AWS predictions for 2021
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7 AWS predictions: As Jassy moves up, what’s next for AWS?

Eric Pulsifer
Eric Pulsifer

As Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos rides off into the sunset from the role as CEO, he passes the reins to Andy Jassy, a figure those watching cloud will likely recognize. Jassy most recently served as the CEO of a little $50-billion business called Amazon Web Services (AWS). There, Jassy ran the show as AWS grew from infancy to the biggest provider of public cloud on the planet.

While speculation abounds about who will fill Jassy’s cloudy shoes at AWS, only the future will tell what’s in store next for Amazon and AWS. 

But . . . since speculating about the future is a bit more fun than sitting around waiting for it to happen, we wanted to see if some very smart people might share some very educated guesses about what the future might have in store for AWS.

This brainy bunch includes the following cloud-savvy pros:

What’s ahead for Amazon Web Services?

State of Cloud '21
These conversations come from our free on-demand webinar, State of the Cloud 2021: Preview and Predictions. Quotes may have been edited for clarity or brevity.

Here are some predictions for AWS and the cloud as a whole in the year ahead. Plus some thoughts on what those working in the cloud can do to keep themselves ready for what’s next.

Liz Fong-Jones: One of the main things I was excited to hear about at re:Invent this year was the mainstreaming of Graviton2. Honeycomb runs on AWS. And we make very, very heavy use of Graviton2 because it helps us reduce our cost and environmental footprint. And it also increases our amount of compute, which is really exciting.

2. Will AWS remain the leader in public cloud in 2021?

Liz Fong-Jones: How do you keep the number one position? Momentum. So many of our customers are on AWS and therefore that’s where we have to be to best serve our customers.

Danielle Royston: AWS is an unstoppable force. I think the way they do this is they just ship so much product, and they’re constantly getting better and better. This is really how they’re crushing GCP and Azure . . . GCP had some missed opportunities against AWS — Google’s tech was better but slower to market. Google is engineering-led, not sales-led.

Liz Fong-Jones: I wouldn’t even say AWS is sales-led or engineering-led: it’s customer-led. I think the AWS engineering teams are the most responsive I’ve ever seen in a business. They actually listen — they listen one-to-one and one-to-many.

3. Will Azure or Google Cloud (GCP) close the gap in 2021?

Paul Eldridge: AWS is really ruthless about the ‘two-pizza team rule.’ They keep teams small and lean and fast. It can be brutal, as everyone has a lot of responsibility, but that’s how they are constantly shredding innovation, which is a challenge for learning and development as you’re always playing catch up.

Danielle Royston: AWS just ships and ships and ships and keeps getting strong and stronger. From the chips, to the databases, the apps, the dev tools — they continue to build muscle. They get it done. It puts so much pressure on the other guys. It’s got to be really hard to keep up if you’re GCP and Azure.

4. What are AWS’s strengths going into 2021?

Shruthi Rao: One thing AWS is really good at is tying costs to demand. That’s something that’s very important in 2021 because of what we went through in 2020 with COVID-19. AWS is good at closely coupling cost and demand together.

The second thing that AWS is extremely good at is coming up with these mechanisms to increase customer engagement. Whether it’s personalization or connected experiences — AWS has gotten very good at that.

5. Where does AWS need to improve in 2021?

Shruthi Rao: One of the big weaknesses for AWS is that they produce amazing products — but it’s a box of LEGO. There’s a popular saying: ‘AWS is a box of LEGO and the customer wants a pirate ship — somebody has to help them build the pirate ship.’ That’s where folks like A Cloud Guru can step in to bridge that gap.

Zack Kanter: When you spend time around engineers, they’ll tell you everything is a set of tradeoffs. Often with these cloud providers, the strength is the same as the weakness.

As a company deeply committed to AWS — for all the bells and whistles AWS gives you — it’s easy to forget what it’s like to get started. AWS’s biggest strength and weakness is that if you really want to take things to the nth degree, AWS has everything you need. But that also makes it difficult to get started with AWS.

Liz Fong-Jones: There is a lot of momentum behind AWS. But for people who are ideologically opposed to AWS — Walmart, Target, etc. — there’s a lot of reason for them to look at GCP or Azure for their needs. And I think GCP is a strong competitor there. 

6. Let’s talk multi-cloud. Will there be downsides on going all-in with AWS in 2021?

Shruthi Rao: Enterprises, if they’re on one cloud, I see them doubling down in 2021. It’s pretty homogenous. You know the evil you’re stuck with. It’s easier to scale that way.

Zack Kanter: The general axiom is the more features and functionality you’re willing to use in a cloud provider, the more locked in you are. The more you’re using, the harder it’s going to be to rearchitect to switch somewhere else.

Again, to talk about trade-offs, of course, there are benefits to using features too. Those benefits are that you can hopefully ship software faster, cheaper, easier to maintain and operate. Building software is really hard. The default is to ship software slowly and ship software that is really costly and difficult to maintain and upgrade.

For us, as a company, when we think about the long-term, we think: what is the risk that we are going to want to or have to change cloud providers versus the risk of shipping software that is difficult to maintain and doing that at a slow pace? We’re way more concerned about the latter case — the thing that every software company experiences and should be fearful of. 

Liz Fong-Jones: I think there are two valid reasons to pursue multi-cloud, but people often do it before they reach any of those two reasons. That’s a big mistake.

Reason number one is: if you need higher availability than five-and-a-half nines, then you cannot achieve that in one cloud alone.

Reasons number two is you want the ability to hedge your bets to successfully manage cost or otherwise navigate the issues of being tied to or locked into one cloud provider. That’s a large, strategic issue.

Beyond that, I really think there’s not a reason to do multi-cloud. Your engineers are going to say it looks cool on their resumes, but is it actually delivering business value? That’s my controversial take: Don’t do multi-cloud unless you absolutely have to.

Justin Brodley: The thing about lock-in that people forget is that they’re actually making lock-in decisions all the time. From choosing a Java stack versus .NET stack. SQL Server vs Oracle. They’re all forms of lock-in that people don’t think about. And so it’s interesting to me how much cloud lock-in is in the conversation when we don’t talk about those decisions in our tech stacks the same way. 

Paul Eldridge: But understanding your own customers and their industries is important too. What if Walmart is one of your customers and says, “I’m not going to use your service if it’s giving money to our competitor.”

Understanding your own customers and their business requirements and needs — and their potential preferences, if there may be some strong ones — that may be part of your decision.

7. What will employers hiring cloud talent be looking for in 2021?

Justin Brodley: The big things I look for are ownership and curiosity. You’re looking for that desire to learn, be flexible, and think differently about how you approach service and technology and how you look at these things in 2021. 

One of the key reasons I’m a big A Cloud Guru fan and customer is I need to bring that language of cloud into my organization. Because once I have the language of cloud, all of our solutions are cloud solutions.

When I still have network people and storage people and compute people, they’re giving me very on-prem solutions instead of saying, “Hey, let’s use DynamoDB, Lambda, Route 53, and CloudFront, and all these amazing technologies that really help build our business.”

That’s what I’m looking for in candidates: that key piece of curiosity and cloud knowledge and awareness and how they bring that to their day-to-day tasks.


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