June 28, 2008

Werner Vogels Explains Amazon Web Services’ Philosophy

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One of the questions that I really wanted to get answered at Structure 08 was what the chances of survival are for the myriad of startups out there building their businesses around Amazon’s Web Services. Companies such as RightScale, Hyperic and Soasta depend on both the success of AWS and its shortcomings — the solutions to which they propose to offer. So I sat down with the online retailer’s CTO, Werner Vogels, to see how Amazon viewed this ecosystem. My takeaway? I think most of the these firms are safe.

Vogels said that Amazon built AWS for the company’s internal developers, and as such, didn’t feel the need to wrap services such as dashboards and testing offerings around it. And the company typically doesn’t announce new features for the AWS platform until they’re ready for use. But when it came to persistent storage, he pointed out, they started talking about it as soon as they had a beta, putting startups and other firms planning such a service on notice that Amazon would enter that market.

“We wanted to make sure people had a look at our roadmap,” Vogels said. “Our goal is to be very respectful and recognize the value of the ecosystem.”

Vogels didn’t offer any specific glimpses of Amazon’s roadmap, but he did say the firm listens to the demands of its customers when deciding which services to pursue. He said popular requests involve content delivery network services, backup, small file transfer, large file transfer and visual applications.

He also noted that many enterprises have “accidentally wandered” into the cloud for one-off projects and then stayed there. For those customers he points out that AWS is compliant with Sarbanes-Oxley, and that Amazon does work with customers facing regulatory or industry mandates, such as Visa’s PCI requirements to protect cardholder data.

So while Vogels didn’t draw a map showing what AWS has in store for the future, startups planning additional services tied to AWS now have at least the outlines of the company’s plans. They can now follow that outline or chart their own course when it comes to navigating the cloud.

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