How Important is the Useful Quotient for Elastic Cloud Services Like Amazon AWS?

We opened an account with Amazon AWS in February of this year. We consider our organization to be technically capable. We write daily on technology topics for clients. We put together a publishing system for static web pages back in 2003 with a combination of a Python script (authored by the author of the Walk plugin for VIM) and our own AWD and SED scripts, which produced tens of thousands of web pages, perfectly, over a 3 year period. We also recently built a SharePoint Server 2013 Virtual Machine and hosted it on premises with VMware Player.

But we couldn’t get AWS to work. The documentation was too opaque. We simply wanted to run WordPress and to migrate our present hosting plan for this blog and a couple of others over to our AWS account. The likely cost savings were compelling. Two weeks into our experiment we had to shut down the service.

On Friday, April 12, 2013, Quentin Hardy wrote a piece in the online edition of the New York Times, Bezos’s Shout-Out for His Cloud Service. Reading this article made us pause. How does Jeff Bezos plan on getting lots of organizations to use this service? The article estimates Amazon’s revenue from AWS as ” . . . small, accounting for most of the $2.5 billion in “other” revenue Amazon made in 2012″. But we question if it produced anywhere near the $2.5 billion figure.

There is a kind of hubris in building technical products that look very inexpensive and value-rich, but somehow elude even the strongest efforts of most users to implement as they need. In our opinion there is little vision in solutions like AWS, today, which lacks the documentation and customer support required for most users to successfully operate the service.

Quentin Hardy’s article characterizes Jeff Bezos as a visionary who ” . . . is all about the long game.” But we can’t see his point, at least in this example. We think a truly expansive approach to the product would have included the expense of outfitting AWS with the documentation and customer support required to ensure the success of most users.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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