How a Linux migration led to the creation of Amazon Web Services

Dan Rose chairman of Coatue Ventures and Coatue Growth posted a line on Twitter the other day 280 characters or less at a time in which he chronicled how it came almost that AWS infrastructure is built on Linux.

Rose was at Amazon from 1999 to 2006 where he managed retail divisions and helped incubate the Kindle reader precedently moving to Facebook. So he was at Amazon in 2000 when the internet trifle poppedand one high-flying dot-com behind another was shriveling up and dying having burned through laughable amounts of chief on voluptuous offices while frequently having nothing by way of a fruit to show for it.

Rose said Amazons biggest price was the data center outfitted with costly Sun servers. Amazons motto was ’get big fast’ and site stability was nice. Every second of downtime meant lost sales and Sun was the gold measure for internet servers back then. I can recall them having a expressive software business led by a VP named Eric Schmidt.

Suns proprietary stack was ’costly amp; sticky’ as Rose put it and it was designed that way. Back then the Unix market was Sun HP IBM and SGI and they all had variants of Unix operating systems that were designed to be less than movable.

But it is safe to say the soon internet was built on Sun—and not Solaris whichever. Sun had a second OS a BSD derivative named SunOS that had no GUI. (In the pre-DNS days while in college I cut my teeth on SunOS 3.x and had to acquire Unix command line. My leading ISP out of college dropped you into a SunOS shell and if you didnt know what to do staring at the % ready you were lost.)

As startups died in 2000 and liquidated their data-center gear brand-new Sun servers started appearing on eBay for 10 cents on the dollar. As a result Sun sales took a big hit which notable the commencement of the end for Sun.

Amazon could have used that difficulty to transact a better deal with Sun Rose posted but Jeff Bezos chose a more original access. Amazons CTO Rick Dalzell pivoted the whole engineering structure to restore Sun with HP/Linux. Today no one would wink at such a move but in 2000 it was relatively adventurous. After all Linux 1.0.0 the leading fruition-ready rendering had only been released in 1994.

’Six years later we were betting the company on it a novel and risky access at the time’ said Rose. Product outgrowth ground to a halt during the transition. The company froze all new features for over a year as it faced a huge backlog but nothing new could ship until they completed the shift to Linux.

During this time time income slowed. The dot-bomb implosion was continuing the administration was sliding into recession in 2001 and then 9/11 happened. Amazon came within a few quarters of going bankrupt Rose said.

’But once we started the transition to Linux there was no going back. All hands on deck refactoring our code base replacing servers preparing for the cutover. If it worked infra costs would go down by 80%+. If it failed the website would fall over and the company would die’ he wrote.

When it completed the transition the site chugged on with no disintegration. ’Capex was massively reduced overnight. And we suddenly had an infinitely scalable infrastructure’ said Rose. ’Then something even more interesting happened. As a retailer we had always faced huge seasonality with commerce and income surging see Nov/Dec. Jeff started to ponder—we have all this advance server space for 46 weeks/year why not rent it out to other companies?’

Around the same time Bezos was also interested in decoupling inner dependencies so teams could build without being gated by other teams. The architectural changes required to empower this loosely coupled standard became the API primitives for AWS. Bezos took an interesting view of things.

’He framed the idea in the tenor of the electric grid. In 1900 a business had to build its own generator to open a shop. Why should a business in 2000 have to build its own data center?’ Rose wrote.

He agreed that cloud infrastructure would have emerged eventually even without AWS but how much later and at what occasion cost? With the availability of AWS infrastructure as a labor the cost of rolling out a startup was reduced dramatically alteration exploded and the present venture chief ecosystem was born he said.