frog on a log

Microsoft and Google have long aspired to be your productivity partners at work. Now Amazon wants in on the game.

This morning Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced that WorkMail, its hosted email and calendaring service, is ready for primetime.

Originally announced almost a year ago, Amazon thinks it holds the potential to replace Microsoft Exchange and Gmail at Work at some companies. It has been in preview until now.

When integrated with Amazon WorkDocs (formerly Zocalo) and Amazon Workspaces, WorkMail could, in theory, pose a threat to Office 365 and Google for Work.

But instead of going on the offensive, AWS’ posture is to play nice with the services we already use.  (Or this could be its version of “How to Boil a Frog” in which you lure victims into nice warm water and gradually turn up the heat until it boils).

Amazon Warms the Waters

Amazon has even built a tool that plugs into Microsoft Active Directory deployments, so that user settings and security configurations from Exchange can be automatically and seamlessly carried over and implemented.

A data transfer tool is also available at no charge so that e-mail and calendar items and such can be transferred without much manual intervention.

WorkMail can be as much of an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as an end-user facing SaaS solution, meaning that companies or users who don’t want to part with their Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail interfaces won’t have to do so. WorkMail integrates with the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol including Android, Blackberry 10, Fire Phone (does anyone actually use one?), iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, and Windows Phone.

Pumped-up Security

AWS has also pumped-up the security features in the product such as:

Integration with KMS — email administrators can use AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to create and manage the keys that are used to encrypt data at rest.

Certifications — Amazon WorkMail has achieved the ISO 27001, ISO 27017, and ISO 27018 certifications.

Regional Data Control — You can choose the region where you want to store your mailboxes and be confident that the stored data will not leave the region. (This could prove valuable in Europe once it’s more widely available. For now WorkMail is available in US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon) and Europe (Ireland).

Work Still to Be Done

Jeff Barr, the chief evangelist at AWS readily admits there’s work still to be done, noting that interoperability support that will allow users of Amazon WorkMail to benefit from a single Global Address Book, and to access free/busy calendar information across both environments was on its way.

Ditto for an email journaling feature which is expected to allow companies to leverage their existing email archiving systems to capture and preserve all Amazon WorkMail communication.

Who Will Benefit, Who Should Worry?

There’s certainly plenty of competition in the cloud and neither Microsoft nor Google should take anything for granted, especially where Amazon is concerned. That being said, Google is likely to have some interesting stuff of its own to show off now that Diane Greene oversees its Cloud.

At the end of the day, the customer will undoubtedly win as services will be amped-up and prices will be brought down by vendors as they compete for marketshare.

Title image "MG_5361" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  jasonkao73