It should come as no surprise, but AWS CEO Andy Jassy is awfully bullish about the company he leads.
Jassy sat down for a press Q&A following his keynote speech here at re:Invent this week. Most of the roughly 45-minute session focused on why he sees AWS as the best place for cloud workloads, but he also shed some light on the future of the platform and mused on the state of IT. The following are selected excerpts from his responses, edited for brevity.
AWS looks closely at the technology and has lots of customers and partners looking to build blockchain on top of AWS. Other cloud vendors such as IBM and Microsoft have added services in this space, but Jassy implied AWS won’t follow suit any time soon:
“We’re watching it carefully. When we talk to customers, they’re really into blockchain as a concept but we don’t yet see a lot of practical concepts that are much broader than using a distributed ledger.”
AWS is all about automation, that includes the elimination of humans from the equation. Some jobs and tasks will fall by the wayside. AWS has added AI services that could directly displace employees in areas such as translation and transcription, but Jassy sees the net result of these innovations as more, different jobs in the future:
Even before AI, if you look at part of what’s going on in the U.S. there are so many people who historically followed relatives into the mills and the mines and factories and agricultural fields and those jobs have moved out of the U.S. and they’re not likely to move back any time soon. It’s progress and people find different ways to do things but it usually opens other opportunities.
“If you look at the number of jobs that companies including Amazon have… there are tons of jobs and we don’t have enough people to do those jobs. We as a country and as a world need to change the educational systems so more people are equipped to do the jobs that are available.”
AWS operates at an $18 million run rate and has millions of active customers, but unsurprisingly Jassy sees this as just the beginning. Future growth will be “lumpy” because enterprises and the public sector methodically adopt new technology and move tranches of workloads in stages over many years, he said.
Still, that growth likely won’t push Amazon to spin out AWS, Jassy said.
“I would be surprised if we spun out AWS mostly because there isn’t a need to do so. When companies are spun out it’s because either they can’t commit enough capital to that business unit so they do an IPO, or it’s because they don’t want the financial statements of one of those businesses on the overall set of financial statements.
If you look at the history of Amazon, we’re not really focused on the optics of the financial statements. We’re comfortable being misunderstood for long periods of time, so it’s not really a driver for how we behave.
The company has been so gracious committing whatever amounts of capital we need to growing AWS in the first 11 and a half years — and by the way, it has required a lot of capital — that there just hasn’t been a need to do so… There’s a lot of value in having so many internal customers at Amazon who are not shy about telling us how everything works.”
There’s a lot of talk these days about multi-cloud strategies. Microsoft and Google, the two companies perceived to be AWS’ closest competitors, often tout this as the way enterprises will adopt cloud in the future, but AWS has been mostly quiet on this front. When asked if AWS would do more to address these needs, Jassy downplayed the concept, saying most companies go with one provider to be their predominate cloud platform.
“We certainly get asked about multi-cloud a lot. What you see is most enterprises, when they’re thinking of making their plan of how to move to the cloud, they start out thinking that they would distribute their workloads somewhat evenly across several providers. When they actually do the homework on what that actually means, very few make that decision because it means you have to standardize at the lowest common denominator and these platforms are nowhere close to the same [as each other] today.
When you’re making a change from on premises to the cloud, that’s a pretty big change… Asking a development teams to be fluid not just on prem to the cloud but to multiple platforms is a lot. And all these cloud providers have volume discounts, so if you split your workloads evenly across a couple or even a few you’re diminishing your buying leverage.”
Data center expansion
AWS currently has 16 regions and 44 availability zones, with plans to add seven regions and 17 availability zones in the next two years. Jassy says that eventually there will be regions in “every major country” to address latency and data sovereignty. Here’s how he described the decision-making process for where to open new regions:
“We look at how many companies are there, how much technology is being consumed, how much technology are companies willing to outsource, what kind of infrastructure is there — what’s the cost structure as well as the quality of the network and the data centers and the power and the things we need to operate effectively. And what’s the connectivity to other parts of the world, because even though our regions have large endemic customer bases, it turns out every time we open a region our customers who are primarily operating in regions outside of that country choose to deploy inside of that region as well.”
Tech and ethics
Major tech companies are increasingly scrutinized over their role to moderate the use of their platforms. With new machine learning services such as SageMaker and the DeepLens AI camera intended to make machine learning more palatable to the average developer, Jassy was asked about his company’s role in responding to potential sinister use of AWS:
“If you look at all the services that AWS has there is a potential for a bad actor to choose one of those services to do something malicious or sinister or ill-intended, in the same way you have the ability to do that if you buy a server yourself or use any other software yourself.
We have very straightforward and clear terms of service and if we find anyone violating those terms of services — and I think anything sinister would violate those terms of services — we suspend those customers and they’re not able to use our platform.”
Trevor Jones is a senior news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.