Notes from Screaming in the Cloud with Joseph Ruscio

I have recently rediscovered the joy of listening to podcasts thanks to the AirPods I bought during the re:invent week. I like to take notes when I read books or listen to podcasts, and my friends find them useful as well.

So, I’m going to share with all of you my podcast notes on a regular basis, in addition to my usual serverless ramblings. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to get all my posts in your inbox ;-)

I just listened to Corey Quinn’s podcast (Screaming in the Cloud) with Joseph Ruscio from Heavybit. The full episode is available here, and here is my notes from this episode.

How can startups build defensible positions against the AWS behemoth?

Don’t compete with AWS on hosting, period. AWS would do a much better job at hosting MongoDB, or Redis, or <insert name of product here> than you can ever hope to be. And existing AWS customers would flock to the managed AWS service and abandon yours in a heartbeat.

But, it’s a long standing observation that Amazon is great at plumbing but terrible at painting. They’re great at identifying and meeting basic user needs but terrible at the UX/UI to drive it. So there’ll always be room for premium solutions. The AWS solutions would never be as sophisticated or as polished as yours because of your focus.

This is especially important for enterprise customers, who have complicated needs and wants a polished experience that is easy to use.

However, customer support and multi-cloud is not a good answer for building a defensible position against AWS.

On GCP’s failing in the race to be 2nd.

Azure is miles (4–5x) ahead of GCP in terms of revenue.

The lesson here is that: it’s not your platform capability that wins you the hearts and minds of customers, it’s your ability to meet customers where they are as opposed to telling them where they should be.

Google’s failing is that, culturally they just don’t understand how far out of their comfort zones customers are willing to go. There’s a lack of understanding of how their customers view the world.

Customers are only willing to get so far out of their comfort zones in one go. But over time you can get them to move much further once they are comfortable in their new surroundings. For example, in AWS, a common evolution is for customers to lift-and-shift existing solutions onto EC2, then they move into containers on ECS, and then they graduate to serverless.

Also, when you sell to someone and imply that they are incompetent because they don’t see the world your way, it makes for a terrible sales pitch!

Historically Google are also more interested in what they’re building than what they’re shipping. And there’s this willingness to deprecate things haphazardly, and that scares the crap out of enterprises, who are used to running software that are decades old. It’s about delivering business value, not about the latest and greatest technologies.

Shutting down consumer products like Google Reader (which I’m still bitter about) and Google+ also damaged the Google brand. They paint a picture of a company that is happy to do things that are good for them but damaging to their customers (seriously, I’m still bitter about Google Reader..).

AWS on the other hand, still runs SimpleDB! It’s not available on new accounts by default, but you can still request it via a support ticket.

Liked this article? Support me on Patreon and get direct help from me via a private Slack channel or 1-2-1 mentoring.
Subscribe to my newsletter


Hi, I’m Yan. I’m an AWS Serverless Hero and the author of Production-Ready Serverless.

I specialise in rapidly transitioning teams to serverless and building production-ready services on AWS.

Are you struggling with serverless or need guidance on best practices? Do you want someone to review your architecture and help you avoid costly mistakes down the line? Whatever the case, I’m here to help.

Hire me.


Check out my new course, Complete Guide to AWS Step Functions. In this course, we’ll cover everything you need to know to use AWS Step Functions service effectively. Including basic concepts, HTTP and event triggers, activities, callbacks, nested workflows, design patterns and best practices.

Get Your Copy