​Adam Selipsky speaks at Dreamforce in 2019.
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Welcome back to AWS, Adam Selipsky. Here's your to-do list.

Protocol Enterprise

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Thursday: AWS's new CEO faces old challenges, Intel makes a major chip announcement, and who will insure the insurers?

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The Big Story

Meet the new boss

Adam Selipsky's appointment as only the second CEO in AWS history took the enterprise tech world a little bit by surprise this week. Insiders widely expected a current executive to be promoted into the vacancy left by Andy Jassy's elevation, according to several reports (including Protocol's).

Selipsky is not exactly an outsider, however. He led sales and marketing at AWS for 11 years, starting before the launch of S3. He played an instrumental role growing Amazon's cloud business from a curiosity to $12 billion in sales during 2016, the year he left to become CEO of data-visualization provider Tableau.

So much has changed in five years. He returns to a much more competitive cloud infrastructure market.

  • Microsoft was getting back on track in 2016, but had only a fraction of AWS's share of the infrastructure market. It has more than doubled its presence since then.
  • Google Cloud was also finding its way at that time, still working to shed a reputation for evangelizing "the Google Way" of infrastructure rather than what customers actually needed.
  • Kubernetes changed the landscape of cloud computing over those next few years, cementing containers as the new building block of cloud infrastructure.
  • The arrival of larger enterprise customers forced cloud vendors to evolve. Multicloud was a forbidden word at AWS in 2016. Now, hybrid cloud strategies are gaining traction.

AWS does not need a course correction. But as Jassy put it last December, "It is really hard to build a business that lasts successfully for many years, and to do it, you're going to have to reinvent yourself."

Anyone who has worked inside a high-performing organization knows that the quality of the people they work with matters as much, if not more, than the company's strategy.

  • Retaining the talent that was responsible for building AWS into an enormous company will be Selipsky's most important job.
  • AWS is notorious in enterprise tech for paying less in cash than you can make on the open market. It has still managed to retain world-class talent thanks to its mission and generous stock grants. Amazon stock is up roughly 400% since Selipsky left.
  • It has also been on a hiring binge during those years. While Selipsky is very familiar to a core group of long-serving AWS executives, he's a new face to many.
  • Still, he hasn't forgotten the culture: Sources told Protocol's Joe Williams that Selipsky brought several Amazonian tactics over to Tableau, including an emphasis on written communication ahead of meetings.

Selipsky will now become the external face of AWS. That could be as big a job as managing the company if threats of regulation and investigations bear fruit.

  • A more competitive cloud infrastructure market is actually a good thing for AWS in that sense. It reduces the pressure for the Biden administration, which will have its hands full with social media and web companies, to look at this market.
  • But the prospect of separating AWS from Amazon, a theoretical parlor game under Jassy, could become much more real on Selipsky's watch.
  • A maturing cloud market means Selipsky will likely spend much of his time courting large enterprise customers, something that appeared to be in his wheelhouse at both AWS and Tableau.

Those pressures will make maintaining AWS's culture a challenge. It gets harder and harder to swallow the trope that it's always "Day One" at Amazon. The company is 26 years old, and AWS has been in the cloud infrastructure market for 15 of those years. That legacy and Amazon's sheer size makes it harder to remember how new ventures have to hustle to win customers.

  • "The danger is that as ['Day Two'] happens, decision-making can slow down, and the company can become less agile, moving further and further away from the customer as it rotates focus towards internal challenges rather than external customer-centric innovation," according to Dan Slater of AWS.
  • No company can avoid such internal challenges. The real danger of "Day One" rhetoric is pretending they don't exist.

Selipsky must strike a balance. And he'll be getting a crash course on his return. Selipsky will return to AWS in May, according to a companywide email sent by Jassy Tuesday. After some mentoring at Jassy's side, Selipsky will take the AWS reins sometime in the third quarter.

— Tom Krazit


"We're moving faster now than we've ever moved, and we'll never move this slow again." ICYMI, catch a glimpse of what the future looks like for developers in this Protocol interview with Stacey Shulman, VP and General Manager in Intel's Internet of Things Group for Health, Life Sciences, and Emerging Technologies.

Watch now

This Week On Protocol

Sea legs: DigitalOcean didn't get the IPO-day pop that makes for a fun celebration when the closing bell rings, but CEO Yancey Spruill runs a company that is content to follow its own path. A boutique cloud surrounded by trillion-dollar giants, DigitalOcean is betting that developer experience will matter to cloud buyers looking for substance.

Under controls: The road along the journey from analog to digital is littered with companies that didn't make it, and Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk is determined to avoid the same fate. Protocol's Joe Williams discussed that transition with Adamczyk during our most recent Protocol | Enterprise live event, and you can find a video and transcript of that conversation here.

Lost and foundry: During Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger's first big press conference since returning to the storied chip maker, he announced that Intel is going to ramp up plans to make chips designed by other companies. That's a big shift in the history of Intel. Here's our look at how Intel got to this point and why it believes U.S. chip manufacturing is about to be back in a big way.

Five Questions For...

Tomer Shiran, Founder of Dremio

What was your first tech job?

When I was 17 I published a book on JavaScript, the year it was invented by Netscape. I then created a website called Doc JavaScript which included daily tips and tutorials, and at the height of the dot-com bubble, had over 4 million pageviews per month. The advertising revenue was great while it lasted!

Pick an app you can't live without.

WhatsApp. I use it to keep in touch with my family and my kids use it to communicate with their grandparents. While I'm generally of the opinion that social networking has done more harm than good, the accessibility of video calls has had a positive impact on society. In many ways, this is similar to how Zoom, Teams and Meet have enabled the economy and schools to continue operating this year.

What was the first computer that made you realize the power of computing and connectivity?

My first computer was the Macintosh Plus. My dad was a Ph.D. student at Stanford at the time and would bring one home on the weekends. It wasn't until years later when my dad was working at Intel in Haifa, Israel, that I was exposed to software development and the power of the internet. The first time I learned about the internet was at an open-house event for Intel employee families in which we got to play around with the Mosaic browser and check out the directory of websites called Yahoo.

What will be the biggest challenge for cloud computing over the coming decade?

Cloud adoption will continue at a rapid pace in the coming decade. One of the biggest challenges companies will face in the cloud is the explosion in data and the need to manage all that data. Historically, limitations of data infrastructure technology has caused companies to struggle with this, and has led to never-ending copying of data.

What is one book that changed your professional mindset?

"The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz. As an entrepreneur and CEO, you are going to have many sleepless nights, and it's going to get quite lonely at times. While we have had significant success at Dremio, this book was a fun reminder that success is not easy even when it appears to be from the outside looking in.

Around the Enterprise


"We're moving faster now than we've ever moved, and we'll never move this slow again." ICYMI, catch a glimpse of what the future looks like for developers in this Protocol interview with Stacey Shulman, VP and General Manager in Intel's Internet of Things Group for Health, Life Sciences, and Emerging Technologies.

Watch now

Thanks for reading — see you Monday.

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