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Amazon taps Tableau CEO Selipsky to lead AWS

Amazon has named a familiar face to lead AWS in Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky. AWS is poised for massive growth under his leadership.

Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky will return to AWS in May and take over as CEO later this year.

The former AWS VP ran AWS' sales, marketing and support for 11 years before becoming CEO of Tableau in 2016. Selipsky ran the business intelligence and analytics software vendor for the last four and a half years, through the company's acquisition by Salesforce in 2019 -- one of the largest acquisitions in history.

Under his tenure as CEO, Tableau's value quadrupled through strategic moves such as a transition from perpetual licenses to subscription licensing. He has remained Tableau's CEO and has served as member of Salesforce's executive team.

In a note to employees made public on AWS' blog, Andy Jassy said he brings "strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team. And, having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, he knows our culture and business well."

Selipsky and Jassy will work on a transition together for several weeks after his return, with the CEO appointment becoming official sometime in the third quarter, according to the blog.

Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky has been named CEO of AWS.Adam Selipsky

The note continued that less than 5% of the global IT spend is in the cloud today, and the market will continue to grow providing massive opportunity for Amazon's cloud business.

AWS logged a $51 billion revenue run rate in 2020, with growth of 28%, according to the company. It remains by far the leader in public cloud infrastructure services ahead of Microsoft and Google, with 30% overall market share, according to data released by Synergy Research Group last month. However, Microsoft grew its Azure market share from 10% to 20% over the last several years, Synergy said.

While the cloud hyperscalers are in the same general business, they're taking somewhat different strategic approaches. AWS is known for its torrid pace of new features and services, while Microsoft has capitalized on its massive installed base for Office and other business applications.

Google Cloud, which initially targeted mostly individual developers, now specializes in big data analytics and machine learning, and appointed former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian CEO in a bid to gain more large enterprise accounts.

Selipsky's experience could inform the strategy he pursues as AWS CEO, such as a push into business applications, of which AWS has relatively few. He could also take the company into the multi-cloud discussion with a product like Google Anthos, a container management platform that allows customers to run workloads across on-premises and public cloud environments apart from Google Cloud. Microsoft's newer Azure Arc has similar intent.

Having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, [Selipsky] knows our culture and business well.
Andy JassyCEO, Amazon

AWS did launch Amazon EKS and ECS, which brings its two container management platforms to customers' on-premises environments, but a broader multi-cloud move has yet to surface.

"It's OK they go slow as the cloud market leader, but will have to come around eventually," said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. "Better sooner than later."

Meanwhile, Selipsky's history with AWS makes his appointment as CEO less of a surprise, but analysts previously named a few internal candidates as possible successors to Jassy, including Peter DeSantis, SVP of AWS global infrastructure and customer support, and Matt Garman, VP of sales and marketing.

Selipsky is a solid choice for AWS CEO, said R "Ray" Wang, founder and CEO of Constellation Research. "He brings a strong skill set on growth, understands partnerships and has the stamina to keep up with Andy," Wang said.

That is not to say Selipsky has an easy job ahead of him, said Nick McQuire, an analyst at CCS Insight, a tech market analysis firm.

"One of the big challenges Selipsky faces is how well he manages, along with Jassy, the inevitable bumps in the road facing Amazon with issues like antitrust, workers' rights and employee activism on the rise," McQuire said. "The good news is, as an AWS alumnus, Selipsky will be considered a safe pair of hands which will reassure customers and help maintain trust in the AWS brand, which is crucial in light of these issues ahead."

AWS has a large partner program, both with ISVs and managed services providers, such as Ensono. While AWS has been a solid partner, there are areas where it can improve under Selipsky's leadership, said Brian Klingbeil, chief strategy officer at Ensono.

"We are currently seeing heavy client need for cost control, security and compliance, and [AWS] can provide deeply enhanced capabilities in those areas," he said.

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