Retailers have long followed the mantra of “stack it high and watch it fly”. In fact, stores often pile goods to the ceiling, make shoppers navigate in-aisle displays, and price everything with bright and obnoxious signage.  However, some progressive retailers have discovered that reducing “choice” can actually boost sales.  And in terms of cloud computing, one successful vendor has taken a page from this retailing playbook by removing confusing computing choices.

In “Less is More in Consumer Choice”, I cited a 2007 study in which researchers conducted experiments in a shopping mall aimed at understanding mental fatigue associated with too much choice.  The studies concluded that when faced with too many buying options, study participants couldn’t stay on task in completing projects—in effect their brains were overwhelmed by choice overload.

The folks at Amazon Web Services (AWS) have figured this out.  Cloud computing can already be a very complex endeavor with behind the scenes infrastructure consisting of interconnections among servers, networks, applications, controllers and more.   So, by abstracting the complexity of cloud architectures via a simple user interface, AWS makes cloud computing easy to consume. 

But AWS has taken simplicity a step further by actually reducing mental clutter and choice. Cloud Scaling CTO, Randy Bias notes AWS reduces choice by simply providing infrastructure as a service without all the bells and whistles associated with offering the entire cloud stack.  AWS provides and maintains virtualized storage and compute resources, AWS users need to provide whatever else they require. AWS, Bias says, has “reduced choice by simplifying the network model, (and) pushing onto the customer responsibility for fault tolerance” as server instances are not persistent.

Bias also explains that AWS’ EC2 service requires developers to fit their applications to the infrastructure, not the other way around.   Amazon is effectively saying to developers, ‘Build your applications with our infrastructure in mind’ so they are cloud ready, instead of ‘build your application’ first, and then leave it to AWS to figure out how to scale it.

Going forward, there will be plenty of technology savvy buyers with the ability to sort through myriad complex cloud computing options. However, there will also be large segments of cloud buyers (i.e. those in lines of business) that will want to sign up for cloud computing with corporate credit cards. These buyers will appreciate simple user interfaces, easy to access resources, and less mental clutter and exhaustion for buying decisions.  

When it comes to choice architecture for cloud computing, AWS shows us less really is more.