Thoughts from the AWS Summit

Some thoughts from the AWS summit today in London. The keynote presentation was by Werner Vogels (CTO Amazon), followed by a bunch of customer stories & then workshops.

Some thoughts and impressions

  • It’s surprisingly big. For a vendor conference, this is pretty busy. I heard 1400 people were registered and the keynote was busy. Suits seem outnumbered by geeks.
  • A super customer-friendly strategy outlined. Firstly to be a cost leader – “if we make savings, we’ll turn round and lower our prices to our customers”. Secondly, “there will be no lock-in. You can use any bits you want, from any language”. Refreshing change from previous large technology platforms.
  • The sheer scale of AWS is mind-boggling. Each day, they add as much server capacity as the whole of Amazon used in 2000. There are 339 Billion objects in S3.

Some roadmap priorities were called out, but what was notable was the repeated request for customer feedback to drive roadmaps, and the separation of AWS into individual services that can innovate and launch at their own pace.

Here’s what appeared on the roadmap:

  • More geographies
  • Make it easier to build and manage applications
  • New database offerings
  • More support, billing and user management options

In conversations, the lack of a clearer roadmap was a repeated gripe. For example, one company had just built and launched their email service two days before Amazon announced their Simple Email System. The lack of roadmap doesn’t appear to be a secrecy thing, but simply reflects the customer-driven and independent team development.

This is a fundamental limitation of agile development practises when building platforms. As soon as customers are making substantial technology bets on stuff you deliver, you can bet they’re going to start asking for clarity on where you’re going, so they can aim to meet you there.

I don’t think there’s a good answer to this. At Symbian we had roadmaps galore, and plans out 2-3 years which always ended up being not what the customer wanted by the time they started thinking about their products. Amazon is at the other end of the spectrum, yet it causes a different set of problems.

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