only meet those requirements if we revamped how the database was built.
It must have been exciting to have an
opportunity to rethink what a modern
database should look like.
Building upon a db-log-aware storage service was a shift in mind-set,
but we knew we had the engineers
and the knowledge. Old-style database
transactions are quite expensive, easily
triggering 10–15 storage operations,
because they were developed with an
attached disk in mind.
AWS reinvented how companies ac-
cess data storage and infrastruc-
ture—supported by a lot of education
on your part.
were developed in the 1990s, don’t
offer a good base for that—nor, even,
do open-source databases like Post-greSQL and MySQL. We realized that
if we could just rip the whole architecture apart and redesign it in a reliable,
high-scale, cloud-native manner, we
would suddenly be able to build all
the functionalities that we wanted our
customers to have.
Modern database users expect everything to be serverless and get seamless replication over at least three datacenters. They expect to be able to have
instant backups and to be able to do instant schema changes without having
to do complete table copies. We could
AMAZON VICE PRESIDENT and chief technology officer Werner Vogels has kept
the company at the forefront of scalable systems since he joined in 2004.
Vogels was one of the main driving
forces behind the architecture of Amazon Web Services (AWS). His insistent
reminders that “everything fails all the
time” have been hugely influential to
the developers of high-availability systems. Here, he talks about continuing
to innovate in database technology—
and keeping up with customer needs.
You have followed an unconventional professional path, working at the
Netherlands Cancer Institute before
returning to school for a Ph.D. in
computer science. What drew you to
Originally, computer science just
seemed like a good career. In that era
—the mid-1980s—there were many
areas that were completely undiscovered, and distributed systems was one
of them. I liked research, and it turned
out I had a gift for it.
Let’s talk about Amazon Aurora, which
recently won the 2019 ACM SIGMOD
Systems Award. When did you first realize the time had come to reconceptu-alize the stack?
Our biggest goal with Aurora was
to make life easier for our customers, and to do that, the database required a lot of modern innovations.
Most database architectures, which [CONTINUED ON P. 95]
All the Time’
Werner Vogels, an expert on ultra-scalable systems,
talks about listening to customers, reconceptualizing the stack,
and building a product-centered culture.
DOI: 10.1145/3374762 Leah Hoffmann
“If we could just rip
the whole architecture
apart and redesign it in
a reliable, high-scale,
we would suddenly
be able to build all
that we wanted
our customers to have.”