Amazon’s CTO: “Amazon is a technology company. We just happen to do retail”

Amazon’s CTO: “Amazon is a technology company. We just happen to do retail”

When most of us think Amazon, we think books and toilet paper and really fast shipping (which is free if you spend over $25!) but according to Amazon, we’ve got it all wrong.

Speaking at the HackFwd Build conference in Berlin, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels says that Amazon has been a technology company since day 1. Oh, and for those who think that Amazon’s cloud business is just about selling off excess technology, think again.

“Why did Jeff start Amazon; why did he start a book shop? There were things that you could do with books that you couldn’t do anywhere else. A really, really large book shop may have 40 to 50 thousand titles in stock…It’s a pure technology play”

The entire infrastructure of Amazon, posits Vogels, is set up to do things faster than anywhere else. For instance, Amazon has up to 800 different teams internally (and each team, by Amazon’s standard, should be no larger than what can be fed by two large pizzas). If you go to Amazon’s homepage, you’ll see the work of 2-300 different teams, each controlling a specific service.

“We have this principal of ‘you build it, you run it”, says Vogels. You are responsible for what the customer sees, in short. This methodology, says Vogels, allows Amazon to bring a product to market in 10 – 15 days.

The rest of the talk is filled with some deeper, more technical features of how Amazon works, but it’s well worth a watch if that’s your sort of interest. We’ve embedded it below.

Obviously, the methodology works. And by breaking up the teams to being smaller entities, it leaves Amazon in a position to be infinitely agile, replacing something that doesn’t work with something that does in a matter of moments.

All of this raises questions that we’d love to know the answers to, such as how long it took Amazon (from concept to completion) to roll out its new design. And, of course, what about that new Kindle Fire?

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