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AWS cloud platform will share cloud computing heights, CEO Jassy says

The AWS cloud platform is No. 1 in the cloud market -- but it won't be the only one, chief exec Andy Jassy predicts. A few big vendors will fit into companies' multicloud strategies.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Andy Jassy is confident that Amazon Web Services, Amazon's cloud computing division, will remain...

the world's top-selling cloud infrastructure provider. The word the CEO gave was optimistic.

But AWS won't be the world's only cloud provider, Jassy said.

"There's not going to be only one successful company," Jassy said at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here Monday. Companies moving applications and data to the cloud will continue to go with several big providers, which today include Microsoft, Google and IBM.

But for most companies, Jassy said, multicloud won't mean splitting workloads evenly among different providers. Many CIOs and IT leaders start off thinking they'll do that, but "very few end up going that route."

For one thing, multiple cloud platforms means multiple systems for cloud teams to learn and keep straight, he said. And cloud providers offer volume discounts to companies -- the more cloud they use, the better the price. If companies divvy up their workloads, they lose their buying power.

Instead, most companies pick one provider and then put a small percentage of their workloads in a second one. They do this to avoid vendor lock-in and give them the option to switch if the first vendor raises its prices or goes out of business, Jassy said.

The AWS cloud platform will be the primary cloud for many companies, he said, because the company has "so much more functionality than anybody else, a much larger and more mature ecosystem and then a much more mature platform."

AWS was launched in 2006, and rivals have struggled to keep up with its fast growth and pace of innovation. But in August, AWS tied Microsoft's Azure for best cloud platform in Gartner's annual ranking of cloud providers.

Focus on customer needs

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer interviewed Jassy onstage in front of thousands of CIOs and IT leaders, and asked Jassy about the factors that helped AWS grow so big so fast.

About 90% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters to them. The other 10% is listening to customers really carefully about what they're trying to solve.
Andy JassyCEO, Amazon Web Services

"About 90% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters to them. The other 10% is listening to customers really carefully about what they're trying to solve," Jassy said. AWS puts this to practice in its product development. Once it launches a new product or service, it examines customer feedback, makes adjustments and tries again.

Another way AWS distinguishes itself, Jassy said, is through its customer support function called Trusted Advisor, which surveys how customers are using AWS and then alerts them if they're using it in a "suboptimal way."

If, for example, a customer has a lot of virtual machines in the AWS cloud but isn't using them, "we'll send out a note saying, 'Hey, maybe you want to stop spending money with us, and you can resume spending money when you need it.'"

AWS has sent millions of such notices out to customers over the last few years and as a result has saved them $500 million a year, Jassy said.

But AWS gets dinged by customers, too. In an unofficial survey of about 75 people, Plummer found that people were frustrated by the deluge of AWS cloud platform features -- and how they're accounted for in infamously confusing bills.

"Nobody knows what they're paying for," he said.

Jassy said that for some companies keeping up with the number of new features and services is "sometimes daunting" -- there were more than 1,000 in 2016 and 1,250 are expected by the end of the year. Customers are happy with the cost savings and innovation they afford them, he said. But they've also told AWS it needs to simplify things.

"I think we've made a lot of progress there, but we still have work to do," Jassy said.

A call to cloud

Jassy would find an ally in Sasi Pillay, who was in the audience. Now vice president of IT services and CIO at Washington State University, Pillay is a longtime advocate of cloud computing.

Pillay moved external websites to AWS as CTO at space agency NASA, and now he's trying to do the same at WSU, where websites are hosted on premises.

"My long-term vision is to own as little IT assets as possible and instead focus on delivering solutions for our customers," he said.

To determine what faculty, staff and students need from technology, Pillay has worked to streamline the governance structure through which IT discusses projects with working groups, deans and the university cabinet. Also in the works are a student survey, an interactive list of IT projects students can vote on and a hackathon in which they can develop mobile applications that IT can later deploy.

Pillay saw a clear parallel between the partnership he's forming with WSU constituents and the one AWS has made with its customers.

"I think that's what AWS is trying to do with its customers. Instead of being just a service provider, it's becoming a strategic partner," he said.

Next Steps

Companies start tackling, unraveling multicloud

Adobe's multicloud strategy connects public clouds

Architecture takes multicloud to new heights

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