AWS re:Invent '13: Customers might wield more power than they realize

AWS re:Invent '13: Customers might wield more power than they realize

Summary: When asked how many of the features added to AWS have been inspired by customer request, Selipsky replied without a pause, "All of them."

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LAS VEGAS---If there is one theme mandated and deeply integrated within every arm of Amazon's vast digital empire, it would be that the customer is king.

Amazon Web Services executives have been heavily defending that notion, frequently citing its high-profile customer throughout the cloud giant's second annual re:Invent summit this week.

Adam Selipsky, vice president for product management and developer relations at AWS, hinted to ZDNet that customers truly have an input on everything from the tiniest bug fixes to where the Seattle-based corporation builds its next datacenter.

Selipsky has his hands in a number of different pies being primarily responsible for external facing functions and non-core product development groups, such as worldwide marketing, sales, business development, and partner alliances.

He stressed that many of his priorities are driven by customer-requested items.

When asked how many of the features added to AWS have been inspired by customer request, Selipsky replied without a pause, "All of them." He clarified that the demands typically range from pain points encoutered over time to specific recommendations for additional features.

"We're entering a time when there is a lot more competitive noise than has gone on in the past," Selipsky concluded. "We always assumed there would be multiple large companies entering this market segment."

One example is the continued iteration of existing services, such as EC2 instances. Another is Amazon WorkSpaces, a new desktop virtualization service unveiled at the show earlier on Wednesday.

Selipsky also highlighted geographic expansion. AWS stands at nine regions worldwide today, each hosting a collection of datacenters designed to be redudant and comprehensive when taken together.

Nevertheless, Selipsky admitted that it is "pretty obvious where there are still some holes" on the map in markets with high IT spend rates, whether they be in Asia, Europe, or North America.

"Our job is to figure out given need to prioritize where customers are going to have most benefit," Selipsky said.

He acknolwedged that satisfying local government compliance requirements takes up some time, but Selipsky highlighted latency as a pressing issue in being able to get infrastructures up and running for use cases that require a closer proximity.

Ultimately, building infrastructures for every kind of customer and developer use case is the chief priority at AWS.

"Most large enterprises are going to have infrastructures running on-premise. They will also have a lot of infrastructure in the cloud," Selipsky observed.

The bottom line from Amazon's perspective, according to Selipsky, is that they need to do that with one infrastructure -- not two.

One group that has been getting slightly more special attention from AWS is mobile developers.

Selipsky said that mobile developers have a lot of similar needs, but then many others that are unique given tha they are targeting different devices, identities, bandwidth limits and more.

Thus, Amazon's other major release of the day, AppStream, has been designed to fix this problem, which is essentially an infrastructure problem at the core of it all.

Rolling out in limited availability by request only at the moment, AppStream is a service that does all of the heavy graphics and data processing the cloud via EC2 on a pay-as-you-go basis. The goal is to remedy the conundrum of having to decide between building the best experience available and reaching a greater audience by supporting any device.

"We're quite focused on the mobile developer community. But they are one of the groups that hates building and operating their own infrastructure," Selipsky remarked. "They're much more focused on building an app and not running a backend. We'retrying to take that off their hands as much as we can."

As for cloud infrastructures overall, Selipsky remarked frankly that the AWS department is "surprised" at how long it has taken for the rest of the industry to catch up. Much like AWS senior vice president Andy Jassy at Wednesday morning's keynote, Selipsky didn't name names. Yet it is hardly difficult to infer which companies at which they are hinting.

"We're entering a time when there is a lot more competitive noise than has gone on in the past," Selipsky concluded. "We always assumed there would be multiple large companies entering this market segment."
 
That observation is enlightening in how AWS perceives itself -- if not a tad confusing simultaneously given that AWS executives all but admitted to Amazon's late appearance in the virtualization game with WorkSpaces.

Virtualization giant VMware tried to convey that message itself on Wednesday. Erik Frieberg, vice president of product marketing and end-user computing at VMware, remarked via email, "VMware welcomes new entrants to the market as it further validates DaaS as being an important strategy to help modernize traditional desktops."

CORRECTION: An Amazon spokesperson clarified that its external PR agency provided an incorrect title for Selipsky. Instead of "vice president for product management and developer relations at AWS," Selipsky's role is "vice president at AWS."

Topics: Cloud, Amazon, IT Priorities, Software Development, Web development

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  • Who would have thought???

    Listening to cutsomers.

    How novel.

    Now if only other companies would do the same.
    jessepollard