Six re:Invent questions: AWS' Adam Selipsky

We caught up with AWS VP Adam Selipsky to talk "all in" and lock in, relational databases, Docker, cloud reboots and managed services.


Amazon Web Services this week took a shot at relational databases, blessed the Docker container movement, launched a bevy of services and touted customers that have gone whole hog on its platform.

Adam Selipsky, vice president of marketing, sales, product management and support at AWS, sits in the middle of all those moving parts. I caught up with Selipsky to talk shop and the major themes that emerged at re:Invent.

  • "All in." AWS outlined a few companies like Intuit that are going "all in" and running all their infrastructure on Amazon. I asked whether AWS would rather have a company like Intuit that goes all in or a massive enterprise like Johnson & Johnson and 30 percent of its workloads. Selipsky sounded very Amazon-ish and said AWS will take both.

    "I don't see it as a choice we need to make," he said. Selipsky added that CIO conversations have changed from if they'll go cloud to when they'll go all in. In either case, the transition to all in will take time. "It's not overnight," said Selipsky. "It'll take a couple of years." From a marketing perspective, companies that go all in on Amazon serve as nice references for other customers.

  • Lock in? Selipsky acknowledged that lock in becomes a question when a company goes all in. "We hate lock in. It's bad for customers and it's bad for our business," said Selipsky. When an enterprise commits to any technology or vendor it's a major decision. "It's not trivial," he said. To alleviate lock in concerns, AWS has a bevy of tools that make importing data and workloads easy. Easy importing also means a customer can always export.

  • Aurora adoption. Selipsky said it's a wild card how Aurora, AWS' new relational database will be adopted. Like other services, Aurora could land new workloads. "Creating new workloads in Aurora is a no brainer," he said. As far as swapping databases, Aurora's MySQL compatibility makes it easier to migrate. "From a MySQL perspective, migrating isn't difficult," he said. What's unknown is whether customers of proprietary databases from the likes of Oracle would jump.

    "One reason customers don't like those high-end commercial databases is the lock in," said Selipsky. "Customers could be motivated to move." Smaller workloads would move first followed by larger ones. That pattern has played out repeatedly in the cloud. Selipsky wouldn't outline a timeline for an in-memory version since Aurora just launched, but I'd bet a beer or two that one will be on deck at some point.

  • Containers. The AWS re:Invent crowd is big on containers and Docker. There's a reason why AWS launched its Container service. Selipsky, however, noted that it's early for containers and the technology really just landed. AWS' move is in keeping with throwing developers products they want. "Container management unloads a lot of heavy lifting for developers. It's not unlike what we did with Hadoop," he said. Selipsky also said that containers are likely to ride shotgun with virtualization. Using those technologies won't be zero sum.

  • What did Amazon learn from its mass reboot after the Zen bug? Selipsky said the company has had reboots before and patches that impacted customers. A lot of lessons have been learned, but the main thing is to be as transparent as possible. Those last two words are critical because sometimes you just can't divulge too much about a security vulnerability, he said. Advance notice is also important, but there's a balance there too.

    "We have to move quickly on these things. It's never fun for customers to go through that — it's painful but necessary," said Selipsky. Reboots are declining over time and Selipsky added that most patching happens without any impact to customers.

  • Managed services. The AWS ecosystem has a bevy of vendors who are offering cloud managed services. Selipsky said there is real interest in managed services from enterprise clients. "We see it most in large enterprises," he said. There's a long history of enterprises using outsourcing arrangements and managing applications. The cloud can be a different spin on that.

    "Integrators will be able to offer different forms of services and spin up practices around AWS," said Selipsky. "We're just seeing the tip of that." I asked whether adding integrators to the cloud equation defeat the cost savings purpose. Selipsky said not if service providers take lower margins and land more volume. The cloud is more efficient and makes the integration work easier too. That said, a lot of customers won't use managed services because they'll have their own talent to manage AWS.