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Q&A: Amazon on Enterprise Computing in the Cloud

Speaking at this week's Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, Amazon's Adam Selipsky says enterprises are already embracing the agility and economies of scale of cloud computing.
What assurances can you provide on reliability? EC2 is in beta, currently, but you've had a number of outages [and last week, Amazon.com itself had a two-hour site outage]. What can you say about service level agreements (SLAs)?

The place where customers were most eager for us to start with SLAs was S3, so we did that. It's an availability SLA, and we actually put the equation of the error codes that go in the numerator and the requests to the system that goes in the denominator. If we fall below 99.9 percent availability, you get service credits. We don't have a separate durability SLA for S3 because we just don't lose your data; 100 percent is the SLA.

What about EC2 once it's out of beta?

When we make that service generally available, I would anticipate that we will put an SLA in place, and there are lots of possibilities. Is it about the API being available? Is it about the physical network infrastructure being available? We've been talking to customers about what they find most compelling and most reassuring.

Google and Salesforce.com are at Enterprise 2.0 to talk about their cloud offerings, and companies like Microsoft and IBM are also getting into the market. How will Amazon differentiate itself once there's more competition?

It can't be a good market without good competitors, but we think this is a big enough and interesting enough market that there will be several competitors that will do well. Undoubtedly, each will offer a different approach, but I can't speculate on what those others might do.

What I can say is that our strategy has been to have a series of building-block services that together form a compelling and cohesive platform so that you can outsource the infrastructure layer of your computing. That platform allows total flexibility for developers. We want Ruby, Perl, Java, C++ programmers to all be able to work with us equally well. We want Web developers and enterprise developers to be able to work with us equally well. We will continue to add things that make it easier and easier to use our services, such as tools and libraries and sample applications that let people consume these services in more of a plug-and-play way.

Would you say that Internet-based, customer-facing businesses like Amazon are at the center of the target and that enterprises business might be ceded, one day, to cloud vendors that specialize in enterprise services?

I would absolutely not say that. We had Fortune 500 companies using Amazon Web Services literally from the day we launched S3. It's true that the majority of our early usage was from smaller companies and startups because they tend to be a little more risk tolerant. We thought it would take several years to get to the enterprise stage in a meaningful way, but we've actually been rather surprised at how quickly enterprise adoption and interest have accelerated.

Tech Crunch published a stat that more than 60,000 corporate customers are using Amazon Web Services. Can you confirm that statistic?

I have no idea where they got that stat and I have no comment on it, but I can say that we are having more and more conversations and we have a multitude of existing, deployed relationships with large and midsized enterprises. That trend is dramatically accelerating and it's only going to continue to accelerate.