nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

back to article
Amazon squares up to Walmart over boycott calls: Talk sh!t, get hit

"an incorrect view that AWS is somehow supporting Amazon's retail business."

If there's a commercial advantage for Amazon retail to analyze competitors AWS data, you can bet they're doing it!

11
30
Anonymous Coward

Wow really? You actually think that Amazon corp. would extract/snoop on data held on their customers EC2/RDS instances for their own use?

Apart from the fact that would be against their own data privacy policy, it would probably be illegal for them to do it and if anyone ever found out it would collapse their business.

I know commenters here are rightly suspicious of big-business but to say "you can bet they're doing it" is tinfoil hat zone

56
6
Pint

Was just about to post the same thing, surely if they were not analyze competitors AWS data then the best thing they could have done is come out and say they are not. Seeing they did not then as you said "you can bet they're doing it"

Have an up vote and a pint :)

4
32
pdh

> I know commenters here are rightly suspicious of big-business but to say "you can bet they're doing it" is tinfoil hat zone

I agree. If they were doing that, then a number of Amazon employees would necessarily know about it. If just one of those employees ever became disgruntled, that person could pretty much destroy AWS by spilling the beans. Way too risky.

40
3

"Wow really? You actually think that Amazon corp. would extract/snoop on data held on their customers EC2/RDS instances for their own use?"

It's all anonymized of course, no personally identifiable information... etc etc

I wasn't suggesting they harvest virtual machine images or copy entire databases but....

Do you think they do any kind of analytics on customer's traffic & data? Of course they do, it's just how deep they decide is acceptable. That sounds like a very blurry line. :)

6
11
Anonymous Coward

Notice Amazon didn't directly refute what Walmart's alluring to. I don't find anything to respect either corporation, but Amazon is clearly not prepared to throw punches. Live and let live isn't a business strategy, but then again, Amazon's free ride hasn't exposed them against serious retailers... until now.

The Cliton admin. was VERY good to them, a fact people like to mumble over and pretend never happened, but now they're on their own, with clearly weak P.R. Again, I care nothing about either corp., but it will be interesting to see if Amazon stumbles while not Walmart making moves, but China (i.e. Alibaba).

3
15
Anonymous Coward

It's actually quite naive to think that AMZN wouldn't be spying.

After all, Jeff Bezos has a ~$600 million contract with the CIA to publish propaganda via the Washington Post.

Tin foil hats around the world shall rejoice once the first antitrust lawsuit is filed.

3
12
Bronze badge

An incorrect view that AWS is somehow supporting Amazon's retail business."

Yeah, that's even more hilarious than their hissy-fit.

If AWS wasn't supporting it's retail business it would've spun it out by now, it's kind of obvious to all and sundry Amazon is Amazon's biggest customer, it's an online retailer parading as a technology company, not content with it's own cake, it wants yours too!

Walmart have called it out exactly as it is, it's Netflix I feel sorry for most, my gut feel tells me those investigations into anti-competitive practices will come too late, though then again their management could well be happy to exit.

2
8
Silver badge

I know commenters here are rightly suspicious of big-business but to say "you can bet they're doing it" is tinfoil hat zone

Before Snowden, a whole lot of concerns about government snooping were for tinfoil hatters. Now we know that anything governments can poke their nose into they will. The US tech sector appears to have a culture of assuming that rules are for the little people, so why should we assume that big tax avoiding corporates choose to play by the rules when it comes to other's people's data?

12
2
Anonymous Coward

I doubt Amazon retail is actually looking at AWS data from third party customers... but 1) With all the IT security measures and counter measures these days, it seems reasonable that you wouldn't want to hand over your data to a competitor, even if that competitor has an SLA which tells you that they will not look at your data. 2) It is clearly true that AWS is helping Amazon and it makes sense that you would not want your vendors to patronize your competitor's services. Anything that generates profit for Amazon isn't a good thing for Walmart or the other retailers. Whether AWS cuts a check to Amazon.com or not is beside the point, it is all the same business. This is not surprising.... Amazon's claim that vendors are "standing up" to Walmart is doubtful. Walmart is their largest customer. If their largest customer tells them to go use Azure or Google Cloud, and there is no detriment to doing so for the vendors, they'll do it.

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: An incorrect view that AWS is somehow supporting Amazon's retail business."

"Netflix I feel sorry for most"

Is Netflix really still on AWS? You would think they would be long gone to another cloud provider at this point, given that Amazon is their largest competitor and using their retail arm to take over video (for those who think that Amazon's division don't collaborate, good counter example).

0
0

AWS maintain very strict operational boundaries between what they can see and a customer's data. For example, default AWS monitoring of your instance metrics includes network in/out, CPU, and disk activity. All those things are available to the hypervisor, which they control.

They don't include things like memory usage, because that would mean they would have to monitor below the hypervisor level, at the VM level. And they simply won't do that.

Do you really think AWS are stupid enough to jeopardize a multi-billion dollar investment in infrastructure by peeping at people's data? Netflix are a direct competitor to Amazon when it comes to streaming video. Where do they host their infrastructure? Inside AWS.

1
1
Bronze badge

We've heard that Walmart continues to try to bully their suppliers....

PMSL!

Calling POTS, Black Kettles!

Book Stores, Book Authors, Book Publishers & Distributors was just the start, people and organisations should be extremely cautious about the information they send to AWS for more than the obvious reasons

5
15
Silver badge

Pond slime vs Sewage: who will win?

It's a rumble in the marketplace jungle, the battle of the century!

8
2
Silver badge

Re: Pond slime vs Sewage: who will win?

Pond slime (algae) converts CO2 and water to carbohydrates and generates oxygen for meatbags to breathe. When dehydrated it makes excellent stock food or fertiliser. Sewage can also be composted to make a safe to use fertiliser to grow crops that meatbags like to eat.

You were saying :-)

1
0

Yo, pot!

The kettle just called - something about being black?

2
0
Silver badge

Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics. Them trying to bully vendors into not using a competitor's services is par for the course. That said, I don't think they're used to having a competitor who can actually go toe to toe with them like Amazon.

16
0
Bronze badge

Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics.

If Amazon have nothing to hide, then they should spin out AWS, but we know they won't do it, until forced too by the regulators, because it's feeding their retail business.

1
7
Holmes

Re: Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics.

My goodness. While you're at it, make sure they force Apple to spin out their iPod business, Tesla to break off the model S business...

It's their products and their business, and you seem to have the apparently deluded impression that Amazon would be operating at a loss if not for their cloud business. Off you go, then.

4
0

Re: Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics.

you seem to have the apparently deluded impression that Amazon would be operating at a loss if not for their cloud business.

Amazon are well known for operating at near zero net profit as a whole. AWS provides a highly profitable business unit for the company - reportedly about 56% of the total operating income.

Without that direct source of income, Amazon would have two options:

1. Operate at a loss - which is a well-used tactic for well-funded businesses to attemt to drive out their competition (ie. not the product of delusions); or

2. Raise prices on other goods - in which case Amazon would become less competitive in the retail space, compared to its competition (eg. Walmart).

6
1
Bronze badge

Re: Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics.

"It's their products and their business, and you seem to have the apparently deluded impression that Amazon would be operating at a loss if not for their cloud business".

It has nothing to do with Amazon operating at loss, even though it's common knowledge that they do.

This is clearly about removing any conflict of interest, it's one thing creating your own platform to support your core business, but inviting people to make use of that platform to mine their data, then offer competing services is very unsavoury.

Let's not forget On October 1, 2015, Amazon announced that Google Chromecast and Apple TV products were banned from sale on Amazon.com by all merchants, with no new listings allowed effective immediately, and all existing listings removed effective October 29, 2015. Amazon argued that this was to prevent "customer confusion", as these devices do not "interact well" with the Amazon Video ecosystem. This move was criticized, as commentators believed that it was meant primarily to suppress the sale of products deemed as competition to Amazon Fire TV products, given that Amazon itself had deliberately refused to offer software for its own streaming services on these devices, and the action contradicted the implication that Amazon.com was a general online retailer.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics.

"apparently deluded impression that Amazon would be operating at a loss if not for their cloud business."

If only there was some test... like if Amazon was operating at a loss before AWS (they were) and were operating at a profit after AWS (as they now are).

Of course Amazon doesn't have to spin off AWS, but they shouldn't be surprised when Walmart and the vendor's who depend on Walmart decide not to buy Amazon cloud services either. It isn't "bullying" to not use a competitor's services or ask vendors who you are paying for services to not buy from your competitor. Not a major Walmart fan, but this all just seems like common sense.

0
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Wal-Mart has a long history of anti-competitive tactics.

"Amazon announced that Google Chromecast and Apple TV products were banned from sale on Amazon.com by all merchants"

Great point. Amazon decided to pull their competitors' TV products, more popular products, from Amazon.com. So much for Amazon's various divisions not collaborating to help each other and unfairly shut down competitors rather than compete on the merits.

0
0
Silver badge
Pirate

Yeah, well

it's not like you can walk into a meeting at Coca-Cola headquarters drinking a Pepsi. You'll likely get escorted off the premises. Hell, I worked at a software place 20 years ago that had Coke as a client, and we weren't even allowed to have our own Pepsi's in the break-room fridge IN OUR OWN BUILDING on the days when the Coke folks were coming for meetings.

Not that I'm defending the Global Leader of The Race To The Bottom, Walmart, but sometimes corporate image-y stuff defies common sense. Meh, it's part of doing business.

6
0
Silver badge

Re: Yeah, well

Not using a "competitors" product if you are a client of theirs is only PR on your part. I suspect that the edict in your case was not the client's (Coke's) request, but rather an internal decision.

It is kinda like going to work for Ford, and driving up in a Chevy. You won't win friends, or in political speak, it is "bad optics". I suspect that you won't get fired, but you might be harassed a bit.

Life goes on.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Yeah, well

Enzo Ferrari used to drive a Fiat 128 to work. But then he was Italian, not a Merkin.

0
0

Re: Yeah, well

This kind of thing can go deep: not too long ago there was a charity drive that specifically stated to not send anything with a Coke label so as not to offend Pepsi(who was donating the storage space). I understand the desire to not have your competitor's logo all over the place, but that's just petty.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Yeah, well

Fiat had a 50% share in Ferrari from 1969 until 1988, when it increased that to 90% (also the year Enzo died). Seems appropriate to me, given that Ferrari's market isn't really people commuting to work.

1
0

Re: Yeah, well

I worked for a consulting firm doing work for Chrysler. When going to visit them in Detroit we tried to rent Chrysler cars. You were allowed to park at Chrysler with a competitor's car and they never directly asked what car did we rent. But, all non-Chrysler cars had to park in a separate parking lot, far, far away and if we went with them anywhere they may comment on our car choice. We blamed it on the rental company.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Yeah, well

" I suspect that the edict in your case was not the client's (Coke's) request, but rather an internal decision."

No, the Coke people made it crystal clear that they would not do business with the company if we had Pepsi products onsite, and being in Atlanta, we heard scuttlebutt from friends at other companies that the Coke folks were known to throw hissy-fits about such things. Which seemed bizarre, but we were a small company of 15 people and the project was $big bucks$ , so word was put out that no Pepsi was allowed on certain days.

0
0

I assume AWS is its own business unit. Most big (US) corporations that I've seen really do manage business units independently. That lets each BU react directly to the market (and thus compete more effectively than if it's micro-managed), and yes there are very strong legal and contractual reasons to keep the businesses separate. Even when there's a strong reason to coordinate, they're often just incapable of working across fiefdoms: Hanlon's Razor.

Sure, they all contribute to the corporate bottom line, but that's a financial aspect, not an operational one.

4
1

nothing new

this was SOP 2 years ago and probably before that. We hosted all kinds of websites on AWS but had to write a compatibility module just so the Walmart websites could be deployed on Rackspace.

EC2 statistics aren't interesting. S3 and CloudFront stats are where the useful analytics are housed.

Amazon Retail is a separate business unit. As is the entirety of the Virginia datacenter footprint and staff - it doesn't even have 'Amazon' in the company name.

I worked for a company that contracted with the Coke distributor to supply free drinks to the staff as a corp benefit. There was a "secret" Pepsi fridge and there was hell to pay if folks grabbed a Pepsi from the other floor and left it in the Cola fridge.

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

"We don't want our most sensitive data held by a competitor"

Which is why we continue to have massive data breaches.

It doesn't matter how sensitive it is, or where you store it, you must be properly securing it against unauthorised access. Something the Walmart exec fails to understand, like so many others.

0
0

It's no secret that Amazon Retail is a client of Amazon AWS, or that Retail are involved in testing new services before they are public on AWS.

They are also not the biggest client Amazon AWS have.

It seems a no brainer that Retail operate making no profit while AWS is making the money when Retail need to pay AWS for services. Doesn't seem that to the arrangements other companies have with paying IP royalties to another company they own.

0
1

This post has been deleted by a moderator

It really has to do with $$$ - CASH !

Walmart essentially don't want their vendors to give AWS .. aka .. Amazon , any $$ funds - so they worded the request to appear it was security concern .

I don't give $$ to either of them - they are both cesspools in their own ways .

0
0

Of course Amazon is spying on AWS customers

I had an interesting discussion with some of the Infosec bods who approved usage of AWS in the corporate I'm currently in. The AWS T's & C's states something along the lines of they withhold the right to monitor traffic in their AWS platform, but will maintain privacy of clients and not monitor client-specific traffic.

With some clever analysis though, it wouldn't take too much effort to reverse-engineer client-specific metrics from the cloud metrics collected, based on what parts of a VPS network are popular and the sort of transactions taking place.

One of the Infosec bods pointed out the current situation with M&S. They'ved moved onto AWS, and their migration to AWS seems to almost go hand-in-hand with a decline in M&S's online sales. Almost as if their online business suddenly has strong competition from certain on-line marketplaces who may or may not be able to establish from some clever data analysis what's proving popular for M&S and counter with their own offers.

This could all be down-vote worthy paranoia. But it's certainly food for thought.

0
1

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing