Amazonia for May 13, 2019

May 13, 2019

Amazon had an interesting week. Not many companies have a senior manager who wants humans on the moon. DarkCyber wonders if Amazon’s one day delivery will work for these civilization savers. We found a number of Amazon items interesting in the last week.

Killer Pencils? Yes, and Other School Supplies Too

The attorney general in the great State of Washington and proud possessor of the not so great city of Seattle is going to save lives. “Amazon Must Remove Toxic School Supplies, Kid’s Jewelry from Marketplace Nationwide” revealed that:

at least 15,188 purchases of products with illegal levels of lead and cadmium from Amazon.com.

How did these “deadly” products find their way into Amazon’s inventory? DarkCyber assumes that Amazon assumed that its vendors were not selling products that could harm a child or other buyer. DarkCyber further assumes that the vendors assumed their suppliers were not mixing lead and other interesting compounds into their manufacturing process. Yep, that’s a lot of assumes.

The attorney general wants this to change:

Any future sellers must provide this certification before listing their products for sale. Moreover, if the Attorney General or Washington Department of Ecology advise Amazon of any children’s school supplies or jewelry that exceed safe levels, Amazon must remove the product from its online marketplace within two business days.

Yes, would an MBA describe these pencils and book covers as killer products? DarkCyber is not sure.

Amazon: Another HR Flap

If you are interested in how high-technology companies manage their organizations, you may find “Three Muslim Amazon Workers Allege They Were Unfairly Punished for Raising Workplace Discrimination Concerns.” DarkCyber has no way of knowing if the report is accurate. Read the cited article and decide for yourself.

On a related note, the HR aware may want to note that Amazon advertising has triggered a problem which could spill over into company meetings. CNBC reported in “Amazon Mistakenly Told Some Sellers That It’s Now Blocking Ads with Religious Content” and is now saying, “We did not change anything.” Just a item to file away in case further management issues arise.

Amazon’s Security Gap

DarkCyber learned from Bloomberg, a real news outfit, that Amazon was “hit by extensive fraud with hackers siphoning merchant funds.” Hackers compromised about 100 accounts (a number which strikes DarkCyber as a modest one) as “unidentified hackers were able to siphon funds from merchant accounts over six months last year [2018].” Bloomberg is quite forgiving, offering this comment:

The case highlights how the world’s biggest online retail platform — designed to be automated with minimal human input — can be misused and how difficult it is for Amazon to find perpetrators.

DarkCyber believes that increased risk and vulnerability are baked into the online systems. Remedies are reactive. Amazon is in the policeware business and cannot protect itself from fraud. How will Amazon secure Alexa data? What about the information flowing into Amazon from its more than 60,000 home device support operations?

Alexa, Can You Delete Recordings and Transcripts?

The answer to the question is, “No.” The popular home surveillance and convenience device has more than 80,000 “skills.” Protecting privacy may not be one of the ones which performs reliably. ZDNet reported that Amazon is working on a fix. Here’s the key passage from the write up:

Amid new complaints that parents can’t delete what their children say to Echo Dot Kids Edition, Amazon has admitted it doesn’t really give Alexa users the ability to truly delete what they say to Echo devices.

Privacy? Less important than one day delivery perhaps?

Convenience Stores: An Endangered Species

One consolation is that Amazon, so far, has not figured out how to sell gasoline to consumers. That’s on the radar of some. For now, the one-day delivery push may push the thin-margin outfits over the cliff and into a sea of red ink. “Amazon Prime’s One-Day Shipping Could Devastate Convenience and Drug Stores” explains that speedier shipping may make the local retailer obsolete.

Amazon and Meds

Amazon’s push into health care is not grabbing headlines this week. We did spot a story on CNBC titled “The Inside Story of Why Amazon Bought PillPack in Its Effort to Crack the $500 Billion Prescription Market.” After a weird business school case study introduction, the guts of the write up seems to be:

The value for Amazon is in the promise of plugging the delivery network into the giant e-commerce machine, especially when considering that the average PillPack user in 2018 was worth $5,000 in revenue, through insurance payments and patient co-pays…

With lots of Americans taking medicine, Amazon may see a low margin, growth business which snaps into its other infrastructure and convenience plays. Amazon generic drugs? Amazon “doc in the box” facilities? Amazon health insurance? Many possibilities, and these are not mentioned by CNBC. The personal details about eye glasses are okay, but there may be more to PillPack than pills.

Amazon can at this time reach 72 percent of people living in the lower 48 states at this time. Why go to the pharmacy already struggling to survive when you can go to your front door?

Amazon Is Gunning for the Google

BusinessInsider (registration and/or pay wall in place) snagged an Amazon PowerPoint deck. (DarkCyber understood that the great flywheel did not permit the use of slide decks.) The idea is that the eyeballs on Amazon’s devices and Web pages want and need ads. There’s even the NFL’s Thursday Night Football eyeballs. How remarkable is the presentation? Standard “look how many eyeballs we can deliver.” One interesting factoid is that Amazon sales people like to mention that 80 percent Fire TV owners have a premium Prime account. This means to the tense, sometimes insecure Madison Avenue types one thing — Buyers who purchase stuff. If you are a member of Microsoft LinkedIn, you can download an OTT slide deck at this link.

If you don’t know what OTT means, you can get a handy definition omitted from the BusinessInsider and the Zohar Urian post on LinkedIn. OTT is a reference to streaming media available when one owns a box like Roku or Amazon’s gizmos.

Amazon is able to:

  • Provide tracking data
  • Provide behavioral data
  • Provide contextual data
  • Identify “similar to” buyers
  • Suggest where to put ads to sell older products
  • Deliver slices and dices to make target oriented marketers happy.

The idea is that Amazon can “prove” ads work. Google, well, displaying ads next to children on park swing sets is a bit of an issue for some would be Google advertisers.

The Google has an Amazon problem with two pointy  things welded to the front of the Bezos bulldozer. First, Amazon is sucking away product searches from the Google. Double digit product search declines, one disgruntled Web site operator smirked at lunch. This fellow added, “Good for Amazon.” The second problem is that buying an ad on a Google property may place the message for a wholesome product next to questionable content. YouTube does have quite a bit of interesting content, and some advertisers remain wary of the GOOG’s smart software and human editor filtering process.

Amazon: Bring Cash

How about those empty store fronts on Fifth Avenue? There will be more space available as Amazon’s brick-and-mortar push expands. “Amazon Go’s First NY Store Is Also the First to Accept Cash” reports:

what’s new at this [Amazon Go Store] location is actually something Amazon Go was invented to get rid off: a cash register.

The problem is, according to CNet:

While Amazon gained loads of attention for this reinvention of shopping, the nascent trend of cashless stores has already faced blowback from local and state governments. Cashless store operators, which include the salad chain Sweetgreen and restaurant Dig Inn, say going cashless made their checkout lines faster and most of their customers didn’t pay in cash anyways.

The tracking technology is still in place in Go Stores. So bring cash.

Amazon Advertises Itself (Just Like Leo LaPorte’s Twit.tv Network)

Vox reported that “Amazon wants to pay the New York Times and BuzzFeed to Expand So It Can Reach More Shoppers Outside the US.” DarkCyber learned that Amazon sees Amazon as equals for this type of promotion. Vox points out:

Amazon is specifically interested in publishers that have built up significant affiliate link units and would be paying them to build out those groups. That includes BuzzFeed, which has made e-commerce a significant part of its revenue strategy and has hired a team of writers to create shopping-friendly content; the Times, which bought the Wirecutter shopping guide for around $30 million in 2016; and New York Media, which has turned New York Magazine’s “Strategist” shopping section into a meaningful part of its online business mix.

Now how does Google’s quality measures deal with this type of overt, large scale search engine optimization approach to links and traffic? DarkCyber’s view is, “Not very well.” Perhaps the GOOG will have to filter Amazon links because the tactics could be considered those of black hat SEO operators. Filtering links will further erode Google’s product search traffic. Yep, this is an issue and one not addressed in the real news Vox write up.

How Amazon Terminates Old Fashioned AWS Services

Amazon sure seems to be nice. A good example is a blog post called “Amazon S3 Path Deprecation Plan – The Rest of the Story.” Unlike the Google, which just up and kills products and services, Amazon walks slowly toward the “terminate with extreme prejudice button.” Amazon wants to herd its customers toward the new and improved versions of Amazon’s technology; for example, getting rid of paths. How old school! The new approach involves object keys, which Jeff Bezos really likes. You will have the opportunity to experience this new approach yourself — whether you like it or not. That’s a Googley touch.

More Partners and Integrators

It is difficult to keep track of the companies joining the AWS bandwagon. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.

  • Arcadia Data is an Advanced Amazon Partner. Source: MarketWatch
  • Cherwell Software now delivers integrated cloud management services via Amazon Quick Start. Source: Yahoo
  • CloudBees now allows AWS customers to deploy CloudBees on AWS. A CloudBee deployment is a cloud native, continuous delivery (CD) solution that can be hosted on-premise or in the cloud. It provides a shared, centrally managed, self-service experience for development teams. Source: Help Net Security
  • CloudKnox is now an AWS Advanced Technology Partner. Source: Digital Journal
  • CoreSite offers higher bandwidth for AWS Direct Connect. Source: MarketWatch
  • Cypherium teams up with Amazon to offer blockchain as a service. See Businesswire’s story on Yahoo.
  • Digital Reality provides AWS Direct Connect services. Source: Yahoo
  • Digital Reasoning, once a gung ho IBM affiliate, has shifted gears with “Conduct Surveillance.” This appears to include the search and retrieval function plus lots of middleware. The company provides is solution via Amazon. Google gets some DR love too. Source: Virtual Strategy. (Every time I type “virtual strategy” I think, “Why bother with a real strategy when one can have a virtual strategy.” Source: Virtual Strategy
  • eCloudValley is allegedly the world’s only AWS premier consulting partner with certifications for China and the rest of the world. Ah, yes, China, the land of surveillance. Source: Cision
  • ExtraHop has joined Amazon’s AWS consulting program. Source: Digital Journal
  • Getronics and HeleCloud team up to launch an Amazon Center of Excellence; that is, a consulting operation. Source: Virtual Strategy
  • Intent Solutions is a partner and one recognized by Amazon itself. Source: PR.com
  • Isaca (a global association helping individuals and enterprises achieve the positive potential of technology) has introduced an AWS Audit Program. Source: Security Info Watch
  • The great state of Louisiana has partnered with Amazon for “AWS Educate.” More about an Amazon branded state appears in The Advocate.
  • Mission, a managed services and consulting company for Amazon Web Services (AWS), has met the requirements of the AWS Managed Services Provider (MSP) Partner Program. Source: Global News Wire
  • Nutanix now runs on AWS Xi clusters. Source: CRN
  • SGX, a blockchain outfit, is moving its platform to AWS. Source: Finextra
  • SmartShift has partnered with Amazon in order to move SAP to AWS. I know that SAP is an interesting outfit and its software can be particularly exciting to configure. But SmartShift will knock that S/4 Hana stuff out of the park. SAP is embracing the Bezos bulldozer. SAP evolved from a former IBM professionals desire to reinvent IBM. A Bakersfield.com report.
  • Tantus Technologies is an AWS Select Consulting Partner. Source: Yahoo
  • Ventech Solutions is now an Amazon Advanced Consulting Partner. Source: BusinessInsider. No registration required for a recycled news release unlike the recycled OTT article.
Moving Mainframe Code to AWS

Impossible you say. You are wrong, pilgrim. Navigate to the AWS success story of the week, “Automated Refactoroing of a US Department of Defense Mainframe to AWS.” The main point is that it took place and worked. The actual grunt work was handled not by the online bookstore or the wizards in the DoD’s numerous information technology departments. The outfit which pulled off most of the work was Array. When did this take place? In 2018, but it takes some time for certain examples to surface. You can read more about this migration in the AWS Partner Network Blog here.

Amazon Servers: Where in the World Are They, Jeff Bezos?

The Verge’s story “Mapping Out Amazon’s Invisible Server Empire” provides a link to the map that Amazon won’t provide. Well, the map is a link to a sketchy document available in WikiLeaks. The Wikileaks’ map is at this link. The Verge contributes this remarkable “real news” observation:

most of the AWS footprint consists of overseas hubs in colocation centers run by companies like Equinix or Securus.

Yeah, that’s tough to figure out.

Stephen E Arnold, May 13, 2019

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