The Cloud: Fastest Industry Transition Ever

It’s not often I’m enthused about spending time in Las Vegas but this year’s AWS re:Invent conference was a good reason to be there. It’s exciting getting a chance to meet with customers who have committed their business to the cloud or are wrestling with that decision.

The pace of growth since last years was startling but what really caught my attention was the number of companies that had made the transition between testing on the cloud to committing their most valuable workloads to run there. I fully expected this to happen but I’ve seen these industry sweeping transitions before. They normally take a long, long time. This pace of the transition to the cloud is, at least in my experience, unprecedented.

I did a 15 min video interview with SiliconANGLE on Wednesday that has been poste:

· Video:

I did a talk on Thursday that is posted as well:

· Slides:

· Video:

The talk focused mainly on the question of is the cloud really different? Can’t I just get a virtualization platform and do a private cloud and enjoy the same advantages? To investigate that question, I started by looking at AWS scale since scale is the foundation on which all the other innovations are built. It’s scale that funds the innovations and it’s scale that makes even small gains worth pursuing since the multiplier is so large. I then walked through some of the innovations happening in AWS and talked about why they probably wouldn’t make sense for an on-premise deployment. Looking at the innovations I tried to show the breadth of what was possible by sampling from many different domains including custom high voltage power substations, custom server design, custom networking hardware, a networking protocol development team, purpose built storage rack designs, the AWS Spot market, and supply chain and procurement optimization.

On scale, I laid out several data points that we hadn’t been talking about externally in the past but still used my favorite that is worth repeating here: Every day AWS adds enough new server capacity to support all of Amazon’s global infrastructure when it was a $7B annual enterprise. This point more than any other underlines what I was saying earlier: big companies are moving to the cloud and this transition is happening faster than any industry transition I’ve ever seen.

Each day enough servers are deployed to support a $7B ecommerce company. It happens every day and the pace continues to accelerate. Just imagine the complexity of getting all that gear installed each day. Forget innovation. Just the logistical challenge is a pretty interesting problem.

The cloud is happening in a big way, the pace is somewhere between exciting and staggering, and any company that isn’t running at least some workloads in the cloud and learning is making a mistake.

If you have time to attend re:Invent next year, give it some thought. More than 1/3 of the sessions are from customers talking about what they have deployed and how they did it and it’s an interesting and educational week. Most of the re:Invent talks are posted at:

I’ve not been doing a good job of posting talks to as I should so here’s a cummulative update:

· 2013.11.14: Why Scale Matters and How the Cloud is Different (talk, video), re:Invent 2013, Las Vegas, NV

· 2013.11.13: AWS The Cube at AWS re:Invent 2013 with James Hamilton (video), re:Invent 2013, Las Vegas NV

· 2013.01.22: Infrastructure Innovation Opportunities (talk), Ycombinator, Mountain View, CA

· 2012.11.29: Failures at Scale and how to Ride Through Them (talk, video), re:Invent 2012, Las Vegas, NV

· 2012.11.28: Building Web Scale Applications with AWS (talk, video), re:Invent 2012, Las Vegas, NV

· 2012.10.09: Infrastructure Innovation Opportunities (talk, video), First Round Capital CTO Summit, San Francisco, CA.

· 2012.09.25: Cloud Computing Driving Infrastructure Innovation (talk), Intel Distinguished Speaker Series, Hillsboro, OR

James Hamilton
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3 comments on “The Cloud: Fastest Industry Transition Ever
  1. Cloud continues to surprise us with its latest innovation and trends. There is really no doubt that this will become huge and innovative.

  2. The threat brought up by the Snowden data didn’t come up Frank and it’s actually super tricky topic. Some people think it’s incredibly evil that the government would show so little care about privacy. Other people think it’s great that all possible techniques are being used to ferret out bad guys. Like most people I have strong feelings on the topic as well. I suspect you know me well enough to have a pretty accurate take on where I’ll come out personally on the free speach, privacy, and any related topics. But, as strongly as I feel, it’s not really related to cloud computing.

    Governments all over the world do things they should not do. They do it in their countries and they do it other countries completely outside their juristiction. Moving data to another part of the world doesnt’ change the fact that governments that want access to it will likely continue to have access to it. Putting data in a private data center or in a cloud facility probably doesn’t change things much either.

    Soveriegn powers have lots of capability, nearly unbounded resources, can hire lots of smart people, and they don’t always do what they laws apparently say they should do. This isn’t a cloud computing problem nor is it a problem restricted to the US. And, even when focused on the US government as a threat since there is considerably evidence of issue there, moving the data to another country isn’t a great mitigation. Moving it to a datacenter under different control probably won’t solve the problem either. A multi-layer defense based upon encryption is part of the answer but even good security algorithms have poor quality implementations or explicitely installed back doors. Securing data is a complex topics and getting the world’s governments to behave is even harder.

  3. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    Did the issues raised by the Snowden/NSA revelations show up by any chance in terms of formal agenda items, or informal discussion, or changes in the trend curves?

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