adrian cockcroft, aWS
Adrian Cockcroft, Vice President, Cloud Architecture Strategy, Amazon Web Services
What are you bringing to AWS from your past experiences at Netflix and Battery Ventures?
Before joining AWS in last October, I was with Netflix a little over three years ago, and spent most part of almost three years at Battery Ventures, a tech-focused investment firm where open source became table stakes and economically competitive. With open source, you can get great customer adoption for free, and then figure out a way to build a business model out of it. Getting this balance right is one of the big challenges, particularly in the enterprise IT space.
The experience I bring to AWS is a combination of what Netflix is doing, which is building a platform and going through the process of open sourcing it, plus the experience I gained from the VC (venture capital) world, from a wide range of startups to the challenges they have in monetizing open source.
We also brought in Zaheda Bhorat as AWS’ Head of Open Source Strategy, who brings with her 15 years of experience in the field. Between us, we covered many different aspects of open source problems that we’re trying to solve.
Tell us more about your role as VP of Cloud Architecture Strategy.
During my Netflix days, we were pushing AWS to implement new features. Today, one of my roles at AWS – apart from presenting at AWS Summits – involve talking to as many customers as I can find who are pushing our cloud architecture to its limits, and look beyond the most immediate needs for the wider base. Given AWS’ customer-obsessed focus, it makes sense that our internal projects and strategy are synthesized with the valuable inputs that I gather from the customer base.
My other role revolved around open source, building a team to lead open source engagement with ecosystems for AWS. There are projects that we want to support, some of them backed by commercial entities, so we develop a partner relationship with them. Docker for AWS is a great example, where we have Docker Captain Arun Gupta focused on the container ecosystem. There are also projects where we built our own services on top of open source solutions, such as Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR) for Hadoop. For nonprofits with open source projects and HPC foundations like the Open-MPI consortium, we lend our support in the form of free credits and trainings.
One of the communities we’re supporting is MXNet, a deep learning framework out of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that joined the Apache Incubator, and is currently supported by Microsoft, Red Hat, Apple, Wolfram Research, and a wide range of companies. The move provides a very well understood framework and level playing field for contributions across multiple companies, which will be increasingly important moving forward. We’re adding more documentation, and hardening it for commercial use, as well as moving it to be used within AWS’ various AI-related projects and the wider Amazon.com community.
What were some of the more notable feedback from AWS customers?
For Malaysia, I met up with Astro and Maxis Berhad. Based on the feedback from Malaysian customers, there are two problems to address when going through
As someone who has worked closely with AWS over the years, what is it like to be on the other side of the equation? Many at AWS saw that as an obvious move, really. A good part of the relationship digital transformation: management and technology. The issue lies not with the cloud, as the two must happen together. By leveraging a top-down/bottom-up approach, technology adoptions allow the engineers to go faster, while an organization restructure enables them to adapt and manage better, resulting in a feedback loop that ensures the right outcomes happen.
I also met up with Grab and DBS in Singapore, where GovTech – a technology group similar to the ideas behind the U.K. government’s GOV.UK group, which is really about innovating and deploying rapid services and solutions compared to a typical government procurement process. between Netflix and AWS was the engineering culture. The companies are very different in some ways. Certainly in scale, Netflix is a much smaller company, just a few thousands people, while Amazon is a much more globally spread and diverse organization.
The 14 Management Principles at AWS are really the glue that holds the company together, making sure that everyone – from top to bottom – remain customer obsessed, think big, and dive deep into things. The engineering process – the way it scales – is extremely impressive, and that’s one of the reasons I was excited to join AWS. In some sense, it feels like a huge VC firm with many startup ideas and agile teams that are able to move forward and deploy them at scale.
This is why we’ve been able to accelerate the number of AWS services and features – 1,017 in 2016 up from 722 the year before it. We’re accelerating our pace of innovation and that’s how we’re staying ahead.