Amazon Web Services commercial success inspired by local engineers
30 April 2021
Andy Jassy built his profitable reputation by forming a successful division within Amazon, that started on our local shores. 24 years ago, he was the technical assistant to Jeff Bezos initiating Amazon Web Services. Jassy would eventually head the department as chief executive officer. This division spearheaded the 21st century’s computer storage systems and currently contributes to over 50% of the company’s operating income.
Freelance engineers and developers from Cape Town played a fundamental role in creating Amazon Web Services. The group leader Chris Pinkham pitched the idea of a new internet system feature to Amazon while managing the brand’s entire international framework. He then established Amazon’s operating system development centre in Cape Town that became ground zero for Amazon Web Services as they created the first-ever elastic compute cloud, named EC2.
The software for EC2 is still essential to the running of Amazon’s Web Services application. It leases computer cloud space, network connections and virtual computers using Amazon’s international framework. In 1993, before working for Amazon, Chris Pinkham built the country’s very first internet service provider aptly named, Internet Africa. After some time, he then started an operating system company called Nimbula which was purchased in 2013 by tech giant Oracle and is currently supporting the company’s extensive storage framework. For two years he was also Vice President of Engineering for renowned social media app Twitter from 2015 to 2017.
Andy Jassy recognised the outstanding job done by the engineers from the Mother City in a media statement announcing Amazon’s proposal for new data centres on the continent, “Having built the original version of Amazon EC2 in our Cape Town development centre 14 years ago, and with thousands of African companies using AWS for years, we’ve been able to witness first-hand the technical talent and potential in Africa,” he pleasantly expressed.
The local engineers and developers were essential in building and operating a large component of the EC2’s core, allowing Amazon Web Services to expand its local footprint. So far they have permanently employed over 7,000 South Africans who are qualified in a variety of fields such as architecture, account management, stakeholder management and customer relations. Amazon has also released more offerings and improved its local system framework by opening new data centres across the country in 2020.
“In many ways, Andy Jassy has been the CEO-in-waiting for many years. He built AWS into the world’s leading cloud services platform, starting almost from scratch, with a set of ideas,” says Arthur Goldstuck, the managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading South African technology market research organisation. “It is precisely this kind of quality that characterises the Amazon story, and he will follow neatly in Jeff Bezos’s footsteps.”
Expert researchers in the country see Andy Jassy being named chief executive as a signal of Amazon’s intent to invest more in the sector. “Jassy’s core focus has always been the expansion of AWS,” expressed Obadiah Jeshuren Naidoo who is a local connected services advisor. “Satya Nadella led the Azure cloud computing path with Microsoft, and his appointment as CEO ensured the push of Azure with Microsoft. Similarly, my gut feelings are that Jassy will push the cloud stack with Amazon.”
Jon Tullet a leading US analyst for digital marketing strategist company IDC, said Amazon appointing Jassy highlights the concentration on its best qualities. “Connected services are a huge future for Amazon. Not just AWS, but artificial intelligence, connected lifestyle services, automation, and many other areas,” noting, “These are all areas Jassy has been actively cultivating.”
Blue-chip companies such as Amazon see the limitless potential in the Western Cape. Through their investment in local markets, it helps them diversify, creating new technologies as a result of the City having one of the largest open-access fibre networks in Africa. This is added motivation for companies who seek solid growth to invest in Cape Town.