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The egalitarianism of the cloud

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 8, 2013
CIOs in Asia must be better prepared to compete globally and cloud computing is here to help them in this battle, says Werner Vogels, the CTO of AWS, in this exclusive interview.

How about AWS's own government cloud? Why does it exist then, I asked him. "AWS has a government cloud in one region which is dedicated to US Federal Government that has exactly the same security and exactly the same guarantees and the same services as all the other regions," said Vogels. "The only difference is that this is a government complaint cloud -that means that those individuals operating the cloud are either American nationals or have green cards. And that's the only difference. I think we have over 300 agencies using it. I think it is pretty successful."

"Some believe that Amazon virtual private cloud gives you more security. No, it gives you identical security. You have more control over network layouts, for example. In the virtual private cloud, they are managing their environment a bit tighter than they normally would do in cloud."

A multi-tasking CTO?

Now, I asked Vogels to take off the clairvoyant's hat and don his CTO's hat. How does he manage to be the CTO of both and AWS? There must be thousands of engineers working under him. AWS alone claim about 80-120 innovations in its services every year. On top of that, he often travels around the world (he has already clocked in a million plus miles), is a sought-after speaker and blogs regularly. How does he manage to do all that?

"Do you know juggling?" he guffawed. "If you learn that then these things will grow." He means the business that has been growing.

Vogels shifted to his serious tone once again. "Sometime your world as an executive changes," he said. "When I started out in Amazon, my expertise was driven to be a big thinker: how do we get to the next level of scale and so on? Then when we saw that many of our engineers were actually wasting their time and also on similar kind of management tools, we decided to drop that to a shared services platform. That was the precursor to what later became AWS."

"This is a team kind of work thing," Vogels said, elaborating on how the company works. "For the world we are a consumer company. In reality we are a technology company. The kind of thing we do within Amazon is amazing (high performance transaction procession, machine leaning, etc). But then you enter into a business which is very different, which is to provide technology to other companies and I think that requires a different CTO world. It is not necessarily to promote a business-I do that as well, I believe in this stuff-it is also to spend a lot of time in the office of CIOs who are actually using your services to truly understand how is cloud computing changing their business, and what are the other things we could be doing better? What are the pain points that they are experiencing? What do customers want? That is the world of an external phase of technology. You will see that many of the technology organisations have CTOs like that."


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