LAS VEGAS—Along with death and taxes, there is one more irrefutable truth: Amazon Web Services does not sit still. The company again wowed attendees at its Re:Invent conference here with dozens of new products and services, pushing the envelope of what is fast, easy or even possible in the cloud.
The model is working. AWS is on a $27 billion run rate growing 46 percent a year, CEO Andy Jassy said. Its customer and partner rolls continue to swell, and it's even taking its first steps into what until now has been a missing link: open source.
The approach is based on a simple premise, which Jassy, CTO Werner Vogels and several other AWS executives stressed here: Letting the customers and partners dictate the direction.
More specifically, it's Amazon's "builders" that are the driving force—developers, project managers, and business leads who have discovered new freedoms in the cloud.
Cloud has changed everything in IT building
"Over the past several decades, it has been a bit of a dreary world for builders," Jassy said during his Nov. 28 keynote. "They have been constrained for a long time on premises, and frequently had to choose, if they had three good ideas, could only do one of them."
The cloud has changed that. "You get from ideas to implementation several orders of magnitude faster than before," he said, "and turns an 'or' world into an 'and' world.”
Builders are now spending more time working on developing new customer experiences rather than keeping the proverbial lights on, he said.
Companies get focused on the wrong things, he said. "The best way is not to worry about your competitors and distractions," he said. "To build longstanding, sustainable businesses, the most important thing by far is to listen really carefully to what your customers want from you, and then to be able to experiment and innovate at a rapid clip."
Iterating and innovating
Most companies would say the same thing, but few can deliver on that consistently.
"From a developer perspective I can understand why people like AWS," said Mark Nunnikhoven, Vice President for Cloud Research at security vendor Trend Micro, and also a member of AWS's Community Hero advocate program.
"The clouds have distinct flavors. Microsoft is very structured in its approach. If you are a Microsoft shop, Azure works perfectly," he said. "Google is very opinionated in how technology should be deployed, and its cloud is very reflective of its internal structure. AWS has come into its own with their process of releasing products that are very bare bones and focused on specific use case, then they iterate and innovate like mad, and that really appeals to people."
Customers don't have to worry about keeping up with the pace of Amazon's innovation, because Amazon is following their lead, and if it is not, AWS is often anticipating user needs.
"I've seen it," said Justin Stone, Senior Director of Secure DevOps Platforms at Liberty Mutual Insurance. "They don't push products on us, they actively bring solutions to us proactively. It just seems that any time there's a [solution we need], they can tell us where it is on the backlog and when we are going to be able to take advantage of it. So we are not over-investing in areas we know they are going to solve."
In terms of open source, AWS announced two projects that will be released to open source. The first is a new version of its Sagemaker AI modeling service, called Sagemaker Neo, a "train once, deploy anywhere" service, which will be released under the Apache License "soon," officials said.
The other is Firecracker, a new kind of Docker-compatible micro-container runtime that adds a new layer of security to running serverless applications. The news was welcomed by leaders in the open source community.
"Amazon does not necessarily have a big track record publishing open source," said Dan Kohn, Executive Director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. "They are huge users of open source, however, which is totally legal and ethical. So we are really thrilled to see this as really innovative project that fits into the ecosystem in a clever way."
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.