• Causal Engines

The story of software infrastructure: start of AWS

In the world before AWS, server racks were the standard. Old school servers on-premise that ran software was the dominant host for the data, network, and computing needs of businesses. Organizations had two options: build expensive physical servers next to their operations or lease servers nearby. This method, while functional, is inelastic and not particularly scalable.

Let’s jump to the early 2000s where Amazon was struggling to maintain the proper IT infrastructure as its e-commerce business grew. During this period, the executive team could expect a given project to take three to four months, however, that entire duration was spent just building the database, compute, or storage component. Each team was developing its own resources.

The head engineer of Amazon’s global infrastructure, Chris Pinkham, quickly realized two things. First, their centralized infrastructure was not enough to keep up with Amazon’s requirements; and second, it would be optimal to have an infrastructure service that internal developers could use to avoid reinventing the wheel every time.

In 2006 Chris’ team published the first cloud computing service, Amazon Cloud Compute (EC2), for all developers. This decentralized platform was special because it not only improved the development of applications within Amazon, it served the external developer audience exceptionally well, creating the foundation for organization and discipline in developing tools for any business. Fortunately for Amazon, this would become a ubiquitous need across businesses and organizations around the world.

EC2 was the first to offer a modern cloud infrastructure service. This early advancement, due to the internal pressures of growth, helped Amazon get a large head start and gain significant expertise while it took competitors years to respond. EC2 laid the foundation for the nearly 170 additional products, 170 other avenues of monetization, that AWS has today. One of their famous products, Amazon S3, has had a lot of success from offering highly secure data storage with almost no access latency.

Amazon only got better over the years as it became a leader in running reliable, scalable, cost-effective data centers. As of February 2020, AWS boasts 32.4% of the cloud market with Microsoft Azure at 17.6% and Google Cloud trailing at 6%.

“If you believe companies will build applications from scratch on top of the infrastructure services if the right selection [of services] existed, and we believed they would if the right selection existed, then the operating system becomes the internet, which is really different from what had been the case for the [previous] 30 years,” Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, said.

The best part? AWS is still Amazon’s fastest-growing source of revenue. As the pie continues to expand with organizations embracing the digital revolution, being the market leader will pay Amazon dividends.

Today, AWS offers a multitude of solutions to its customers. The core offering comes from EC2, a virtual machine service, Glacier, a low-cost cloud storage service, and S3, Amazon’s storage system. Companies pay as they go. Rather than over or underestimating your infrastructure requirements and deciding on how to host on-site, AWS allows for scalability to eliminate those headaches.

While AWS has established itself well, it is not bulletproof. This was exposed in October of 2019 when Microsoft Azure won the 10-year $10 billion contract with The Pentagon. Many believe the hybrid cloud setup of Azure, an attractive option for many legacy enterprises, combined with strong analytics and security is what gave Microsoft the edge.

AWS is not going anywhere, and the appointment of Andy Jassy as the next Amazon CEO proves how focal it is to the present and future of the business.

This article is a collaboration between Archit Bhise and Sebastian Duluc.