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AWS CEO Adam Selipsky: 10 Bold Remarks At Fast Company’s Innovation Festival

‘Amazon is always about having very high standards and about being vocally self-critical, which is a term you hear around here a lot,’ Selipsky says. ‘It’s an important part of my job — not just an opportunity, but a responsibility — to try and help us to continue to improve and to bring some things that maybe I’ve been able to observe being gone a few years.’

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How The Coronavirus Pandemic Affected AWS Customers

Needless to say, the last year and a half has been tumultuous, to say the least, in so many different dimensions and so difficult for so many. One thing we have seen is that it really has accelerant to a lot of trends that were already happening.

You’ve seen since the launch of AWS all the way back in 2006 this continued acceleration of more and more organizations realizing that there’s a different and better way to do infrastructure. And we’ve seen more and more small and large organizations come on board. When the pandemic hit, and everybody was thrown into upheaval in a lot of different ways — in terms of where people were working, in terms of some industries really seeing the bottom drop out from their demand, other industries seeing a dramatic uptick in demand — that there was a dramatic acceleration of the trends that were already happening.

McKinsey did a study saying that there was five (years) of digital transformation that happened in eight weeks in the first quarter of the pandemic last year. It’s that kind of acceleration that we saw. Zoom has been a pretty well-publicized (example), where their demand absolutely went through the roof, and they were able to very gracefully continue to ramp and meet all of that absolutely critical demand. Think about how much time all of us spend on all of these different video and conferencing platforms — Zoom being an important one, of course. All that was run and scaled very gracefully up on AWS, given the massive amount of infrastructure that we have.

There are a lot of different examples of where the instantaneous scalability of the cloud and of AWS was really important during the pandemic. I also think that there were some industries where their demand really fell off. When you talk about the elasticity of AWS, it has to both wax and wane. There were certain industries — be it travel, be it hospitality — where, of course, unfortunately, they faced a lot of upheaval. And it was very important that they be able to go into, in some cases, cost-cutting mode, and they were able to — just like with the electricity model — to turn down some of that electricity, which you can’t do if you have already bought servers and put them in data centers and have massive teams running all that stuff. It’s very hard to shed that expense. The flexibility that the cloud enables and that AWS was able to partner with all these different companies for was absolutely important.

But I think probably the most important thing that’s happened is that so many companies have just understood that they must undergo a digital transformation, and it has become fundamental to who they’re going to be in the future. If you didn’t think you were a digital company in February of 2020, you figured out in March and April that you actually were. And so we’ve really worked even more closely with so many different companies to map out that path. And it’s a multi-year path to moving, in many cases for big enterprises, many thousands of applications onto AWS, and I think that’s just accelerated. We view that very much as a partnership, where we really feel like we jointly own those outcomes with our customers.

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