Amazon Compatible Environment

Amazon Compatible Environments (ACE) are solutions developed by 3rd parties that adhere to the Amazon Web Services API’s and offer an alternative implementation to one or more services.  As cloud computing continues its trend toward becoming the preferred model for building, testing and running software, questions remain about portability, standardization and competition. While users of clouds want to avoid getting locked into a specific platform, cloud providers need to ensure their offerings are differentiated and sufficiently valuable to end customers.

No Standards Body – Just a Market Standard

There are two common ways for a standard to emerge. The first is to create a ‘standards body’ where representatives of multiple companies work together to create a unified standard. This practice has worked through a variety of forums such at OMG, OASIS, W3C and others. The downside to this approach is that the standards bodies are often unable to come to universal agreement, leading to such a slow process that the standard falls behind the pace of innovation. The second popular way is to follow market demand. In this scenario, multiple solutions compete in an open market for the hearts, minds and wallet of their constituents. Standards are determined by market share and pervasiveness. The popularity of the Amazon Web Services platform has made it a winner as a standard for cloud computing. This isn’t to say that other platforms won’t also achieve substantial market share; in fact we believe that in a mature market there will be multiple winners, each defending their own unique niche.

Increasing Ubiquity, Popularity and Choice

Our goals in advancing an Amazon Compatible Environment are simple:

  • We promote the AWS cloud API’s as a standard that software vendors, managed service providers and enterprises can all rely on as a proven set of interfaces.
  • We offer users a choice in where they’d like to run the cloud services, whether it’s at Amazon, their favorite MSP, in their data center or locally on a developer desktop.
  • By increasing the deployment options, we also increase the ubiquity of the offering, enabling even more users to leverage the platform.

Levels of Compatibility

Standardizing on an API is clearly only one level of compatibility. What about the non-functional aspects of the services like latency, recovery times, boot times, etc? ACE vendors will distinguish their offering by differentiating in these areas. In some cases, they may exceed the AWS benchmark, while in others they’ll lag behind. Not all private clouds need to be architected ‘just like AWS’; that would be extremely expensive and overkill for most organizations. Instead, the focus should be on 1. Offering great services (like Amazon), 2. Right-sizing the non-functional requirements to the needs of your organization, 3. Opening the door for portability to-and-from AWS.

Avoiding Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Key to our philosophy is not burdening the innovative process that Amazon is leading. Rather than mandating that the API’s be transferred to a standards body, we believe that during a time of great innovation, the market standard will flourish when left in the hands of its founder, Amazon. Therefore, our responsibility is:

  • Providing rapid feedback to Amazon on new feature requests along with prioritization;
  • Requesting documentation clarifications on service specifications including API descriptions, errors and usage scenarios; and,
  • Offering an open and comprehensive ACE Test Suite to ensure compatibility across the services enabling providers to publish their results.

Exciting Times!

As an industry, we’re early in our journey to fully realizing the benefits of cloud computing. By accelerating the quality and choice around the market standard, we hope to increase the adoption of Amazon and Amazon Compatible Environments.

For additional information on the ACE program, contact us at:


Learn about our ACE: TopStack