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What do you think about when you think of household technology companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon?
- Microsoft has their operating system
- Google has their search engine
- Amazon has their marketplace.
But what do all of these companies have in common? Each of these companies provide their platform as a service.
- Microsoft offers Azure
- Google offers GCP
- Amazon offers AWS
Application developers need infrastructure to build and ship their products, and these three companies are providing it. Companies acquire a dependency on these cloud services to run their applications. The result is win-win. Companies can use these cloud services to seamlessly scale up, and the cloud providers make more money when they do.
In Steve Yegge's rant on platforms, Yegge wrote how in 2002, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously issued a mandate that said something along the lines of:
- All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
- Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
- There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team's data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
- It doesn't matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols—doesn't matter.
- All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
- Anyone who doesn't do this will be fired.
- Thank you; have a nice day!
Bezo's mandate birthed what has become AWS, a leading cloud provider that serves many big-name companies. According to how Amazon makes money, AWS alone brings in about 50% of Amazon's operating income.
Operating income is the profit realized from a business's operations after deducting operating expenses such as wages, depreciation, and cost of goods sold (COGS). - Investopedia
The result of Amazon following through with Bezo's mandate undoubtedly turned out to be fruitful for Amazon's business as well as all of the companies that utilize its services.
The platform your company provides doesn't have to try and achieve the same goals as AWS. Stripe is a company that provides an API for processing payments. According to Forbes, the company now has a valuation of \$35 billion. This goes to show the demand for quality tools for which developers can build apps upon.
The platform you provide doesn't have to what your company is known for either. Many companies like Reddit and Twitter offer an external API that developers can use to build apps that interact with Reddit's and Twitter's services.
I'm curious to know what you think.
- When would it be a good idea to make a company's platform a product, either by exposing an external API or offering some sort of infrastructure?
- When would it not make sense to offer a company's platform as a product?
Let me know what you think on Twitter!