According to Randy Bias of Cloudscaling, Amazon is closing in on $1 billion a year in revenue for AWS, and he predicts that it’s on track to be the biggest infrastructure and hosting company in the world. There’s little in its way, says Bias, because its competitors don’t understand its formula. Actually, it’s worse than that – Bias says that the reason most people don’t understand why Amazon is succeeding is because they don’t want to.

It sounds counter-intuitive to say that Amazon’s competitors don’t want to understand its secrets for success. What Bias is actually saying is that Amazon’s competitors don’t want to admit that its simplicity would be the reason it’s successful. Complexity is far too profitable.

Putting Control in the Hands of Developers

So why is AWS succeeding? Bias says that the secret to success for Amazon is not what it lets you do, it’s what they don’t let you do. More accurately, Bias says Amazon’s secret is “simplicity and reduction of choice.” Amazon reduced customer choice, simplified the network model, and forced constraints on the developers that “effectively changed the game for the next generation of applications.”

To some, it looks like Amazon was screwing up by not proving a replica of the enterprise network in the cloud. Bias says that actually works to Amazon’s advantage. And its customers’. “AWS’ success is because they ignored the prevailing pattern in enterprise data centers.”

Bias says that Amazon has actually empowered developers by forcing constraints. “Amazon EC2 is a fabulous service that empowers developers by reducing and systematically removing choice. Fit the app to the infrastructure, not the infrastructure to the app, says AWS. But why? It may not seem apparent, but the reason Amazon has simplified and reduced choice is to keep their own costs down.”

Simpler is Better

I’m not sure I agree entirely with Bias’ post, but I think there’s some truth to it. I also wonder whether Amazon actually sees it this way. My take on AWS was that Amazon decided to try to make unused infrastructure work for it, then realized what an opportunity cloud services offer. AWS started with EC2 as a stripped down service because that was what they could launch – just as they did with in the early days. It don’t think the AWS team started with the idea that the constraints would be what made AWS successful.

I’d be interested to hear from AWS users and developers on this one. Do you agree that AWS’ “secret sauce” is simplicity?