Amazon's Cloud Is Too Cloudy - InformationWeek

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2/18/2009
12:40 PM
John Foley
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Amazon's Cloud Is Too Cloudy

Amazon senior VP Andy Jassy talks about Amazon Web Services in a recent interview with TechFlash.com. It's an interesting chat with the guy who oversees Amazon's cloud computing business. Unfortunately, Jassy, once again, refuses to answer key questions about AWS.

Amazon senior VP Andy Jassy talks about Amazon Web Services in a recent interview with TechFlash.com. It's an interesting chat with the guy who oversees Amazon's cloud computing business. Unfortunately, Jassy, once again, refuses to answer key questions about AWS.Jassy is the influential executive who came up with the business model behind AWS five years ago, and the public-facing personalities of AWS -- Amazon CTO Werner Vogels and VP Adam Selipsky, in particular -- report to him. As the brains behind AWS, Jassy is one of the more interesting, yet underexposed personalities, in the IT industry.

So I was glad to see the interview with TechFlash, as it presented an opportunity to learn more about Amazon's groundbreaking IT service model. In the Q&A, Jassy talks about enterprise adoption of AWS, service level agreements, and how he and a group of buddies get together every month to scarf down chicken wings at the Wingdome.

But Jassy clams up when asked about the size of AWS and future plans.

TechFlash: How many people work in Web services?

Jassy: We don't disclose how many people are in the business, but I will tell you we have a significant, meaningful, talented team working on this. And if you look at what's happened over the last year or two in terms of what the team has delivered, you can tell it's not a team of 10 people.

And later, this:

TechFlash: Does Amazon use containerized data centers?

Jassy: We don't disclose that.

All of this hemming and hawing by Amazon is getting tiresome. When I interviewed Jassy last November for InformationWeek's feature story on Werner Vogels, Jassy talked at length about the strategy behind AWS, but he declined to reveal info on the size of the business. "We don't break out the revenue and the financials of AWS," he told me.

What we've got here is an IT services company that refuses to disclose where its data centers are located, how it plans to build new data centers, how many people it employs in that part of its business, how much revenue it brings in, or how fast it's growing. It teases with references to enterprise customers, but won't say how many it has or, in many cases, who they are.

As I pointed out in a post a few days ago, Amazon is growing in influence in the IT industry, having struck agreements with IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, and Sun in the past 12 months. As Amazon's reach expands, its reticence becomes a bigger issue. How can IT pros, with confidence, turn over their IT workloads to a service provider that provides such limited visibility into its core operations?

I'm not the only one asking these questions. In a Jan. 16 Webcast to discuss Amazon's fourth quarter 2008 financial results, the first question to be asked, by a financial analyst, had to with Amazon's cloud computing partnership with Capgemini. Wall Street obviously wants to know more about AWS, too (here's my breakdown of the numbers, "Amazon Web Services Help Fuel Blow-Out Quarter.")

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If Amazon is serious about the enterprise market, it's going to have to get more granular in the information it makes available on AWS.

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