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Amazon.com CTO cautions enterprises against underestimating value of test and development

Speaking at the AWS Summit in London, Amazon.com CTO hits out at legacy suppliers and urges enterprises to get experimental to protect themselves against competitive threats

Enterprises should not underestimate the value of using cloud to experiment and test out new ideas, because the outcome of those endeavours could give them a competitive edge, according to Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels.

During his keynote speech at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in London, Vogels cautioned enterprises against viewing cloud-based test and development tasks as non-critical when they have the potential to transform how they do business in the long-term.

“Sometimes people say dev and test are not serious workloads, but you know what? I think dev and test are the most serious workloads there are for your business, because it is where agility lives and determines how fast your company can move,” he said.

Cloud, continued Vogels, has turned the economics of testing the viability of new services and procedures on its head, and enterprises should not be shy of taking advantage of that.

“Dev and test has radically changed because of cloud computing. Suddenly there are no constraints because of access to resources,” he said.

“In the past, testers always had the worst hardware available. They had to test against 10 different scenarios, and every time you had to load the new operating systems, or you had to load new software was a nightmare. You did the minimum necessary.

“In the cloud, all of this is different. You can run your tests at the highest fidelity level possible because there is no shortage of the production machines you can be using. The agility allows you to go much faster to market,” added Vogels.

This is particularly important because customer loyalty is a commodity that is in short supply these days, meaning firms that are not able to adapt their services in line with changes in consumer demand are liable to being left behind.

“Customers may have stuck with one brand all their lives [in the past], but that’s not the case any more,” said Vogels. “This uncertainty requires different resource models. In times of uncertainty, experimental is essential.”

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AWS versus legacy IT

This theme was touched upon elsewhere in the keynote, during a segment that saw Vogels reflect on AWS's first 10 years in business, while taking a few shots at the past behaviour of its competitors in the legacy hardware space.

“The one thing we really wanted to do was radically change the relationship between providers and customers, because we have been on the receiving end of being a customer of these large, old IT companies, and I hated it with a passion because I never felt like I was in charge,” he said.

“The only way to drive costs down was to make very long-term contracts with these guys, and often through buying many more licenses than I ever needed, and the one thing I had to do upfront was write these massive, big cheques.

“The moment they had taken this cheque, they would walk away. They didn’t care anymore,” added Vogels.

With the AWS pay-as-you-go approach to billing, customers are under no contractual obligation to keep using the cloud firm’s services, meaning the user is always in control of the relationship.

“We only get paid if you use our services. If they are not the best services in the world, we will not get paid, and that’s how it should be,” said Vogels.

AWS is on course to become a $10bn run rate business, he added, and has reached that milestone way ahead of any other IT company in the world.

This, continued Vogels, has been achieved without locking people into multi-year contracts or forcing them to overprovision their IT, and pay out for licenses that never get used.

“Legacy vendors did it with their extortionate techniques. They forced you to pay upfront even if you weren’t going to use them. We got to $10bn by actually having people use $10bn of capability,” he added.

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