Andy Jassy runs Amazon Web Services (AWS), undisputedly the first, largest, and most dominant company in the shared technology infrastructure space. Whenever anybody talks about applications or computing in the cloud, the chances are pretty good that they’re talking about AWS.
Yesterday, Jassy sat down with journalist Kara Swisher, formerly of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times opinion section, and now co-founder of Vox Media’s Recode, for a lengthy interview during the media organization’s Code Conference. The first 10 minutes of the interview has some Amazon cheerleading and a dose of Jeff Bezos tribute, but then Jassy brings his insight into the issues shaping and affecting the development and future of cloud computing. Here are some takeaways.
On the Market and the Pace of Change
Jassy leads the dominant player in the cloud computing space, which got a six-year headstart. Microsoft and Google eventually jumped into the market, and the race to offer the best services and create the best user experience is now on. If AWS and its $31 billion business were a standalone company, it would rank somewhere around 100 on the Fortune 500 list, in the vicinity of Coca-Cola. And Jassy reported it’s growing 41 percent every year.
“We’re still early in this space,” Jassy said. “In the infrastructure technology space, I don’t think there are going to be 25 winners, because scale really matters. But there’s not going to be one. …It’s trillions of dollars ultimately, so it’s not going to be one. There will be several successful players there.”
And as a true, eyes-open techie, he said he sees competition beyond the Microsofts and Googles of the world. “In all of our businesses there are startups that we don’t even know about that have the ability to disrupt," he added. "If you think the technology changes over the last 10 years have been disruptive, and I think they’ve been unbelievably dynamic, I think the next 10 are going to be faster than the last 10, so there’s all kinds of new technology that will evolve.”
He said only about 3 percent of what could be in the cloud is currently in the cloud. So the sector is already huge and the potential is staggering: A not-too-distant future where most of what can be in the cloud will be in the cloud.
“Often people talk about hybrid infrastructure, which they mean today to mean some on-premises and some on the cloud,” he said. “I think that in 10 years when people talk about the on-premises part of hybrid, they’re not going to be talking about on-premises infrastructure and servers. All of those are moving to the cloud. The on-premises part is really going to be devices. There are going to be billions of these devices sitting in our homes, in our factories, in oil fields, in agricultural fields, in our cars and planes and ships, everywhere. And those devices are going to need the cloud to do large-scale analytics and then push the prediction to the edge on the devices themselves.”
Large-scale analytics is machine learning and artificial intelligence—terms that are changing from buzzwords to everyday usage and understanding, like "Internet" and "Web." Another technology Jassy mentioned is voice application. “Voice apps have the potential to revolutionize a lot of our customer experiences.”
On Privacy and the Intrusion of a Society Constantly Under a Sensor Net
Essentially, Jassy’s approach to the potential for harm that comes with AI technology such as facial recognition boils down to what Uncle Ben told young Peter Parker: "With great power comes great responsibility."
“The issue is a real one… but just because technology could be misused doesn’t mean we should ban it or condemn it," Jassy explained.
On facial recognition technology, Jassy said, “We give very clear guidance to any of our customers who are law enforcement organizations, who may use the service in such a way where you might impinge civil liberties. We strongly recommend that they don’t use any results that aren’t at least 99 percent confidence levels. And then only as one piece of a human-driven decision like any other piece of evidence.”
In fact, Jassy called for the U.S. federal government to write regulations around using facial recognition technology around those two principles: a 99 percent confidence level and as only one piece of evidence in a larger investigation.
On Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity
Jassy described the layers of cloud computer security, differentiating between security of the infrastructure and security of the applications that sit on top of that infrastructure.
“AWS is responsible for making sure the infrastructure that we provide--our servers, our data centers, our network, and then all of our services... are secure. And then our customers, when they’re using that infrastructure, they’re building applications on top, but they have to do some things themselves to make sure that their applications are secure as well. If you expose your credentials on GitHub, it doesn’t matter what we do with the infrastructure. People can get into your applications, so it’s always been a shared responsibility that way.”