Jim Gray of Microsoft interviews Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, in the current issue of ACM Queue. It is a very interesting discussion of the importance of the service-oriented approach at Amazon, and also gives a fascinating glimpse of internal working practices. Vogels suggests that Amazon is primarily a technology company, developing a major e-commerce platform on which others can build services. The introduction notes that about a million retail partners use this platform to do business. Here are a couple of extracts, but the full interview is well worth a read.
Next to the things that we already talked about—the service-oriented architecture, the way we scale, the way we serve our customers—I think our biggest success has been that Amazon has become a platform that other businesses can benefit from. If you are one of the million retail partners on Amazon.com, if you’re this very small bookshop somewhere in southern Florida, your products are immediately integrated into the Amazon.com recommendation system. You also instantly become part of our search system and customers can discover your products the same way they can discover Amazon.com products. All of the Amazon.com platform technologies become available to you as a seller on Amazon.com. [ACM Queue – A Conversation with Werner Vogels – Amazon’s CTO explains what’s behind its growth from online bookstore to e-commerce juggernaut.]
This fast response to new ideas is enabled through the loosely coupled services model, both in technology and at the developer and operations level. From the outside, the services in our platform may appear chaotic, but chaotic in a good sense—in that we try not to impose a rigid structure on the different functional pieces, but we expect there to be order when looking at it from a different dimension. Thinking about this whole system as a big deterministic system would be unrealistic. Life is not deterministic, and a large-scale distributed system such as Amazon has many organic and emerging properties that can come to life only if you do not constrain it. [ACM Queue – A Conversation with Werner Vogels – Amazon’s CTO explains what’s behind its growth from online bookstore to e-commerce juggernaut.]
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