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May 13, 2008 9:13 AM

Amazon CTO on cloud computing, mainframe failure and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

One of Seattle's high priests of cloud computing, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, delivered a compelling sermon urging companies to use pay-as-you-go online computing power -- namely Amazon Web Services -- at OVP Venture Partners' annual technology summit today at the Fairmont Olympic hotel.

Vogels was probably speaking to the choir: Venture capitalists and their big investors are already enthusiastic about AWS and the opportunity for companies to build, test and run systems with lower capital costs.

But Vogels wasn't just pitching AWS as a platform for Web startups. He talked a lot about how big enterprises, even the federal government, have used the services for projects.

Exhibit A was Amazon itself, which turned to a services approach after its early systems maxed out and needed to handle seasonal spikes. The services approach also enabled teams to build new, differentiated products and not worry about common infrastructure issues.

A few quotes and factoids from his presentation:

In Amazon's early years, "Every year the holiday season was duct tape and WD40 to keep the databases together."

A vendor convinced Amazon to buy a mainframe. "That lasted about one year."

Amazon is beyond enterprise scale, it's Web scale. It has to build its own technology now.

"We're no longer even considered attractive for any third-party vendor to sell to because we'll destroy whatever technology they've managed to build."

"We decided to virtualize all of our infrastructure and turn them into real software services."

"In general we found that we can accelerate the speed of innovation by using this service model."

"It's really simple - the idea was that these services should be built as tools more than as platforms."

Factoid: When you come to an Amazon Web page, that page is drawing on 200 to 300 different Amazon services.

"These kind of businesses like Animoto are only capable of being developed because you have a very flexible, pay-as-you-go infrastructure behind it."

"Amazon is a technology company deep down in its heart. we just happen to do retail."

"Jeff [Bezos] has jokingly said we invested $2 billion to build this infrastructure."

Factoid: Amazon's S3 storage service was storing 18 billion objects in March, up from 14 billion in January.

"This business is growing like mad."

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