Werner Vogels

CTO: Amazon.com

E-Commerce at Interplanetary Scale
45 minutes, 20.7mb, recorded 2005-03-15
Werner Vogels
Just how do you go about ensuring that future colonists on Mars can get hold of the books they've ordered online? After all, when space research makes a break-through and space colonization becomes a reality, Amazon.com would like to be the preferred way to order retail products anywhere in the universe. Amazon.com's CTO Werner Vogels takes this lighthearted problem of interplanetary distribution as the starting point for his talk on the issues facing the builders of scalable and robust distributed systems.

Amazon.com currently runs the world's largest online retail operation but is starting to prepare itself already for what could be described as a more universal presence. Because the scale of its operations is unparalleled, the software required to run its distributed operation is so complex that no software vendor is capable of delivering a solution of adequate robustness and scalability. This has led to Amazon.com itself becoming one of the premier high-tech companies developing globally scalable distributed systems.

Using an array of entertaining metaphors combined with real-life examples, Vogels describes the principles underlying the new technologies at the heart of any attempt to guarantee robust operation on anything approaching a genuinely global scale. The presentation focuses especially on the role played by Chaos, Biology, and Evolution principles in the development of software services that can self-organize and self-regenerate, achieving service stability in a world that is continuously in flux. Vogels begins by explaining how the spread of an epidemic can provide a model for the spread of information throughout a network and then shows how techniques based on that model can be used to create ultra-scalable software infrastructures that exhibit unparalleled robustness and scalability properties. He also explores how, by using viral data dissemination, it has become possible to achieve global data consistency without sacrificing either availability or scalability.

IT Conversations' publication of this session is underwritten by your donations and:

"GoToMeeting is one of the best online conferencing tools I've come across so far. It is also one of the most economical. GoToMeeting lets you share your screen safely and easily through corporate firewalls almost instantly."
Torsten Jacobi, Editor tjacobi.com

Werner Vogels is Chief Technology Officer at Amazon.com. His role there is to help develop technologies that increase the reliability and scalability of the organization's operation.

Before joining Amazon, Vogels was a research scientist at Cornell University, where he was a principal investigator in several projects researching the scalability and robustness of mission-critical enterprise computing systems. He has also acted as VP of Technology and CTO in companies that have specialized in taking academic technology and applying it to industrial situations.

Vogels holds a Ph.D. from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. In addition to being a regular speaker at technology conferences, he is the author of a large number of journal articles, the bulk of which have been on distributed systems technologies for enterprise computing.


This presentation is one of a series from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference held in San Diego, California, March 14-17, 2005.

For Team ITC:

This free podcast is from our Emerging Technology Conference series.