Why I am joining the Amazon Web Services big data group

Today is my first day in the AWS data services team, and I am very excited to be starting this next chapter in my career.

After being immersed in co-founding and managing a start-up, the transition to AWS was a very significant decision for me. I love to embrace change and take risks, but joining a company the size of Amazon would be a very different experience! I realized I had to do some deep thinking. In this blog post, I’ll shed light on some of my thought process and the overall opportunity that lies ahead.

Cloud infrastructure adoption is at a tipping point

Data point #1:

Back in May 2008, I gave a keynote presentation at a developer conference. 25% of my slides were devoted to that “next big wave”: the cloud. My call to action was for developers to leverage cloud services and seek out new business opportunities in cloud services delivery. While I got good questions and coverage around many topics, there was little engagement on the cloud: it was still too new…

Data point #2:

Fast forward to last month, in my prior role, I met with one of our Fortune 100 customers. For this company, web- and mobile-facing experiences are critical to driving growth in their business, so they have a strategic focus on accelerating the pace of innovation while also ensuring compliance, scalability, manageability, and managing cost. The customer described how they made the strategic decision to move all their infrastructure to the cloud, specifically to AWS!

What a difference eight years makes!

Yes, eight years is an eternity in technology, but what excites me most is that I believe we are actually still at the very beginning of a massive transition. Sure: today, most enterprises are using the cloud in some way, but it’s still early days: businesses haven’t yet made the overarching strategic decision to move most of their IT operations to the cloud.

The data “center of gravity” is moving to the cloud

Why hasn’t this happened yet?  I believe that cloud adoption has been hindered by the majority of business data still languishing on-premises. This has been especially true for the systems of record (typically but not exclusively SQL-based), such as ERP, CRM, data warehouses, business applications, and more.

As enterprise applications move to SaaS and the majority of new data is generated in the public cloud (e.g. IoT, e-commerce, mobile), the center of data gravity will move outside the firewall.  As this transition accelerates, the demand for cloud data services will grow substantially, because it is cheaper and more effective to bring compute to the data, rather than the reverse…

AWS has established clear leadership with services such as Redshift, RDS, ElastiCache, and DynamoDB. But these services (and others) are just scratching the surface. In AWS, I have found an organization that is willing to push the envelope and take risks to capture the full cloud data services opportunity.

Insights and context delivered with “real-time” big data

Both B2B and B2C applications are going through a radical transformation, not only becoming more mobile but significantly more contextual in nature. Previously, I have emphasized the critical intersection between cloud services, mobility and context.

Consider the following two customer use cases I have personally witnessed:

  • When you and your kids walk into Disney World, the mobile application automatically detects you, modifies its user experience to be personalized to your profile, location and what’s currently going on in the park.
  • A CIO of a large trucking company is interested in transforming logistics by leveraging mobility and real-time context – optimizing trucker routes and data collection based on real-time inventory changes, traffic, driver time spent on the road and more.

Context-aware use-cases are becoming pervasive in every industry. Context can be deduced from many sources including location, device sensors and data (IoT), operational databases, personal computing devices, cloud data services such as weather forecasts, and more.

As personalization with increased context becomes more sophisticated, the challenges in delivering these contextual real-time insights become more significant. At AWS, I will be part of a team with a major focus on delivering real-time responses to enable the next generation of apps and services. The challenges are multi-faceted and include: in-memory databases, scalability and high availability, different database paradigms (not one-size-fits-all) and strengthening developer productivity to support the required time-to-market.

A culture of innovation (and invention)

Coming from the startup world, I have a bias to focus on value innovation and timing. In startups, there is little correlation between building a successful business and inventing.  To better understand this point, read Tom Grasty’s article “The Difference Between ‘Invention’ and ‘Innovation’.”

If invention is a pebble tossed in the pond, innovation is the rippling effect that pebble causes. Someone has to toss the pebble. That’s the inventor. Someone has to recognize the ripple will eventually become a wave. That’s the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs don’t stop at the water’s edge. They watch the ripples and spot the next big wave before it happens. And it’s the act of anticipating and riding that “next big wave” that drives the innovative nature in every entrepreneur.

What attracted me to AWS is that (in addition to very smart, capable and motivated people) it appears to effectively balance innovation and invention: a focus on customer value with a bias to action. True innovation happens when different technologies and ideas are integrated to deliver a superior, differentiated customer experience. Teams are heterogeneous and have a broad set of academic and practical backgrounds with a startup mentality of getting the job done.

I can’t wait to get started! Looking forward to tackling big problems, working with super smart people and making big impact!

Oh, and we are hiring! Looking for great talent who want to be part of reshaping IT. Seasoned engineering leaders, product managers, and great software engineers. Distributed systems, high-performance in-memory compute, and more… Contact me!

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