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Intelligent Machines

Three Questions with Amazon’s Technology Chief, Werner Vogels

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels on how cloud computing is changing.

Cloud computing is making it cheaper than ever to store, analyze, and access our growing stores of data.

In the eight years since Amazon.com rolled out its cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services, it has grown from a side project that gave scrappy startups cheap access to computing and online storage to a leader in the fast-growing market for remote computing and storage services. The research company Gartner recently estimated that AWS uses over five times as much computing capacity as its top 14 competitors combined. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has even predicted that AWS may one day be bigger than Amazon’s retail business.

Werner Vogels

Amazon’s chief technology officer, Werner Vogels, devotes most of his time to Amazon’s vast cloud empire. He sat down with MIT Technology Review IT editor Rachel Metz at the AWS temporary startup loft (constructed to encourage developers to drop by and learn more about Amazon’s cloud offerings) in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood to talk about the future of cloud computing and security.

How will cloud computing change the way we do things?

This morning in the hotel I stepped on the treadmill; I just actually wanted the treadmill to reconfigure itself automatically to get my music, my newspaper subscription, things like that. I think there’s a future where your content—whether that is something that is a service like newspaper subscriptions or access to the content that you own—just sits in the cloud. We already see that: Amazon the retailer does a number of these things. For example, with Cloud Player people can put their music in the cloud, it connects to car stereos, so you can just turn on your car stereo, you no longer have to take your music with you; it will just follow you wherever you are. We’ll see more and more. Once we see more devices becoming connected, we’ll see an integration of your content with many more of those.

What do you have to be sure to do right if you’re going to keep growing?

Security will forever be our number-one priority. It will be forever our number-one investment area. We really want the cloud to be the place where you want to keep your data if you want to have total control over who has access to it.

What security technologies are you experimenting with?

Not that we can talk about. But we definitely keep a very close look at all the young businesses that operate in the security arena, because this is a world where I think it’s not convenient enough yet for customers. For example, [encryption] key management—customers find that really hard. Now we have a whole range of partners—Trend Micro, F-Secure, and others—that all build products in that world, but there’s also a lot of innovation that will happen there to make it really easier for customers to keep their data and manage their keys. I’ll be really happy if we come to a point in a few years where all of our customers encrypt all of their data, or at least all their sensitive business data as well as the personal identifiable data they store of their customers, for example. I’ve been on the warpath for this for quite a while.

Keep up with the latest in Amazon at EmTech Digital.

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