Dalzell’s Filling Amazon’s Shopping Cart with Services

Rick Dalzell’s wish list at Amazon.com includes the original “Star Trek” series on DVD, a Sims computer game, and a book about trout and salmon that reflects his passion for fishing and outdoor life.

Dalzell’s wish list for Amazon.com, where he serves as senior vice president and chief information officer, is more ambitious. He wants to turn the infrastructure that powers the online retailer into a platform that will make it a key player in the next-generation internet economy.

But Dalzell, 49, a West Point graduate who has held the top IT job at Amazon for a decade, didn’t get where he is by wishing: He’s overseen $2 billion in technology investments at the Seattle company and a steady move into services for retail partners. The next idea is to leverage Amazon’s deep knowledge of the Internet and vast network of data centers and devices to create something new. In 2006, the company launched services including on-demand storage and computing services, with more on the way; early reviews for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, aka S3, and Elastic Compute Cloud, known as EC2, have been positive.

Adam Selipsky, vice president of product management and developer relations for Amazon Web Services, told CIO Insight last year: “Amazon is a technology company. We built up this platform, this series of technologies. Now we are allowing other companies to run inside Amazon data centers, so we can fully pass along the economies enabled by our platform, whether to one-man developers or large corporations.”

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Wall Street has been skeptical of the business plan, but if it works it could be Dalzell’s greatest legacy.

A Kentucky native who served as a teleprocessing officer in the Army after receiving his commission, Dalzell came to Amazon in 1997 from Wal-Mart. He rose through the ranks at the Arkansas giant to become vice president of information systems, developing key data warehouse systems along the way. At Amazon, he is known as a prudent manager who loves to cut costs—a switch from Sun to Linux has saved the company tens of millions of dollars—but knows when to invest in order to spur and support business growth.

The press-shy CIO, who lives with his wife and four kids in suburban Seattle, doesn’t draw a huge salary; his 2006 cash compensation was just $160,000. But he can still afford those Star Trek DVDs and the rest of his wish list, too, having exercised stock options worth nearly $5 million in the same period.

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