Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Conversation with Amazon CTO Werner Vogels

Very interesting conversation, I am posting my faviorite excerpts:

Jim Gray: Have you done anything so that the tools dovetail with your standards?

Werner Vogels: I think part of the chaotic nature—the emerging nature—of Amazon's platform is that there are many tools available, and we try not to impose too many constraints on our engineers. We provide incentives for some things, such as integration with the monitoring system and other infrastructure tools. But for the rest, we allow teams to function as independently as possible. Developers are like artists; they produce their best work if they have the freedom to do so, but they need good tools. As a result of this principle, we have many support tools that are of a self-help nature. The support environment around the service development should never get in the way of the development itself.

Jim Gray: Examples of our advanced technology investments

Werner Vogels: A cool application I saw recently in Japan runs on a camera phone. You can walk up to any product, make a photo of the barcode, send it off to the service, and it will come back to you with reviews, comparable products, and, of course, the price at Amazon. This was developed outside of Amazon.com using the Web-services interfaces. The small company that developed this is running a very successful service.

Jim Gray: What about headaches? What are the things that are driving you crazy?

Werner Vogels: An important part of that is, for example, testing. How do you test in an environment like Amazon? Do we build another Amazon.test somewhere, which has the same number of machines, the same number of data centers, the same number of customers, and the same data sets?

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