013, according to an email.

Apple’s iMessage is slightly different from other messaging services because it is the default text messaging app on the iPhone.

Apple’s systems detect when an iPhone texts another iPhone and, instead of sending that message through the SMS system, it uses Apple’s own proprietary iMessage network. Users see the text they send as a “blue bubble,” as opposed to the green color seen on SMS texts, like those to Android users. The inferiority of “green bubble” texts has become a meme and inspired a song by the musician Drake.

iMessage chats provide a better user experience than SMS chats on an iPhone. Many of Apple’s features, like adding emoji reactions to a single text message, barely work on SMS chats. iMessage chats feel faster because of Apple’s animations and include features like read recipes, bubbles that indicate whether a user is typing, and superior group chats.

Apple continues to distinguish iMessage from SMS through new features, like the ability to unsend or edit messages, which will be released this fall.

Green bubbles

Green and blue bubbles.

Pattonmania | Stock | Getty Images

Google says that it doesn’t want Apple to bring iMessage to Android, but that it wants Apple to support RCS, which was developed by a group of wireless carriers and other tech companies to be an improvement to the SMS and MMS systems that have been in place for decades.

Google’s campaign on Tuesday emphasizes that RCS support for iPhones would allow several new features when an iPhone user texts an Android user, including higher-resolution photos, the ability to send texts over Wi-Fi, and the ability to display read receipts.

Google also says that RCS messages are encrypted while SMS messages are not, meaning that the new standard is more private.

“If [Apple] adopted the platform, it allows consumers to enjoy things like high-res photos and video sharing, read receipts, rich reactions,” Lofton said. “And this is an important one — better security and privacy with encryption.”

But SMS is not important for messaging in many markets and Google’s campaign is focused on the US market. In many countries, users text through apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram or WeChat.

In fact, Google recommended in its campaign on Tuesday that users could already download Signal or WhatsApp, pointing out that those free apps are as secure as RCS promises to be.

Apple has remained silent on RCS and continues to add features to iMessage, which only works on iPhones and other Apple products. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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