The Blog

The Lessons of AWS Infinidash

Calendar Icon 07.07.2021
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I once said that AWS has launched so many services that I could talk about a service that didn’t really exist and not get called out for it–by AWS employees.

Sure enough, last week saw the rise of AWS Infinidash, an imaginary AWS service that doesn’t (at the time of this writing) really exist. Note that this one came from Joe Nash, not me! A few questionable takes have been floated; that it’s an excuse to be crappy to recruiters, or that it’s somehow punching down at people who haven’t gotten in on the joke yet. I disagree with those perspectives, and suggest that this is instead an opportunity to see the purest expression of an AWS service launch specifically because there’s no real underlying service to hold it back.

If I ran AWS Marketing for real (instead of the running gag that I do it part time because I sat in an empty chair in Seattle once and got stuck with it) I’d be taking copious notes. The complaints are the easiest place to start.

What’s Wrong with AWS Infinidash?

Admittedly, not much! Since this is an entirely imaginary service, any criticisms of it are of course perceived criticisms of AWS’s products and/or launch strategy. Let’s explore some of them.

Naming

There was initially some confusion as to whether the service was “AWS Infinidash” or “Amazon Infinidash.” AWS is notoriously prickly about this to the point where it’s the single most obnoxious part of getting through re:Invent slide review before you’re allowed to give your talk. The fastest path through this Gordian knot is for Amazon to relax its brand standards here. It’s not like they’re going to launch an AWS Infinidash and also an Amazon Infinidash, are they? Please tell me they’re not.

Lack of Launch Day Support

No less a personality than AWS VP Jeff Barr himself highlighted the lack of CloudFormation support at AWS Infinidash’s launch. This is a tricky thing; how CloudFormation implements a service is very much a “one-way door,” but launching without it is a sign that AWS lacks confidence in their interpretation of how the service will be used by the customer. Others similarly lamented the lack of tag coverage, familiarity with Infinidash among AWS staff, or the lack of content on the AWS documentation site.

Certifications

A bunch of folks posted certifications on LinkedIn and similar places. I think this was something of a swing and a miss from the community; AWS has never once offered a certification in a specific service. Rather than dismissing these, part of me wonders whether the community might be onto something here. “I know AWS” is a nonsensical statement these days, with roughly 250 services under the “AWS” umbrella. If AWS offered “mini-certifications” on a per-service basis, that might lend itself to people hoping to gain employment in the AWS ecosystem painting a clearer picture of what their AWS expertise really covers.

re:Invent talk

Both Joe Nash (the creator of AWS Infinidash) and I will be giving a talk on AWS Infinidash at re:Invent this year. That sounds like it’s a joke, but I will do everything in my power to assure that it isn’t. More to come on this front later in the year.

The OpenDash Schism

A fair number of people chimed in talking about how AWS Infinidash was yet another example of AWS not respecting pre-existing open source communities; rather than by working with the OpenDash community, they went ahead and launched their own Infinidash managed service. This was an easy joke that many people made–and should give AWS serious cause for reflection as to how they’re coming across vs. how they think they’re being perceived.

AWS Legal

I’ve heard a couple whispered accounts that AWS Legal had reached out internally to folks about leaking confidential information before they realized the joke. #hugops to them; given who they are and what they do, they can’t afford to sit around waiting for jokes to clarify around stuff like data breaches. Nothing but love for them on this front; I can understand their confusion!

What Infinidash Got Right

All of these shortcomings pale in relation to the inescapable truth that AWS has a passionate enough community to make what could have been a one-off throwaway gag like this something that went viral. The fact that this kind of enthusiasm for AWS doesn’t manifest for service launches that are real indicates that they haven’t harnessed their own community effectively yet. No shame here–it’s a very hard thing to get right, and I don’t have a magic answer that would resolve it for them.

It’s hard to imagine another company’s community putting this much effort into a joke; the fact that this happened organically and still has relevance almost a week later demonstrates that for better or worse, AWS has lodged somewhere in our hearts, and hopefully won’t be killing us any time soon.

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