Heading Off to re:Invent

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I’m on a plane tonight headed to Amazon’s 2nd annual AWS user conference. There are several familiar faces on this flight from the local Boston tech community, including Sonian, ParElastic, Acquia, Backupify, Cloudant and more. This is the first of a series of short posts I plan to write while at re:Invent, passing on what I hope will be useful information to anyone interested back home.

As much as I have always liked the urban legend that AWS was born from Amazon’s need to manage the holiday season, it is sadly not true. But if you believe Brad Stone’s Everything Store, AWS was actually conceived in 2001-2 when Jeff Bezos’s mission to convert the company from a retailer to a technology company hit a wall: the inability of internal development teams to get access to infrastructure. With a few years of redesigning internal systems based on SOA, and Steve Grand’s Creation making the rounds in the "S-Team", the concept of breaking infrastructure down to primitive components was natural solution to the infrastructure problem. By 2003, teams were formed in Seattle and South Africa, and approval from a slightly skeptical board achieved. The result: the launch of SQS in 2004, and then S3 and EC2 in 2006.

The cloud was born.

I should take a moment to to acknowledge the current and former employees of Sun who are shouting at their screens right now, since Scott McNealy had been espousing cloudy ideas many years prior to this. But with Larry Ellison only recently acknowledging the cloud (and I still don’t believe him), I think we should give this one to Amazon.

My goals for the week are pretty modest. I am looking forward to learning about the latest AWS announcements (several of which I already know, and at least a few I suspect), meet with some current and future partners, spend time with customers, and hopefully learn a thing or two from a few of the 175+ sessions over four days.

It’s a nice change from last year, when I missed the re:Invent kickoff to gather my startup advisors in a conference room at North Bridge Venture Partners to review the results of my Lean journey. Over dinner and drinks, we had the discussion that resulted in CloudHealth.

I know some in the Boston technical community have voiced mixed feelings toward Amazon recently, with specific concerns around vendor lock in, costs, and coopetition. But it is worth taking a moment this week to acknowledge the incredible innovation that has been made possible in our sector by AWS. Since 2006, Amazon has made 530+ announcements of major services and features for AWS. It would be an impressive run for any fast and nimble technology company, but a… former bookseller?

Well that’s enough for now. I’m going to recline in my seat and make my way through the night to Vegas. See you on the other side.