Many people know Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for its dominant retail operations and smart-home speaker Alexa. However, the company's fastest-growing and most profitable segment is Amazon Web Services. AWS is the company's cloud computing division, which allows businesses to store their data and applications in Amazon's massive data centers.
"Renting" space from Amazon is far cheaper and more flexible than traditional on-premise solutions, which is why cloud computing is turning the enterprise IT world upside-down. AWS grew a whopping 42.7% in the most recent quarter while posting a 24.3% operating margin. Synergy Research Group puts AWS at 40% cloud market share, almost double that of Microsoft, Alphabet, and IBM combined. According to IDC, the cloud market is set to grow 25% this year, making it one of the highest-growth industries today.
Still, with so much going right, Amazon is never one to stand still. In fact, the company just hired a computing legend who could take AWS to an even higher level.
On May 22, Amazon announced the hiring of James Gosling, the 62-year-old inventor of the ubiquitous Java programming language, which Gosling invented while working for Sun Microsystems in the 1990s. Gosling left Sun Microsystems after it was acquired by Oracle in 2010, then worked briefly at Alphabet, before moving on to a start-up called Liquid Robotics.
Liquid Robotics makes the Wave Glider, an autonomous ocean robot that operates without fuel, and serves the defense, surveillance, environmental assessment, and oil and gas industries. Liquid Robotics was acquired by Boeing in late 2016.
In a May 22 Facebook post, Gosling said he was starting a "new adventure" with Amazon Web Services as a Distinguished Engineer. In hiring Gosling, Amazon not only scored his big talent, but potentially much more as well.
Interestingly, Gosling had actually spoken recently about Amazon and the cloud industry, and not in a positive light. At the 2016 IP EXPO in Seattle, he warned of the dangers of "cloud lock-in," meaning that once you choose a cloud provider for your infrastructure, it may be very hard to move:
You get cloud providers like Amazon saying: "Take your applications and move them to the cloud." But as soon as you start using them you're stuck in that particular cloud... In my case [at Liquid Robotics] there are no providers I'm happy with. Lots would make my life hugely easier, but convincing coast guards from random countries that they should trust Amazon is really hard.
Gosling is not alone in his concern. Mary Meeker's recent Internet Trends report revealed that companies are increasingly wary of cloud lock-in, with 22% being very concerned, up from only 7% in 2012.
Since Gosling has now agreed to go to AWS, he could play a vital role in convincing wary customers that the cloud is safe to embrace. AWS, the largest cloud player, is still only at a $15 billion run rate, while Gartner estimates the total addressable market of the cloud IT spend is $1 trillion. If Gosling can help Amazon convince the holdouts to come over to the cloud, AWS could potentially win an even larger share of this massive market.
Internet of Things
Gosling is also an interesting hire because at Liquid Robotics he worked in both database programming and the Internet of Things (IoT); the IoT is another huge market forecast to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020.
AWS's IoT platform was first unveiled in 2015 , and Amazon has been rumored to be in talks with DISH Network (NASDAQ:DISH) regarding a possible IoT network based on Dish's spectrum holdings. Clearly, Amazon is looking to be the big player in this market, by linking its massive storage and data-processing capabilities with "smart" devices.
Amazon had recently inked deals with appliance company Whirlpool to embed Alexa in refrigerators and other home appliances, revealing its consumer IoT ambitions. However, Gosling's cross-disciplinary experience could help AWS make further inroads in the industrial, corporate, and public IoT sectors that were served by Liquid Robotics.
AWS is already the leading cloud computing platform, but it's still early innings in the cloud revolution. The recent hire of James Gosling is a coup that could bring AWS to an even higher level.