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LAS VEGAS — Amazon Web Services, the division of the online retail giant that sells computing services to other companies, continued its assault on IBM as it opened its annual conference here Wednesday.

In a bit of counterprogramming, Big Blue placed ads on buses and billboards around the city, touting its competing Web computing business, something AWS boss Andy Jassy cited in his keynote to the 9,000 attendees of the re: Invent meeting.

IBM, which AWS recently beat out on a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency, “is trying to confuse customers,” Jassy said.

“I think a lot of old guard technology companies aren’t thrilled about how quickly things are moving to the cloud,” Jassy said. “I think a lot of old guard technology companies aren’t thrilled about how quickly things are moving to AWS.”

IBM kept jabbing, playing up its size and history providing tech to corporations.

“Unlike Amazon, IBM has a long history of delivering trusted, secure and open services,” the company said in a statement.

Though better known for its online store, Amazon.com is rapidly becoming a force in providing computing technology over the Web for businesses, leading other tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and IBM, according to research firm Gartner.

AWS is generating $3 billion a year on an annualized basis handling technology for customers as varied as Netflix and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Colin Sebastian.

At the three-day conference, Amazon is working to persuade more companies to use its technology and get those already using AWS to use it more.

“We have a pretty significant leadership position that’s accelerating,” Jassy said.

His pitch is that AWS takes much of the cost and complexity of running computer servers away from companies so they can spend the money on resources that directly affect their business.

In the keynote, Jassy unveiled Amazon WorkSpaces, a Web-based service that lets companies run individual computer desktops over the Web to any device. And he debuted Amazon AppStream, which lets developers stream resource-intensive applications such as games from its servers to devices with little computer power.

The challenge for the 7-year-old division is persuading big corporations to move their computing to the Web. For many, it’s a tough shift since they’ve invested so much in technology they run for themselves.

During the keynote, Jassy brought up executives from Dow Jones, which is moving 75 percent of its infrastructure to AWS to save $100 million, and Atomic Fiction, a visual-effects company that used AWS to handle the technology-intensive computer rendering it did for “Star Trek Into Darkness,” then dialed back that computing horsepower when it no longer needed it.

“There is no longer a question about people using the cloud,” Jassy said. “The question is how fast they will move to the cloud, and who will do it.”

Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or jgreene@seattletimes.com