The opening shot was fired in 1995. When the first suburban shopper bypassed the Best Seller shelf at a friendly neighborhood box store to fire up a 56K modem and order the latest John Grisham novel delivered direct to their cul-de-sac, the implication was clear. Upstart online book seller was declaring war on the 20th Century commerce model.

Twenty-two years later, the 20th Century struck back. Yesterday Walmart, the undisputed heavyweight champion of brick-and-mortar retail, strongly advised its cadre of tech vendors to ditch Amazon Web Services (AWS), the eCommerce giant’s popular foray into commercial cloud services.

The implication is clear for Walmart’s vendors, which include some of the biggest names in the world of IT: it’s us or them. Rollbacks vs. Prime shipping. The ensuing aftershocks will undoubtedly reverberate throughout the cloud services marketplace.

Per DiscoverOrg research, at least 214 of Walmart tech vendor’s and service providers currently utilize AWS offerings within their operations and commercial environments. Suddenly, businesses previously content with the convenience and reliability of AWS may be motivated to explore other options, offering a prime opportunity for cloud vendors to showcase their competing solutions.

Microsoft and authorized Microsoft distributors appear poised to reap the greatest benefits. Microsoft’s Azure solidified its position as the number two public cloud provider last year, and continues to gain market share. Walmart itself has an extensive partnership with Azure.

Bob Muglia, the CEO of Snowflake Computing, whose data warehousing services run exclusively on AWS, recently told that Walmart informed at least one partner who wanted to use Snowflake that it would have to run on Azure. Oracle and Google are also aggressively growing their own public cloud offerings, and may well seize on Walmart’s ultimatum as an opportunity to expand their reach.

Yet no other public cloud products, even those from the biggest names in the tech services industry, currently match the brand recognition of AWS. That means smaller providers may also have a unique opportunity to compete on nearly equal footing with Oracle and Google in landing customers pushed out of their AWS comfort zone by Walmart’s demands.

However, it’s possible, even likely, that a good number of Walmart’s vendors will attempt to call the retail goliath’s bluff. Walmart vendors and partners like IBM, Cisco Systems, and Facebook have long been the alpha dogs in their respective yards, and generally aren’t in the practice of rolling over.

Should Walmart take a hardline with dissenters, severed relationships could also lead to unexpected opportunities for new vendors to enter the Walmart ecosystem (provided they keep their heads out of the Amazon cloud). The company currently has a $15.5 billion IT budget, with ongoing spending across the technology spectrum, from information security to network infrastructure. Ironically enough, Walmart’s purchase of online menswear clothier Bonobos suggests the box store behemoth has its sights set on Amazon’s digital domain – so opportunity for mobility and eCommerce providers may also be on the rise.

Should the standoff between Walmart and Amazon escalate into a full-fledge showdown, every facet of the technology marketplace will likely feel the effects.


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