Q&A With Amazon’s Werner Vogels

Dld vogels amazon cto

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels is a passionate advocate for the power of the cloud

Amazon is working to whip up developer support and get start-ups to use the company’s technology. So this year Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels is not only a scheduled speaker at the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival September 14th-17th, he has agreed to mentor the winner of an Amazon Web

Services (AWS) contest taking place at the Festival. Israeli startups will compete for a one-on-one mentoring session with Vogels, free services and a total of NIS250,000 (about $70,000). The three shortlisted start-ups will be invited to pitch their ideas in front of an audience of 1,500 at an AWS Summit in Tel Aviv on September 17th. The judging panel will include Vogels and executives from Intel and Israeli venture firm Magma.

Amazon has launched a program somewhat similar to Microsoft’s BizSpark that allows start-ups to build on AWS technology. Tell us more about it and how it fits with the company’s global strategy?

AWS Activate is a package of free resources for startups, including AWS credits, training, support, community forums and special partner offerings. We have been providing start-ups with all of these offerings but it was not part of a formal program. We decided to package all of our offers for start-ups together, which led us to launch AWS Activate in October 2013.

AWS Activate is organized into two tiers — a Self-Starter tier, open to any start-up, and an Accelerator tier open to start-ups in select accelerator, incubator, venture capital seed funds or entrepreneur organizations. Each tier offers customized packages with varied levels of resources. Start-ups like Hailo, Flipboard, Dropbox, WeTransfer and AirBnB are just a few examples of companies that are using AWS to grow their business.

Amazon opened a regional office in Tel Aviv in January of this year. What’s the objective?

Israeli companies were among the earliest adopters of cloud services in EMEA when AWS launched in 2006 so it made sense for us to launch an office in the country. Customers based in Israel are using AWS to run everything from development and test environments to Big Data analytics, from mobile, web and social applications to enterprise business applications and mission-critical workloads. AWS counts some of Israel’s most well-known and fastest-growing businesses as customers including Wix, myThings, ClickSoftware Technologies and Onavo.

Amazon has rolled out many developer tools to attract the developer community. How successful has the strategy been to date?

We have grown rapidly and now have hundreds of thousands of developers in over 190 countries using the services. Despite all of this we still think there is a lot of room left for AWS to grow. We believe that AWS has the potential to be the biggest business at Amazon.

How do you see cloud computing evolving?

We will begin to see data processing move to real time. Up until this point Big Data has very much focused on looking historically — ‘people who brought product X also brought product Y, the market moved in this direction last week so is likely to move in that direction now.’ But, as AWS is adding real-time processing capabilities, we see a rise in data analytics that is able to produce results for our customers in real time, radically changing the products they can build.

We will also start to see cloud-based analytics enhance the off-line world. The cloud is already the place where researchers collaborate on data that flows in real time from devices such as the Mars Rover or the Ilumina DNA sequencer into cloud storage. In the next 12 months expect an explosion in data generation by real-world devices and where that data is stored, analyzed and shared in the cloud. We will see a rise in the industrial cloud where industrial environments are equipped with sensors producing data to improve efficiency and reliability. An example is the project AWS runs with GE on instrumenting their gas turbines or with Shell where they are going to drop sensors in their oil wells; that will generate petabytes of data.

Cloud has changed how we interact with mobile devices. In the past content would be moved to the device; now devices are just a window to content and services in the cloud. In the next 12 months expect to see this approach migrating to non-mobile devices such as Samsung Smart TVs, treadmills and others.

Vogels Timeline

  • 1958 Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • 1991 – 1994 Senior Research Engineer at INESC in Porto, Portugal.
  • 1994 – 2004 Research Scientist in the Computer Science Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
  • 2001 Launches his blog, All Things Distributed, while still a scientist at Cornell.
  • 2003 Received his PhD from the Vrije Universiteit in 2003 for “Scalable Cluster Technologies for Mission Critical Enterprise Computing.”
  • Sept. 2004 – Jan. 2005 Director of Systems Research at Amazon in Seattle, Washington.
  • 2005 Appointed Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Amazon.
  • June 2014 Received the inaugural Holland on the Hill Heineken Award for contributions to the U.S.-Dutch economic relationship and his commitment to innovation and support for entrepreneurs.

This article is one of a bigger pool of stories appearing in a DLD Informilo special edition print magazine that has been distributed at the DLD Tel Aviv festival 2014. This story also appears on www.informilo.com