Werner Vogels on How Amazon Web Services Wins: Fast, Flexible, Cheap

It can be pretty dizzying to tally up the scope of Amazon Web Services, a potentially $1 billion business that serves up critical cloud computing infrastructure for a big slice of the digital economy. Even keeping up with the number of individual services the company offers can be a challenge—and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels wants you to know that he’s sorry about that part.

“That might make it seem somewhat chaotic at times, and I apologize for that,” Vogels said last night, prompting chuckles from the crowd at an open house in Seattle. “But as an advantage, you get stuff really fast.”

That rapid-fire release of services is one of the three key elements that, in Vogels’ view, makes Amazon Web Services so successful.

Amazon is not known for releasing meaningful statistics, but you can get a sense of AWS’ reach from the huge reaction to last year’s multi-day crash of some AWS offerings. And, of course, the number of tech companies big and small in the market continues to grow.

Werner Vogels

In that crowded and competitive environment, Vogels said, Amazon hopes to stand apart with a “relentless focus on very fast, iterative innovation.”

“We will not build a thing with the whole kitchen sink, with all features in it,” Vogels said. “We will put something in your hands really quickly with a new feature set, and work very closely with customers to actually iterate really fast in a direction where the customers want the product to go.”

“That’s why you don’t see massive marketing events from us where, in one big thing, we will just announce everything that’s going to happen,” he said. “As soon as we have features ready, teams have the mandate to get it into the hands of their customers as quickly as possible.”

Vogels also said he thinks AWS has found success by being flexible: “You could be on any operating system, any programming language, any interface—whatever you want. We do not lock anybody in,” he said.

And sharing the price-conscious DNA of a retail company doesn’t hurt either. Vogels said a recently announced price cut for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service was the 18th price reduction for AWS offerings, with more to come. “Some of our customers are getting 12 to 13 percent lower bills in February and we’ll continue to focus on that,” he said.

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