He took over Amazon’s biggest money maker. Now he faces a new set of challenges


Selipsky was no stranger to AWS. He first joined Amazon’s cloud computing division in 2005, even before its services were made available to the public. But in 2016, after 11 years in the business, he left. In his five years as head of data visualization company Tableau, the business and industry have changed dramatically, bringing Selipsky a new set of challenges.

AWS’s annual revenue nearly quadrupled during this period, and the the pandemic caused a huge wave in demand for cloud computing and cloud-based services. Corn the competitive landscape has also intensified. While AWS has pioneered cloud technology and is a long-time industry leader, competitors like Microsoft (MSFT) azure and Google (GOOGLE GOOGLE) The cloud has stolen part of its market share.
In 2019, Microsoft won a contract to modernize the Pentagon’s IT infrastructure in a deal worth up to $ 10 billion over 10 years, a blow to AWS, which previously struck a deal with the Department. The contract was eventually canceled after Amazon protested that former President Donald Trump had unfairly influenced the deal, but it signaled that AWS may no longer be the obvious choice for such projects. major.
Now both companies are expected to bid – potentially along with others such as Google cloud and Oracle – for the Department of Defense’s new Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract to replace the 2019 agreement.

But in one of his first interviews since taking office as CEO of AWS, Selipsky seemed confident about his company’s prospects. The new AWS chief said he believes his company still has an edge over Microsoft to win the government job.

“We were truly the first in the cloud to have big and big government contracts in all areas of government and years ahead of any competition,” he told CNN Business in an exclusive interview last week, which took place in the new AWS Skills Center. at the company’s headquarters. “We learned a lot about how to do cloud implementations and how to work closely with federal government customers,” he said.

He added, “I think you’ll find, especially given our leadership position, that our competitors spend a lot more time talking and worrying about AWS than we do about them – we choose. to focus on our customers. ”

(While such contracts are good for business, some employees have already challenged the company’s work for certain government agencies, including immigration and customs enforcement – a dynamic that can only add to the challenges. of Selipsky in the role.)

Selipsky said Amazon never planned to be the only winner in the cloud. And the industry has certainly grown large enough to accommodate more than one major player – public cloud spending is expected to reach over $ 300 billion this year, according to Gartner estimates from April.

“In any interesting, fast growing market segment, there is going to be competition,” he said. “We always thought that there wouldn’t be a lot of winners, but a small handful of winners that emerge and have strong competition, and that’s what we see. But we’re still the important leader.”

We “really encourage” employees to speak up

Shortly after Selipsky took over AWS, the company faced a different challenge from within. A group of employees circulated a petition alleging discrimination and harassment of women and minorities in one of AWS’s business units, after which the company hired an outside company to investigate. Similar employee activism has emerged recently at Apple, Google and video game company Activision Blizzard.
While some companies appeared irritated by the unionization of employees (AWS parent company Amazon has come under fire for what some see as anti-union efforts), Selipsky said he believed workers speaking out could ultimately be good for the business.
Amazon hires outside investigators after employee petition alleges discrimination and harassment

“I really like that people are really putting themselves to work and speaking out – we really encourage it,” he said. “I’ve found that if you have a really good process and you really listen and show people that you take the time to listen, even if they don’t agree with you at the end of the day, we can all lock our arms and move forward together. “

He continued: “I am really happy that there are a lot of topics being discussed today that perhaps were less discussed in the workplace five, 10 or 20 years ago.”

Another growing concern of the cloud industry is that the data centers it relies on are power hungry. Much of that computing still relies on fossil fuels, but Selipsky said AWS is working to change that in line with Amazon’s broader promise to be net zero carbon across the business. ‘by 2040. Amazon’s climate commitment was announced in 2019, just ahead of a planned walkout. by employees on the company’s perceived inaction on climate change.

“Amazon intends to be 100% renewable energy by 2025 (…) and we’re already around two-thirds of it, so we’re making significant progress,” he said. “Given our size and scale and things like the data centers that we operate, we really need to use them with renewable energy to achieve this goal. [2040] goal. We do a lot of innovation ourselves, we do a lot of partnerships with a lot of companies, a lot of governments, a lot of nonprofits to achieve these goals. ”

Selipsky will have its first chance to speak to customers at AWS’s annual cloud conference, Re: Invent, in Las Vegas later this month. He said customers should expect announcements in some of “our oldest and most basic services, such as compute, databases and storage,” as well as “exciting announcements on top level services and industry specific solutions “.

“It is absolutely imperative that we continue to understand [customers’] evolving needs, which change very quickly, and we will evolve with them, ”he said.


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