Amazon Reshapes Computing

August 30th, 2012

Great piece about Quentin Hardy about how Amazon’s web services have changed computing:

EdX, a global online education program from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, had over 120,000 students taking a single class together on A.W.S. Over 185 United States government agencies run some part of their services on A.W.S. Millions of people in Africa shop for cars online, using cheap smartphones connected to A.W.S. servers located in California and Ireland.

“We are on a shift that is as momentous and as fundamental as the shift to the electrical grid,” said Andrew R. Jassy, the head of A.W.S. “It’s happening a lot faster than any of us thought.”

I think of this along the same lines as increasing automation in manufacturing. It’s eliminating a tremendous amount of jobs, but it’s also (1) allowing products and services to be created that never could have existed before, and (2) means that people who had to do low-meaning work like build and maintain servers for online services can now focus on making those services better or creating new ones entirely.

In the short term, it creates a tremendous amount of dislocation and economic difficulty for people who suddenly can’t be employed at wages they used to receive. In the long-term, though, we’re commoditizing and automating these kinds of repetitive work so people can be freed up to focus on creating. I believe we’re in the middle of a revolution as important as the movement from agriculture to manufacturing.