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What's it like for an enterprise to do business with Amazon Web Services? For journalists, it's pretty weird.
I was working on a cloud computing story recently and turned to my AWS public relations contact to request a briefing with an executive who could explain its relevant offerings, and generally, tell Amazon's side of the story. This is the kind of request that most PR people usually love to get, and it tends to kick off a frantic search for the right media-trained executive to get on the phone, a raft of case studies and white papers for me to review, a list of pre-approved analysts to talk to for further comments and, in most cases, a customer reference or two.
Do you worry that playing by Amazon's rules will come back to haunt you?
Not so with Amazon. The most it was willing to offer me was a conversation with a representative from their PR agency "on background," i.e., such that I could report the gist of the information, but without using any direct quotes or attribution.
Colleagues that cover AWS extensively tell me this is standard practice. "When they do talk, it's always off the record," said Beth Pariseau, senior news writer on SearchAWS.
Conversations with AWS customers suggest journalists aren't alone in this stonewalling. My sources described harrowing attempts at trying to get explanations about the technical makeup of its services -- to say nothing of in-writing guarantees or assurances about performance or availability. What's that old saying? Never put in writing what you wouldn't tell your mother or wouldn't want to read on the front page of the New York Times, err, Washington Post.
I'm not saying I blame Amazon, but I do wonder how that evasiveness plays into business dealings with the company. For now, is using AWS so cheap and easy that it overrides any compunction that businesses may have about its lack of transparency? Do you worry that playing by Amazon's rules will come back to haunt you? (See the recent well-publicized spat between Amazon and Hachette.)
Or am I just thinking about AWS enterprise cloud all wrong? Is my mistake thinking about Amazon as an enterprise technology vendor, when it's really just a wholesaler of compute, network and disk resources? I'd love to hear your thoughts because, chances are, Amazon wouldn't tell me if I asked.
Alex Barrett is editor in chief of Modern Infrastructure. Write to her firstname.lastname@example.org.