People sometimes ask me why I’m so hard on AWS. Honestly, it’s because I love what AWS does and want to see it succeed!
There’s quite a lot the business does well, so this week, I’d like to tell you my nine favorite things about AWS. If you work there, please don’t think that your team’s lack of inclusion here says anything about my regard for it; I’ve just got limited space for this listicle.
Onward we go!
1. Employees take my questions seriously
When I talk to an AWS employee about my use case, no matter how deranged it is, the response is always the same: “Tell me more?”
Sometimes I’m very much holding it wrong; other times, there’s a better path forward than the one I’m stuck on. And occasionally, I have a novel use case that turns into a new service or feature down the line (for instance, I was one of the folks who requested a capability that later became the AWS Transfer Family). I joke around an awful lot, but I always find my technical questions and concerns to be taken very seriously, no matter how silly my use case is.
2. APIs are considered promises
I love the way that AWS service APIs get enhanced while breaking changes to those APIs are exceedingly rare. Look, I’m not suggesting that you should be using the cloud the same way that you were in 2010 — but if you did build something on AWS 13 years ago and left it unattended, it almost certainly still works now as it did back then. In practical terms, this means upgrading to embrace new functionality, architectures, or ways of doing things happens on your timeline rather than your provider’s. Most of AWS’s competitors miss the boat on this one something fierce, to their detriment.
3. There are immutable boundaries between regions
AWS’s lack of a global control plane is one of its perks. Yes, it can be annoying to have to flip through different regions in every account, but (as of this writing!) there’s never been a global network outage that’s taken down all of AWS. There’ve been isolated service control plane issues when they’ve single-tracked through us-east-1, but it’s clear that this is a bug that’s being ruthlessly stamped out based upon AWS’s recent articulations on the matter.
This is almost certainly the more difficult and expensive path for AWS, and I believe one of the most underappreciated ones.
4. Peter DeSantis gives delightful re:Invent talks
A clear favorite of mine are Peter DeSantis’s “Monday Night Live” talks, which occasionally morph into “Surprise Computer Science Lectures As Well,” along with the related work from his various teams. Baseline infrastructure isn’t super exciting to the general population these days, but it’s very clear that folks at AWS eat, sleep, breathe, and sweat this stuff. While it otherwise doesn’t get a whole lot of stage time, it’s clear that there’s tremendous focus and discipline around the care and feeding of stuff that the rest of us are generally thrilled to let AWS handle on our behalf.
5. The AWS Training & Certification team knows its stuff
The AWS Training & Certification team has the thankless job of explaining how all of AWS’s intricacies work to people like me who are basically simpletons. Not only that, but they do this repeatedly and at massive scale–periodically in ways that are blindingly innovative to boot. Teaching is not only hard, it’s an orthogonal skill to being good at the underlying technology.
6. Your company’s spend is irrelevant
Your scale really doesn’t matter to AWS. Yes, of course, if you spend more money, you’ll get different discounting opportunities. But before anyone knew who the heck I was, I was taken very seriously by AWS employees all the time when I came up with feature requests, despite the fact that my bill was all of $7 a month. Likewise, I’ve seen AWS give the same attentive consideration to a $10 million per year customer as it does to a $500 million per year customer.
7. Products solve a real customer problem
Virtually every product that AWS launches has customers talking about the convoluted problem that the offering solves for them. Look, they’re not all home-run products, and the problems aren’t all fascinating — but it goes a long way toward explaining why something exists when an unaffiliated customer gets on stage and talks about it. Contrast this with other companies, which make up fake businesses with imagined problems to demonstrate how their portfolio would theoretically be used. There’s just no contest.
8. Its deadly serious about security
AWS isn’t kidding that security is “job zero.” I’ve worked with its security team a strange amount; as it happens, the AWS bill is often an accidental point of discovery into a breach situation. Every time, I’ve been impressed by the security team’s transparency, dedication to getting things right, and speed of response. Without security hitting its notes, you really don’t have a cloud for any workload that isn’t itself haphazard and careless.
9. AWS’s community
It’s usually a red flag when you search for something you’re working on and discover that nobody has done that thing on top of your cloud provider. It makes you wonder whether you’re the only customer a particular service has.
This is never the case for AWS. It has the broadest and most supportive community of any product I’ve ever seen, which is a very hard competitive advantage for an upstart to overcome.