Amazon’s shiny $199 Kindle Fire tablet may be the sizzle, but Amazon’s cloud services — which enable super-fast browsing and quick downloads — are the steak, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a new Wired interview that shows how big a role Amazon’s cloud plays in the company’s future.
“A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last. You really want something that’s much deeper-keeled,” Bezos told interviewer Steven Levy in the piece. In Amazon’s case, that depth comes from Amazon Web Services, the cloud technology which it started building nearly a decade ago after considerable internal debate.
Bezos was asked why Amazon, an online bookseller, decided to get into the data center or cloud services business. He said:
“Approximately nine years ago, we were wasting a lot of time internally because, to do their jobs, our engineers had to have detailed daily conversations with out networking infrastructure engineers. Instead of having this fine-grained coordination about every detail, we wanted the data center guys to give the apps guys a set of dependable tools, a reliable infrastructure that they could build products on top of.”
The problem was obvious. We didn’t have that infrastructure. So we started building it for our own internal use. Then we realized:, ‘Whoa, everybody who wants to build web-scale applications is going to need this.’ We figured with a little bit of extra work we could make it available to everybody. We’re going to make it anyway, let’s sell it.”
At the time, that upset some Amazon insiders who wanted to focus on the company’s core business (selling books.) As of this year, however, AWS is now close to a billion-dollar business on its own. And as the nature of computing has changed Amazon was at the forefront.
For example, AWS is what powers the Kindle Fire’ s new Silk browser, which speeds up a customer’s browsing (and shopping) experience by making intelligent guesses about what given he or she wants to do next. That intelligence inside the cloud, as opposed to on the device is perfect for the type of compute one needs when connectivity is ubiquitous and access to the web is via mobile or myriad devices.
Said Bezos: “If you can be clever enough to move the computation onto our cloud platform, you get these huge computational resources. Our cloud services are really fast. What takes 100 milliseconds on Wi-Fi takes less than 5 milliseconds on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud.”
Kindle Fire, which shipped today, will sell like gangbusters. But that’s largely because it’s the glitzy front end — the storefront — to a cloud services infrastructure that took years to build. Kindle Fire is hot because Amazon sweats the small stuff.