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 other Big Three public cloud providers, AWS 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 Service, or 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 comprehend. 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.
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 has probably 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 authorChristopher 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.