Enterprise tech buyers have worried about the prospect of “lock-in” — in which their vendors make it nearly impossible to take their business elsewhere — across decades of technology. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos thinks Amazon Web Services customers have nothing to fear.
“My own opinion is that we work as hard as possible to make the switching costs as low as possible,” said Bezos during Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday in Seattle, explaining that he believes this is the best long-term strategy for customers and for the company’s business. But he went on to say that there are certain aspects of cloud computing that make switching providers somewhat difficult, given that simply learning how to best implement a cloud provider’s service inside a customer’s tech strategy requires a fair amount of investment.
The APIs, or application programming interfaces, required to use cloud service take a long time for developers to learn, and the number of APIs is growing at a very fast rate, Bezos noted. As a result, he said, most customers “ultimately decide to go all in with one vendor because of the complexity of managing two different systems,” and the associated learning curves.
“You never want your customers to be trapped,” Bezos said. “You want your customers to stay with you because it’s the best service. And our mentality inside the company is always that our customers are loyal to us right up until the second that somebody else offers them a better service.”
A lot of the flak AWS takes with respect to lock-in worries stems from the fact that it was so early to the cloud game that customers with a budding interest in cloud computing — or startups with limited funding — grew up around its services, closely building their own applications and services around the evolution of AWS. That world has changed quite a bit, as Microsoft and Google now offer cloud computing services that are competitive with the breadth and depth of services offered by AWS.
And as more and more companies like Sabre embrace containers and microservices as part of their new application-development strategies, their applications become inherently more portable than applications built in less-flexible ways atop cloud infrastructure. AWS was a little slower than its counterparts to embrace the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and Kubernetes, but it eventually got the memo and in AWS Fargate now offers one of the more interesting container-management services on the market.
The rise of serverless computing might tip the balance again. If containers make portability easier and everything else complicated, serverless computing makes everything else easier while making portability nearly impossible.
With the early release of Lambda, AWS has serious mindshare among developers experimenting with this evolving technology. If applications built around functions and events become commonplace over the next five years, customers might not find themselves “trapped,” exactly, but wearing a pair of useful and comfortable golden handcuffs.
We’ll have detailed discussions about the current state of both containers and serverless computing at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, June 27th in Bellevue, which also features AWS vice president of infrastructure Peter DeSantis.
GeekWire’s Kaitlyn Wang contributed to this report.