How was Amazon AWS born: from near-bankruptcy to key global asset

This is a brief story, told by Dan Rose, of how betting on a risky choice and almost bankrupting Amazon in the process, 20 years ago, turned out to lead the way to one of the key global digital assets of our time: Amazon Web Services.

In 2000, the internet bubble popped. Capital markets dried up and Amazon was burning $1 billion a year, with expensive Sun servers at their data centers as their largest expense.

The company spent a year replacing Sun servers with HP/Linux machines, which formed the foundation for AWS. Linux kernel had only been released in 1994, the same year Amazon started, so it was a novel and risky approach at the time.

The transition made Amazon freeze all new features for over a year, causing a deceleration in revenue growth. Amazon came close to going bankrupt around that time. With the infrastructure completed, Amazon then decided to rent it out as the company only needed high capacities during peak retail seasons.

Amazon, founded in 1994, is the world’s largest online retailer of books, clothing, electronics, music and other goods and, in 2019, earned net sales revenue of over 280 billion U.S. dollars.
Amazon’s service offerings have increased over the years and now include a retail products branch, retail third-party seller services, retail subscription services, Amazon Web Services (AWS) as well as other related services.

Due to global interest in cloud services and the disruption they are causing across various sectors, AWS has played an increasingly important role in the cloud services industry and has become an important revenue earner for Amazon. In 2013, AWS earned revenues of just over 3 billion U.S. dollars, a number which has since ballooned and sits at over 35 billion U.S. dollars as of 2019.
(Source: Statista)

Dan Rose “spent 20 years in leadership roles at both Amazon and Facebook. Dan was at Amazon from 1999-2006, where he managed retail divisions and helped incubate the Kindle. As a VP at Facebook from 2006-2019, Dan helped grow the company from 130 employees to 35,000 and was responsible for early monetization strategy, business development, M&A and community operations.”
(Source: LinkedIn)

In a set of tweets, he recalls how it all happened.

And this is where genius strikes!

Amazon AWS was born!

Thank you Dan for sharing this story, truly inspirational!