Expands Israeli Operations

David Shamah of Times of Israel reports that plans to expand its operations in Israel. In his Start-Up Israel newsletter, he explains what this means:

In just a year and a half, Amazon has gone from simply supplying Israeli companies with cloud technology, to developing that technology here – and it’s hiring more than a hundred engineers and other tech personnel to fill new positions that are opening up in Israel.

And that’s likely just the beginning, said Harel Ifhar, Country Manager for Amazon Israel. “Our purchase last year of Israeli tech firm Annapurna, which is now an Amazon research and development lab, and the hiring of more engineers for separate R&D efforts, shows the faith Amazon has in Israeli technology, and affirms the company’s plans to continue investing and expanding here.”

Amazon made the announcement last week at a major tech event for Israeli customers of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, which allows companies to run their entire operations — from administration to development to product distribution — using Amazon’s cloud network.

AWS is especially popular in Israel among start-ups. Just how popular the company won’t disclose, but according to Ifhar, there were over 2,000 people at the AWS Tech Summit in Tel Aviv last Thursday.

AWS now counts some of Israel’s most well-known start-ups and fastest growing businesses as customers, including Wix, Kensho, Meerkat, Moovit, GetTaxi, Glide, Capriza, Iron Source, GameFly and Viber, as well as some of Israel’s most established enterprises such as Yes, Comverse, Bank Hapolim and Tadiran Telecom.

Most people know Amazon as a retail product site, aiming to become the world’s largest on-line department store (Wal-Mart retains that title) that long ago outgrew its original mission of becoming the world’s largest bookstore (which it is, by a wide margin).

But Amazon also seeks to be the world’s biggest cloud services provider to business (Microsoft is bigger, but not by much), and to expand its markets. The company has in recent months released a slew of new services, from machine learning systems and advanced cloud-based databases to an Internet of Things interface – the same kinds of services other cloud tech firms, including IBM and Microsoft, have been touting as well.

“The difference between us is that you don’t have to learn special skills or languages to use our interface,” said Ifhar. “The purpose of the [AWS] summit was to show how those technologies worked in the field. Instead of just putting up PowerPoint presentations, we actually had someone working with these services, producing a final product that was activated on a server. I can’t speak for other companies, but when we provide a service, we make sure it works as needed before introducing it.”

“As a result, customers are very happy with what we are giving them, and that is why we keep growing, in Israel and around the world,” Ifhar added. “We are very customer-focused; when customers ask us for new services, we develop them and thus stay ahead of the market, helping our customers to grow their business.” and Israel
For proof of the effectiveness of AWS, said Ifhar, one need go no further than a report issued by US tech industry market research, analysis and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC), which analyzed how AWS impacts business.

In an in-depth study of 10 organizations, IDC said that on average “we calculate that these Amazon customers will capture five-year business benefits worth over $1.5 million per application they are running in the AWS environment, and earn a return on their investment in AWS of 560%. On the whole, interviews with AWS customers demonstrated that they are not only leveraging Amazon cloud services to build and support applications more efficiently and cost effectively, but that running these applications in the AWS environment is enabling them to better serve their customers and drive their business transformation initiatives.”

Israel, said Werner Vogels, CTO and Vice President at Amazon, is an important source of customers – and technology – for the company.

“We have been active with Israeli customers through Amazon Web Services for years, working with them as they move to the cloud to be more innovative, agile, lower their costs, and scale their IT operations globally in minutes,” he said. “During this time, we have been extremely impressed with the creativity and strong engineering talent available in the country. Locating the development of key parts of Amazon’s business in Israel further accelerates our efforts to deliver innovation to customers around the world.”

Among the jobs Amazon will be seeking to fill: research scientists, systems modeling, software and application development engineers, account managers, solutions architects, technical account managers, business development managers, silicon designers, verification engineers, operation managers, system engineers, signal integrity engineers, and something called “Software Ninjaneers,” staff who can deep dive into the techiest parts of Amazon products to solve vexing programming problems.

“We welcome Amazon’s continued investment in the Israeli technology community,” said Chief Scientist Avi Hasson. “Having Amazon here is an important and valuable asset for Israel as we continue to build the country into a world leading center for technology development.”