The cloud is more secure and affordable than firms realise

26 Aug 2010

Chief technology officer (CTO) Dr Werner Vogels has driven Amazon’s technology vision. ‘Information Week’ also named him CTO of the Year for his contribution to making cloud computing a reality

As a revolution in technology, how would you rate the take-up of cloud computing?

Companies in virtually every industry are taking advantage of the on-demand, scalable and pay-as-you-go benefits. We believe that these services are rapidly changing what tech vendors are offering to customers and how those customers are purchasing IT.

Fast-growing start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike are leveraging the on-demand technology resources from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to innovate, rapidly scale and cut costs.

These services are available on demand so a customer doesn’t need to think about controlling them, maintaining them or where they’re located. Customers access the services when they need them and pay for only what they use.

Have businesses been reluctant to embrace cloud computing because of security fears or having their data mingle with other data for compliance reasons?

I realise that CIOs feel very responsible for the performance and security of the company’s technology infrastructure. There is an element of control in being able to walk down the hall for the throat to choke. There’s also a comfort in knowing you can take some action if there’s a problem. And relinquishing that control is understandably difficult.

Once customers understand how we handle security, many say that we provide equal to or even better security than they can achieve on their own.

Examining Amazon’s cloud, you’ll see that the same security isolations are employed as would be found in a traditional data centre. It provides the same familiar approaches to security that companies have been using for decades.

How big an aspect is the cloud for Amazon’s business into the future?

AWS was developed from a skill we already have and that is building technology infrastructure at massive scale. The web-scale computing services that AWS offers are based on Amazon’s own back-end technology infrastructure, which we’ve spent over a decade building.

In the fullness of time – not sure if this will be five, 10 or 20 years – we believe few companies will have their own data centres and those that do will have much smaller footprints. For that reason, we believe that one day AWS could be as big as or bigger than our retail business, the reason is that cloud computing is where technology is going.

What does the future hold for cloud computing?

The old world meant lots of capex, underutilised infrastructure and wasted time and focus on undifferentiated IT. The new world is no capex, pay for what you use and the ability to focus on what differentiates your business. CEOs, CFOs and CIOs owe it to their shareholders to take a hard look at their technology infrastructure and make sure it’s really differentiated and adding value … as it’s likely costing them a lot of money.

Dr Werner Vogels will be speaking at the Cloud Computing Summit at Croke Park Stadium on 9 September. To learn more go to        

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years