The Business Lessons Amazon Learnt Through AWS

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À propos using AWS as a lens to understand Amazon:
Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon, writes on his blog on the occasion of AWS turning 10 years old about 10 lessons, Amazon learned over those years. As these things go, it is a bit self-congratulatory. But leaving that aside, it is a good read, helping understand how Amazon approaches building fundamental pillars to its businesses. Here are the 10 lessons:

  1. Build evolvable systems
  2. Expect the unexpected
  3. Primitives not frameworks
  4. Automation is key
  5. APIs are forever
  6. Know your resource usage
  7. Build security in from the ground up
  8. Encryption is a first-class citizen
  9. The importance of the network
  10. No gatekeepers

​Regarding (3.) “Primitives not frameworks”, Vogels writes:

One of the most important mechanisms we provided was to offer customers a collection of primitives and tools, where they could pick and choose their preferred way to engage with the AWS cloud, instead of only providing one framework that they are forced to use, which includes everything and the kitchen sink. This approach has enabled our customers to become so successful, that even later generations of AWS services make use of exactly the same primitive services our customers have become accustomed to.

It is also important to realize that it is hard to predict what certain priorities are for your customers until they have the service in their hands and actually start building with it. This is why we deliver new services often with a minimal feature set and allow our customers to help drive the roadmap for extending the service with new features.

This brings us back to what Brad Stone wrote in his book on Amazon, The Everything Store, and what Thompson writes about the structure of AWS and how similar it is to the (flat) organizational structure of Amazon.

Amazon’s approach is to keep a maximum of options open. I wrote about this in regards to the AWS IoT button and Amazon Launchpad back in November of 2015:

Amazon is inviting developers and hackers to play around with the buttons. With opening up the possibility of offering connected buttons beyond the Dash service, Amazon keeps all options open. (..)

Given the coming convergence of e-commerce and newly connected product categories to new kinds of services (and the potential for Amazon by being vertically integrated just like with Echo, Fire TV or Dash Replenishment Service), Amazon is cleverly keeping all (hardware) options open with Launchpad as with the IoT button.

Vogels’ blog post might be self-congratulatory, but he hints at lessons Amazon has learnt indeed.

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