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The part-time DJ David Solomon, brilliantly profiled last year by Jen Wieczner in Fortune, is a pretty good interviewer too. The CEO of Goldman Sachs spent nearly 40 minutes at a San Francisco banking conference Wednesday gently probing Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, with questions that yielded some interesting answers.
Solomon’s query on competition yielded a surprising response given that Amazon executives typically say with a straight face they pay no attention whatsoever to competitors. On the downside, Solomon managed to avoid asking Jassy about AWS’s failed quest to win the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud-computing contract or its quixotic effort to depose Donald Trump about it.
- Jassy stressed that AWS sells to “every imaginable business vertical,” a key marketing point for the Amazon unit, given its roots of selling first to itself and then, for years, primarily to startups. Jassy also referenced the 6,500 government agencies worldwide that are AWS customers—though he didn’t call out any, such as the CIA—and he mentioned several times the importance of “public sector” clients.
- Leaders and followers in cloud computing like to stress how early-days it is for the technology. Jassy quantified matters with a baseball metaphor: “Two outs, bottom of the first, runners on board,” he said. “Runs have been scored, though.” Translation: Many big companies have yet to convert from owning their own data center to renting computing services. But Jassy’s “runs scored” means it’s a real business already. He thinks the trend is so big, by the way, that “we won’t get to the ninth inning in my lifetime (of) working.”
- Jassy said Amazon was surprised how long it took competitors to catch on to what AWS was doing, saying his company has a six-to-seven-year head start. No matter how hard the likes of Microsoft, Google, and IBM (none of whom he named) work, he thinks AWS retains an advantage due to better functionality, a larger ecosystem of partners, and more experience.
- He pooh-poohed the notion that Amazon’s competitive zeal in the rest of its business will hurt its ability to win customers. For one, technology buyers will buy the best, which, naturally, is AWS. And he sought to dispel the “myth” that Amazon crushes all comers. The three areas he called out are worth noting: Amazon is pursuing a healthcare initiative but great healthcare companies still exist; Amazon tried and failed to make a phone; Amazon has aspirations in payments but “PayPal seems to be doing okay.”
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.