AWS severs connection with several hundred staff

'Necessary,' 'focusing our efforts,' 'deliver maximum impact' ... sounds just like all the other tech layoffs lately

Hundreds of Amazon Web Services employees are being shown the door this week - a move the American technology behemoth said is necessary as it, like many others, moves to streamline operations.

AWS, the cloud computing arm of mega e-retailer Amazon, is making several hundred cuts in its sales, marketing, and global services group, and a few hundred roles are also being shed from its physical stores technology team, we're told. News of the move was confirmed by AWS in an email to The Register.

Amazon employs about 1.5 million globally, and it's believed to have north of 100,000 within AWS alone, to put the cuts in context.

"We've identified a few targeted areas of the organization we need to streamline in order to continue focusing our efforts on the key strategic areas that we believe will deliver maximum impact," an AWS spokesperson told us.

"We didn't make these decisions lightly … but [they are] necessary as we continue to invest, hire, and optimize resources to deliver innovation for our customers."

Most of the roles being cut from the sales, marketing, and global services team are coming from the training and certification group, which AWS said had become largely redundant in the face of self-serve digital training and the outsourcing of instructor-led training to partners. 

"In other areas of our business, we have optimized our teams and have found duplications in job families such as program management and sales operations," AWS added. 

Word that Amazon is reducing headcount in its physical stores tech team isn't all that surprising given news this week that it planned to eliminate its automatic grab-and-go system at its physical grocery stores in favor of Dash smart cart (trolley for you UK readers) technology.

The carts automatically add items to a customer's bill as they're placed inside, whereas the previous approach used cameras located around stores to track items shoppers picked up off the shelves and automatically generated a bill at the end from those selections as they left. Customers would authenticate with Amazon as they entered so that the e-commerce giant knew who to charge.

"This [physical store team] decision is the result of a broader strategic shift in the use of some applications in Amazon's owned as well as in third-party stores," AWS told us, admitting that face recognition and other tech at its physical stores was on the way out. 

Crucially, it was reported last year that the majority – 700 in 1,000 – of automated just-walk-out sales needed human reviewers to check and confirm purchases, versus the 50 in 1,000 the IT giant was hoping for. The automatic AI systems just weren't able to perform accurately or correctly enough, requiring offshore workers to go over the camera footage manually and do the processing themselves, delaying receipts by hours, it was said.

And, of course, AWS doesn't want you to think that shrinking cloud margins or other issues are part of the layoff decision - we're told it's still hiring, with thousands of jobs posted across AWS and plans to expand headcount in core business areas. 

Ex-AWS employees are being given 60 days of pay and benefits, severance, and job search support as they're phased out of the firm. Amazon laid off more than 27,000 employees last year and tech industry layoffs have continued to be widespread in 2024. ®

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