Amazon CFO: Cloud Is ‘A Mixed Bag Right Now’

AWS grew 29 percent in the third quarter as some businesses accelerated cloud migrations due to the global COVID-19 pandemic while others went into a ‘holding pattern.’ For the short-term, companies are trying to save dollars by fine-tuning their cloud workloads to run at optimal cost.


Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky told investors Thursday the e-commerce giant sees many customers adopting the industry-leading AWS cloud at a faster pace due to the COVID-19 crisis while others in hard-hit industries retract their spend.

Amazon is “very happy” with Amazon Web Services performance amid the global pandemic, though, due to the anomalous disruptions affecting different industries, “the cloud’s a mixed bag right now,” Olsavsky said in the company’s third-quarter 2020 earnings call.

“A lot of companies are in a holding pattern,” Olsavsky said.

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[Related: Amazon Earnings Soar Amid COVID-19 Pandemic]

The pandemic is taking an especially harsh toll on the travel and hospitality industry, while AWS customers in video conferencing, gaming, remote learning, and entertainment are doing well, according to Amazon’s CFO.

Because of the unpredictable macro-economics, many companies are looking to cut their expenses, and they recognize migrating to the cloud is a good way to do that for the long-term. That dynamic resulted in a healthy expansion in the backlog of multi-year AWS deals.

But in the short-term, existing AWS customers are trying to save dollars by optimizing workloads, with many working to “tune their usage against some of our benchmarks,” Olsavsky said.

AWS posted revenue of $11.6 billion for the quarter ended Sept. 30—year-over-year growth of 29 percent.

The growth rate was the same as the previous sequential quarter, which was the first to drop below 30 percent since Amazon started breaking out AWS financials in April of 2015.

While AWS growth has slightly slowed over the last half-year, in absolute dollars Q3 was the largest expansion in the cloud division’s history, Olsavsky noted.

“We feel good about the state of our business,” Olsavsky said of AWS, “and the state of our sales force to drive value in this period.”

Amazon overall, powered by stunning growth in e-commerce, grew 37 percent to $96.1 billion, beating analyst expectations of $92.7 billion. Earnings-per-share of $12.37 also solidly beat the $7.41 expected by Wall Street.

But revenue and earnings beats weren’t enough to lift Amazon stock, which slightly fell in after-hours trading from a Thursday market close of $3,211.01 to $3,144 at the time of this publication.

Olsavsky said AWS is now busy gearing up for its next re:Invent, a three-week virtual conference that begins on November 30.