Amazon CTO Werner Vogels Talks About The Cloud And The Future Of Computing

wernervogels

Werner Vogels, a scheduled speaker at DLD14, is chief technology officer and vice-president at Amazon.com. Vogel, who is in charge of driving technology innovation within the company, has played a key role in developing Amazon’s Web Services and so has a unique view on the way people and businesses use the cloud. He recently spoke to Informilo’s Jennifer L. Schenker about how the cloud is driving innovation, how the Internet of Things is evolving, and what the Internet will look like ten years from now.

Q: Tell us how about the cloud is driving innovation.

A: A company called Cycle Computing is creating super computers on demand on the AWS [Amazon Web Services] cloud. These systems are being created for top pharmaceutical companies to perform scientific work — in this case molecular modeling. To be able to build a supercomputer of this size Cycle Computing had to launch the system across seven Amazon Web Services regions simultaneously. To give you an idea of the scale, the amount of RAM available on the compute nodes was roughly 58.8 terabytes, which means that it could hold the entirety of the current raw Wikipedia database 10 times over in memory. One of the companies making use of the supercomputing on demand is Schrödinger, a pharmaceutical technology firm that uses software to aid in drug discovery. It runs simulations to see how drugs and their targets will interact.

To build a system of this scale traditionally would take many months and could easily cost $20 million to $30 million. The Schrödinger project, by contrast, cost about $4,850 per hour to run. By spending $15,000 and doing this in the cloud for three hours they can speed up the development of cancer drugs by an order of magnitude. This could completely revolutionize cancer drug research. So, enormous innovation is being driven by the cloud.

Q: We have been hearing about the Internet of Things for a long time. We probably don’t need our refrigerator to notice we are low on milk and automatically reorder. What truly transformative things might the Internet of Things bring? What, in your opinion, is the timetable?

A: If we think about the consumer side of things I want content to follow me everywhere. To step on the treadmill and be able to access my books, my music, my videos and I want it all there immediately. And when I step in the car I want my content and services to follow me everywhere, not just in one particular location. There are a lot of new things — sensor-type devices generating lots of data, and integration has to happen. We are at the beginning of that sort of world — where you can place a dropcam — the little cameras that are Internet-enabled — and place it where you want and the video streams into the Amazon cloud and it can do analytics for you. Why monitor your front door on your own? They [the cameras] can monitor the data stream for you, process all of that video and send you alerts.

There will be many, many different devices generating analytics in the cloud, whether it be the Mars Rover or the Nest Thermostat or Illumina DNA sequencing. One very cool young company called Deconstruction.com targeting the construction industry monitors things like noise and other things that have an impact on surroundings such as temperature and humidity and places sensors all around construction sites so that the site owners can analyze in real time what is happening on their site. There is so much cool stuff beyond the fridge.

Q: So what role will Amazon play?

A: Our role is analytics or the processing of the data. It will all be happening in the cloud.

Q: There is speculation that one of the most logical applications for Amazon Web Services’ Kinesis, the company’s new data-streaming analytics platform, is processing raw data from sensor-equipped devices such as Google Glass on the so-called Internet of Things. Is this the vision?

A: The Internet of Things sensor-driven world is definitely using Kinesis real-time analytics and real-time processing today.

Q: Clearly a variety of technologies are starting to “understand” things about us and our environment. Big data, AI and machine learning are now creating entirely new context fields. Where is all of this headed?

A: Look at self-driving cars and autonomous drones. These things are no longer guided from a central point. They can be given a task and execute by themselves. We are also learning a lot from nature itself. Nature itself is extremely robust . There are many things we can learn from biology and incorporate back into the tech world to make it much more robust and reliable than it was in the past.

Q: What will the Internet look like ten years from now?

A: Ten years ago we didn’t have the cloud. For the generation growing up now Amazon.com was always there. Ten years from now there will be deeper integration. We will no longer ‘see’ the Internet. It will be deeply integrated into anything and everything we do. Everything is still physical today. We are still amazed that we can control the temperature of our house via cellphone but in ten years everything will be integrated, networked and controllable from any position. We will definitely see in the years to come many different ways of interacting with technology.

Today we have the LEAP motion control device for games that lets you motion with your hands in front of the computer and you can make it do things. Ten years from now you will see computer screens disappearing and computing power being integrated into every possible device that you have. Today you still control the lamps in your house. Philips sells one that lets you change the color of your walls to suit your mood. Today this is something you do as an individual — you change the mood in the house by making it a bit more green or yellowish but we will get to the point where the environment will be able to sense your mood through your body temperature or heart beat and through this interaction automatically change the color of the lighting to match how you are feeling.

This is something that is around the corner. Along with the watch measuring your heart beat and perspiration and the massive computational processes that sit in the middle, the cloud will play an extremely important role and actually steer the things that are going to happen.

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