IW500: Amazon CTO On Software Licensing, Cloud Security

Werner Vogels says EC2 customers should talk with software vendors about licensing -- something Amazon itself is already doing.

Mary Hayes Weier, Contributor

September 15, 2009

3 Min Read

As Amazon's enterprise customers move applications to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), they're working out issues related to software licensing and security, said Amazon CTO Werner Vogels at the InformationWeek 500 conference Tuesday.

"A number of our [software] partners have been key in thinking about licensing," Vogels said. For example, customers of Red Hat's enterprise Linux typically pay a few more cents per hour for their use of Linux on top of the hourly rates they pay for the Amazon EC2 infrastructure, said Vogels.

But some issues have arisen on the topic of licensing. One EC2 customer had a licensing requirement with its software vendor in which it couldn't run the software more than a mile away from the customer's central data center. "How do you deal with that? Those will all be conversations with your software vendors," Vogels said.

For those considering a move to the cloud, "you should have talks with your software vendors and ask them what their thinking is in this area," he said. Amazon is already having those types of discussions with partners such as Oracle and IBM, he added.

As for cloud security, Amazon considers it "absolutely important," Vogels said. "Security is not something you can solve at the infrastructure level. Security is an end-to-end problem. So make sure every piece and every step of your architecture matches," he said.

For example, Amazon provides customers with components that they can use as services to extend their own security policies. "We continue to innovate at the security level to make sure we give you tools…to implement your end-to-end security," he explained.

Customers can use their own network addressing schema to address those nodes that live in Amazon, and they can use tools that let them set policies that, for example, allow specific users to only use certain nodes during a particular time of day.

Vogels also talked about the importance of customer service. He spends about three out of every four weeks each month visiting enterprise customers, he told the conference audience. The Amazon CTO also indicated that some enterprise customers are frustrated that Amazon doesn't provide more details about its long-term product road map, but Amazon purposefully keeps those details to a minimum because it needs the flexibility to change plans, if needed, to better serve customers based on their feedback.

Before any new project, developers at Amazon write a "press release" that details the project. "It should describe exactly what the product will do, and then you ask questions. Then, you write the user angle. If you've been writing those documents, you nail down exactly what you want to do for the customer."

Vogels, who has a blog and is a frequent user of Twitter (@Werner), with more than 7,000 followers, stressed the importance of using online channels to communicate with customers.

The Amazon technology chief was InformationWeek's Chief Of The Year in 2008.

See full coverage of the InformationWeek 500 here.

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