Amazon AWS Platform Business Model In A Nutshell

Amazon AWS follows a platform business model that gains traction by tapping into network effects. Born as an infrastructure built on top of Amazon’s infrastructure, AWS has become a company offering cloud services to thousands of clients from the enterprise level, to startups. And its marketplace enables companies to connect to other service providers to build integrated solutions for their organizations.



I want to highlight the importance of AWS in the overall Amazon business model and how it has changed over the years.

The importance of AWS on the overall Amazon business model

As I pointed out in this article, “back in 2000, Amazon was trying to figure out a way to allow other stores to build their e-commerce on top of Amazon. That is why the Amazon team came up with an e-commerce service at the time called However, they soon realized that it was impossible to do that on the existing Amazon‘s infrastructure.”

That’s how Amazon AWS came to be. From that attempt to scale up infrastructure, the company managed to build instead an infrastructure that powers up an ecosystem of small and medium businesses.

Today Amazon AWS, although a separate unit within Amazon, is a crucial contributor to the company’s overall profitability, as pointed out in the infographic below:

In this article, I want to point out three key elements of the Amazon AWS business model:

The marginality of an ecosystem that sustains SMEs


Amazon reported a $2.7 billion net loss in 2022.

Nonetheless, Amazon’s AWS business has incredible growth and other profitable parts like Amazon Prime and Ads. The Amazon e-commerce platform runs at tight operating margins since it’s built for scale.

When you first look at AWS margins, the first thing you notice is how a company built on top of another platform (Amazon) has incredible margins.

Indeed, when you look at the growth of the margins for AWS, you realize how what was once an infrastructure has become a company and a platform business for its own sake.

That was possible thanks to the scalability implicit in its model.

A scalable platform

Once built the infrastructure, the rest is about network effects. Amazon knows this well, as it engineered its flywheel or virtuous cycle to scale the company to monopoly proportions:

The Amazon Flywheel or Amazon Virtuous Cycle is a strategy that leverages on customer experience to drive traffic to the platform and third-party sellers. That improves the selections of goods, and Amazon further improves its cost structure so it can decrease prices which spins the flywheel.

The company is applying its expertise in building up ecosystems on top of Amazon’s business model to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that powers up the IT of countless numbers of companies.

It’s about the ecosystem

It’s important to highlight that when a company scales to the proportion of Amazon, it moves away from the traditional business model, toward the platform business model.

A platform business model follows a set of logic, which are relatively new, compared to traditional organizations.

Where traditional companies of the past built value on top of a value chain, made of verticalizing their supply chain (take the Luxottica case), to gain as much control as possible on the means of production, a platform business model aims at creating network effects.

Thus, the more it enables its key stakeholders (drivers – riders in Uber’s case, buyers and sellers in Amazon’s case, hosts and guests in Airbnb’s case, and so forth) to connect, and transact in a frictionless manner the more those repeated interactions and transactions drive up network effects.

To make sure a network effect implies that a platform becomes more and more valuable, the more users join in.

Thus, an additional user doesn’t become more expensive for the platform business, instead, it makes the service more valuable for others joining in later, and it lowers up transactions cost associated with the platform.

Therefore, it becomes cheaper and better.

Amazon AWS in particular powers up thousands of businesses, from small to enterprise, both in the private and public sectors:


For instance, on the Amazon AWS site the company points out how “Expedia is all in on AWS, with plans to migrate 80 percent of its mission-critical apps from its on-premises data centers to the cloud in the next two to three years.”

Or how decacorn startups, like Airbnb “decided to migrate nearly all of its cloud computing functions to Amazon Web Services,” and as its CTO and co-founder pointed out the trigger was the “ease of managing and customizing the stack.

It was great to be able to ramp up more servers without having to contact anyone and without having minimum usage commitments.”  

As Amazon AWS becomes the infrastructure for thousands of startups and SaaS companies, it shares its distribution capability by integrating other services providers to enable other companies to benefit from solutions that go well beyond the cloud.

Thus looking at AWS just as a cloud service, that is limited as it has become way more than that:


Thus, the AWS marketplace becomes a provider of other companies services and products on top of its cloud infrastructure.

That enables its platform to scale further by creating a market that didn’t exist before while scaling it up altogether!

Element Description
Value Proposition AWS offers the following value propositions for its customers: – Scalable Cloud Services: Providing access to scalable and flexible cloud computing services. – Reliability and Availability: High levels of reliability and availability for applications. – Security and Compliance: Robust security and compliance measures. – Cost-Efficiency: Pay-as-you-go pricing, cost optimization tools, and economies of scale. – Global Reach: A global network of data centers and regions. – Innovation: Continuous innovation and a wide range of services. – Developer-Focused: Tools and resources for developers and businesses.
Core Products/Services Core products and services provided by AWS include: – Compute Services: Virtual servers, containers, and serverless computing. – Storage Services: Data storage solutions, databases, and data lakes. – Networking Services: Networking and content delivery services. – Security and Identity: Security, identity, and compliance services. – Analytics and Machine Learning: Data analytics and machine learning tools. – Application Integration: Integration and messaging services. – Developer Tools: Tools for development, deployment, and management. – Management and Governance: Services for managing and governing AWS resources.
Customer Segments AWS targets various customer segments: – Enterprises: Large organizations seeking cloud solutions. – Startups: Early-stage companies looking for scalable infrastructure. – Developers: Individual developers and development teams. – Government and Education: Public sector entities and educational institutions. – Nonprofits: Nonprofit organizations with specific needs. – IoT and Edge: Internet of Things and edge computing applications. – Content Delivery: Content delivery and media companies. – Healthcare and Life Sciences: Healthcare and life sciences organizations.
Revenue Streams AWS generates revenue through several revenue streams: – Usage-Based Pricing: Charges based on actual usage of AWS services. – Subscription Plans: Revenue from various subscription plans. – Support and Maintenance: Fees for premium support and maintenance services. – Consulting and Professional Services: Earnings from consulting and professional services. – Training and Certification: Fees for training and certification programs. – Marketplace: Revenue from the AWS Marketplace for third-party solutions. – Data Transfer and Content Delivery: Charges for data transfer and content delivery services. – IoT and Edge Solutions: Income from IoT and edge computing services.
Distribution Strategy The distribution strategy for AWS focuses on accessibility and global reach: – Data Centers and Regions: Operating a global network of data centers and regions. – Online Sign-Up: Allowing customers to sign up for AWS services online. – Partner Ecosystem: Building a vast partner ecosystem for solutions and support. – Marketplace: Offering a marketplace for third-party solutions and services. – Training and Certification: Providing training and certification programs. – Enterprise Sales: Engaging with enterprises through direct sales teams. – Developer-Focused: Offering developer-focused tools and resources. – Community Engagement: Encouraging community engagement and user groups.

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Connected to Amazon Business Model

Amazon Business Model

Amazon has a diversified business model. In 2022 Amazon posted over $514 billion in revenues, while it posted a net loss of over $2.7 billion. Online stores contributed almost 43% of Amazon revenues. The remaining was generated by Third-party Seller Services, and Physical Stores. While  Amazon AWS, Subscription Services, and Advertising revenues play a significant role within Amazon as fast-growing segments.

Amazon Revenue By Country

Amazon Revenue By Country
In 2022, most of Amazon’s revenue came from the US, with over $356 billion in revenue, followed by Germany with $33.6 billion, the UK with $30 billion, Japan with $24.4 billion, and the rest of the world generated almost $70 billion in net sales.

Amazon Cost Structure

Both the North American and International segment of Amazon are running at negative margins. Indeed, in 2022, for the North American segments, of almost $316 billion in revenue, Amazon spent almost $319 billion in operating costs to run it, thus it generated $2 billion in operating losses in 2022. For its International segment, of $118 billion in revenue, Amazon spent almost $126 billion to operate it. Thus, it reported a $7.7 billion operating loss. While for AWS, with $80 billion in revenue, Amazon spent $57 billion to operate it, thus generating almost $23 billion in operating income. The high operating costs are primarily due to the high cost of running Amazon’s inventory and fulfillment infrastructure behind its e-commerce operations. Indeed, Amazon is as much as a physical player as a digital one.

Is Amazon Profitable Without AWS?

Amazon was not profitable once AWS was removed in 2022. In fact, Amazon, without AWS generated $10.6 billion in operating losses. While Amazon, without AWS, generated $12.2. billion operating income.

Amazon Profit Breakdown

Amazon is subdivided into three operating profit segments: North America, International, and AWS. Amazon AWS is the most profitable segment, with almost $23 billion in operating profit in 2022. While Both the North American and International segments run at negative operating losses, with $2 billion and $7.74 billion in operating losses, respectively, in 2022.

Amazon Revenue Breakdown


Amazon Revenue Per Employee


Amazon vs. Walmart


eBay vs. Amazon

In 2021, Amazon generated almost $470 billion in revenue, vs. eBay’s over $10.4 billion. In comparison, looking at revenues, Amazon was 45x times larger than eBay.

Amazon Mission Statement

amazon-vision-statement-mission-statement (1)
Amazon’s mission statement is to “serve consumers through online and physical stores and focus on selection, price, and convenience.” Amazon’s vision statement is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” 

Customer Obsession

In the Amazon Shareholders’ Letter for 2018, Jeff Bezos analyzed the Amazon business model, and it also focused on a few key lessons that Amazon as a company has learned over the years. These lessons are fundamental for any entrepreneur, of small or large organization to understand the pitfalls to avoid to run a successful company!

Amazon Revenues

Amazon has a business model with many moving parts. The e-commerce platform generated $220 billion in 2022, followed by third-party stores services which generated over $117 billion; Amazon AWS, which generated over $80 billion; Amazon advertising which generated almost $38 billion and Amazon Prime, which generated over $35 billion, and physical stores which generated almost $19 billion.

Amazon Cash Conversion


Working Backwards

The Amazon Working Backwards Method is a product development methodology that advocates building a product based on customer needs. The Amazon Working Backwards Method gained traction after notable Amazon employee Ian McAllister shared the company’s product development approach on Quora. McAllister noted that the method seeks “to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it.”

Amazon Flywheel

The Amazon Flywheel or Amazon Virtuous Cycle is a strategy that leverages on customer experience to drive traffic to the platform and third-party sellers. That improves the selections of goods, and Amazon further improves its cost structure so it can decrease prices which spins the flywheel.

Jeff Bezos Day One

In the letter to shareholders in 2016, Jeff Bezos addressed a topic he had been thinking quite profoundly in the last decades as he led Amazon: Day 1. As Jeff Bezos put it “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

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