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The gospel of AWS CTO Werner Vogels: ‘Go simple in a complex world’

At the end of the day, “for those still not going digital, maybe they’re dragging their heels a bit. But they’ll come around,” Werner Vogels says.

In the last quarter of 2015, Dr. Werner Vogels, the chief technology officer of Amazon.com, predicted that “simplification will be a technology trend in 2016”. At that time, he wrote that “despite the promise of technology simplifying our lives, over time, some applications have become rather complex.”

Werner Vogels

Speaking exclusively to Upgrade Magazine, Vogels stressed: “Things are complex enough, you know. You don’t have to make it harder for the people.” Then – re-phrasing the words of systems researcher John Gall who wrote that “applications built as a complex system almost never work” – Vogels added: “If you build a complex system (simply) as a complex system, they hardly ever survive. If you built systems as simple systems and then allow them to evolve into more complex systems, those are the ones that are often secure, reliable, have a good performance… And so we’ve been focusing on following this strategy.”

Simplification is, not surprisingly, the approach now being used by AWS, since “we have a strong belief in building our systems… like toolboxes. We want to just give you choice; you can pick the right tool for the right need.”

HIGHLIGHTING SIMPLIFICATION

Again in writing about the normalization of simplification, Vogels predicted that this 2016, “we can expect to see the quest for building simpler systems to take off.” The reason for this? Because “customers can get their hands on a number of new components delivered as cloud services.”

There are trends that Vogels wrote that will drive this.

First is microservices, wherein different types of monolithic systems are being broken down into their component parts (the smaller services are called “microservices”). This ought to make applications “more flexible and also changes the software development process.” And here, cloud computing providers will make it easy to create and manage microservices environments.

Second is the rise of serverless computing. Again thanks to cloud, running an application code “no longer requires a server (physical or virtual).” Meaning, “architects only need to think about business logic and no longer need to worry about managing fleets of servers to run their software. This makes it easier to achieve the security and reliability to protect their business and their customers.”

Third is the simplifying of integration (i.e. APIs for everything), with “the days where systems were built out of software pieces that were under total control of the developer are long gone. Modern development is a matter of connecting many different services together some from cloud providers, such as managed databases or analytics services, others from the third party cloud ecosystem.”

And lastly, Vogels predicts “a general acceptance that ‘organizations are more secure in the cloud than in their own data centers’ since “by offloading the management and improvement of the infrastructure security to a cloud provider, it is simplifying security for organizations of all sizes.”

APAC IS SUITED TO SIMPLIFY

For Vogels, the need to simplify is even more defined for the Asia and the Pacific (APAC) region, considering that many businesses here are classified as small and medium enterprises.

“The (business model is) unique in APAC,” Vogels said. “Entrepreneurship here is different.”

By different, Vogels meant that “in many Western countries (such as the US and Europe), companies are being built or being started with the idea of growing big really fast in the hope of getting acquired for a large amount of money. Here, I don’t see that pattern at all. Companies that are being built here are built as sustainable businesses. So the founders and entrepreneurs are going to run (these businesses) for a long period of time; they build their business as a lifestyle rather than ‘Let’s get big really fast and get rich’.”

However, exactly because the businesses start small, simplification can help business owners “to have control.” “There’s no start-up today that actually doesn’t start on the cloud,” Vogels said. “If I would be an investor and I would (have to) use my money to buy hardware, I don’t think that would be wise at this point in time.”

Amazon Web Services (AWS), of course, aims to be the go-to answer re technological simplification.

Launched in 2006, AWS officially began offering developer customers access to web services — now widely known as cloud computing — based on Amazon’s own back-end technology platform. Today, the AWS platform includes more than 70 different services, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). Now with more than a million active customers across all business sizes, AWS services are currently available to customers in 12 geographic Regions around the globe spread across 33 Availability Zones, in the US, Brazil, Europe, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and China.

COMING AROUND TO SIMPLIFIED SOLUTIONS

For Vogels, if – in the early days of cloud – apprehension was common, and even understandable, the early adapters already “took their due diligence to build their businesses (in the cloud),” he said. And so, while “in the past, they had to do everything themselves, (those who shift to cloud now) no longer have to do that.”

And for Vogels, many businesses are starting to realize that if they want to remain competitive in the market where they are, they need to go through a digital transformation. This is “not only because customers will start asking for services to be delivered digitally, but also for survival… for them to stay efficient.”

And so, at the end of the day, “for those still not going digital, maybe they’re dragging their heels a bit. But they’ll come around,” Vogels ended.

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