Thursday, 7 June 2012

An open letter to Werner Vogels, Amazon's CTO

Dear Werner,

Firstly, I want to congratulate Amazon for the remarkable success of Amazon Web Services, and the remarkable vision that gave rise to it. I've been a user of AWS since before most people in the industry had heard of it. AWS has completely changed the technology startup model: no longer must a funding proposal include $100k or more of machine room fit-out and infrastructure - in fact, many startups that would have needed venture funding can now grow purely on turnover, paying for their infrastructure at the same rate that the infrastructure's generating cash.  The impact on Big Business has been no less revolutionary, allowing a tighter fit of cost and need than ever before.

But it's startups that I wanted to talk to you about.

I was one of the many who encouraged AWS, through feedback forms at your technology events, and mercilessly lobbying your staff, to introduce a Developers' Conference.  I was delighted to read, after the London events this year, that you had listened, and that the first re: Invent AWS Conference has been scheduled for November 27-29, 2012 in Las Vegas. This is a really positive move, and reinforces the message that Amazon is putting as much effort as possible behind developers.

I have no doubt it will be oversubscribed. And it will be tempting for Amazon to exploit that fact, and charge substantial rates for delegates. I think that that would be a very, very bad idea.

I know you're very well aware of this but, since this is an open letter, I'll say it for the audience anyway: this year's startups will be Amazon's biggest income generators a few years from now. The problem is that right now, those self-same startups aren't flush with cash.

Silicon Valley companies can just send delegates for a short hop over the hills. The picture is very different for those of us outside North America: airlines typically charge around $1600 extra for a return flight - even in coach - if we don't stay over a Saturday. So whether we do that, or take the hit for a shorter stay, it's going to cost us $2,500 or more just for flight, hotel and living expenses...per delegate. That's a big hit for a small firm. And each delegate's just taken a week out of the office, when they could be generating value. That's a lot different to a short internal flight and two nights at TI.

I won't belabour the point - but I will make this bald statement: if Amazon chooses to make re: Invent a profit centre, not a loss-leader or promotional write-down, I do believe it will have a negative impact on your business five or ten years down the line - an impact far more substantial than the cost of staging re: Invent.

I don't want that to be the case. I'm an outspoken and enthusiastic advocate of AWS, and I don't want to see you lose your global thought leadership in cloud computing provision, because so far your ideas have all* been absolutely on the money, you've anticipated my every cloud need to date, and you're way ahead of your competition.

So please, make it easy for us startups, and not just the North American ones, to send our delegates to re: Invent. And we'll do our damnedest to help you fly, too.

Thanks for listening - all the way from the very start to today.


(* Well, apart from not allowing non-North American requesters use Mechanical Turk, but we'll let that ride. :) )

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