Vogels: Pandemic Binge-Watching Demonstrates Value of Cloud

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels gave the keynote at the recent AWS Summit Online in the form of a pre-recorded video from his home in Amsterdam. But instead of presenting his usual lineup of product and feature announcements, the company's rock-star engineer focused on how pandemic-driven uses of the cloud -- including binge-watching content from streaming services -- is proving the value at scale of his company's cloud computing platform.

"Considering how many top streaming services run on AWS, it's a testament to scale on AWS," Vogels said.

He underscored his claim with a pair of graphs illustrating the rocket rise of binge-watching during the lockdown. One showed that daytime global streaming viewing hours were up 39 percent in March 2020 over March 2019. The other provided a comparison in billions of viewing minutes during the same periods: 69.8 billion last year compared with 161.4 this year.

Vogels managed to make his point without mentioning Netflix by name. The market-dominating streaming service is a longtime AWS customer, but the Amazon Prime Video service is now a direct competitor.

He also predicted that the 2020 lockdown would mark the beginning of a new era in which virtually all organizations will be cloud-based, allowing workers to access any application or service "from anywhere at any time." He pointed to the rapid rise of telemedicine during the lockdown as an example of an adaptation that's likely to stick.

"If nothing else, these past few months have truly ushered in an era in technology where we are seeing fundamental shifts in how everyone is feeling," Vogels said, "not only in technology itself, but how to access that technology, as well as how we build that technology."

He added: "I continue to be inspired by how I've seen our customers pivot in response to the recent events in the world and how they've used technology to solve human problems."

"Foundational tech," which he argued the cloud has become, was another topic in Vogels' talk.

"Creating technology solutions is a lot like constructing a physical building," he said. "You need a solid foundation. If the foundation is not solid, it will cause structural problems that undermine the integrity and function of the building in the long term… In the light of current events, you could argue it's more important than ever to rapidly build solutions and respond to changes around us. You have to focus on these fundamental concepts in order to build stable, secure, efficient systems."

The AWS Summit Online comes in the midst of an intense dispute between AWS and Microsoft over the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract that was awarded to Microsoft last fall by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). AWS opposed the $10 billion deal in court, claiming "political interference" from President Donald Trump and citing the president's public attacks on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as a clear influence on the DoD.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at


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