If anyone in the software applications business (DAM vendors included) still doubts that AWS are moving in on their patch by providing building block services for integrators to implement, then this tutorial from Amazon about their new AWS Identity and Access Management should remove them:
“In this blog post, we will walk you through an example of how you can leverage resource permissions for Elastic Beanstalk. Let’s assume that a consulting firm is developing multiple applications for different customers and that Jack is one of the developers working on an Elastic Beanstalk application “App1”. Jill tests the changes for “App1” and for a second application “App2”. John is the manager overseeing the two applications and owns the AWS resources. John helps out with development and testing, and only he can update their production environments for “App1” and “App2”” [Read More]
The excerpt doesn’t explain this as well as their diagram (which for copyright reasons I have not duplicated here).
This announcement follows earlier news about SWF (Simplified Workflow) services. If you subscribe to the view that DAM systems are composed of four major elements: assets, metadata, workflow and permissions, it looks a lot like the last two are now covered. Whether you can rationalise assets as being simply digital files is debatable and we would argue that assets and metadata are two sides of the same coin rather than separate from each other. However, semantics aside, Amazon clearly have nearly all the building blocks required to build a DAM system natively using not much more than their API, some third party services and glue code. The scalable Cloud storage and processing capability is already a given with AWS, so they can be crossed off the list too.
Some interesting additional points to note about these services are that they don’t appear to be compatible with anything else. So, anyone who does use them will save significant development time and cost, but has effectively nailed their colours to Amazon’s mast unless someone can replicate their API protocol in a more neutral fashion. Also, while the basic services are in-place, the fine-detail of DAM implementation, especially complex UIs and integration of different asset supply chains is all stuff that (right now) you have to build yourself or track down Cloud-friendly suppliers for.
There is evidently a battle going on to control these core fundamentals of Cloud services. At present, there are two ends of the spectrum. From custom implementations by vendors who might use the Cloud and talk about it a lot in their marketing literature but really would prefer you to fully remain within their environment across all interaction points (whether searching for assets or phoning them for support). Then on the other are much larger players who want to provide core application infrastructure services which integrators, consultants (and maybe IT departments too) will assemble ad-hoc. These groups get paid by the hour and want to slash fixed costs and third party vendor consulting fees either for profit reasons or because their diminished budget demands it.
Our view is that those in the custom implementation group (largely represented by pure play DAM vendors) will have to significantly raise their game to compete as fairly soon it will be possible for more or less anyone to start knocking up basic ‘good enough’ DAM systems built on top of an enterprise class infrastructure in a very short space of time. This might withdraw those with minimal budgets from the lower end of the ready-made DAM system market entirely.
In terms of how they might compete, it will be a lot to do with providing the services that those tied heavily to a single Cloud platform cannot offer. So, transferability and security will be especially useful differentiators for those that can offer them. This suggests that open source and enterprise vendors might have the last laugh when it comes to DAM SaaS. The open source players have the advantage of built-in transferability between multiple Cloud hosting providers. The Enterprise vendors, have worked out that many users want Cloud scalability and in-house enterprise security. Much will depend on how the DAM SaaS market tackles a competitive threat that has been generated by the Cloud hosting providers who many of them also rely upon.
These are definitely interesting times to watch the DAM scene, but I’m less sure I would want to be either selling DAM systems or, indeed, even buying one, as the risks of poor capital investment decisions in both respects seem especially high right now.