Recap of Werner Vogels’ Keynote at re:Invent 2023

Md. Mostafa Al Mahmud
11 min readDec 2, 2023


AWS reInvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote The Frugal Architect

At re:Invent 2023, Werner Vogels, renowned as AWS’s VP & CTO, delivered a keynote that left a mark. Vogels, known for his captivating introductory videos, pulled off a memorable scene reminiscent of ‘The Matrix,’ engaging in a conversation with the Architect character. The scenario highlighted a complex system issue where incorporating a new service demanded additional hardware.

Introductory Video Capture Werner Vogels Keynote AWS reInvent2023

Vogels pitched the idea of cloud migration, showcasing its substantial advantages. Injecting a moment of levity, he handed the Architect a book titled ‘The Frugal Architect,’ concluding the scene with a playful refusal to grant free credits as requested by the Architect.

The refusal was more interesting:

Can I get some free credits?


Attendees expressed how Vogels’ keynote consistently delivers thought-provoking insights, much like his past profound statement, “Everything Fails All The Time” which I talked to several sessions.

Okay, let’s recap the discussion points below.

The 7 Laws of “The Frugal Architect”

There are 7 simple laws under 3 phases for building cost-aware, sustainable, and modern architecture such as;


I. Make Cost a Non-functional Requirement
II. Systems that Last Align Cost to Business
III. Architecting is a Series of Trade-offs


IV. Unobserved Systems Lead to Unknown Costs
V. Cost Aware Architectures Implement Cost Controls


VI. Cost Optimization is Incremental
VII. Unchallenged Success Leads to Assumptions

The frugal architect aws reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

Throughout the keynote session, Vogels meticulously elaborated on each of these laws, elucidating their significance through diverse real-world use cases. His comprehensive breakdown of these principles was underscored by practical examples, showcasing how organizations implemented these laws to forge resilient and cost-effective architectures. Vogels masterfully navigated through various scenarios, illustrating how adherence to each law shaped modern architecture, emphasizing the importance of conscious cost considerations in every architectural decision.

Here are the details of “The Frugal Architect” on his site at

Insights from Werner Vogel’s Address

Vogels delved into the era preceding cloud computing, reminiscing about the challenges companies faced with physical hardware and servers. The struggle to estimate required equipment often led to over-purchasing by approximately 15%, constraining businesses’ ability to handle unforeseen demands. He highlighted the transformative impact of transitioning to the cloud, emphasizing its facilitation of swifter and more efficient operations for enterprises.

Cost-Conscious Approach

Emphasizing the significance of monitoring cloud expenditures, Vogels steered the conversation away from new product discussions, focusing on crafting intelligent, cost-saving strategies for cloud-based setups.

Cost Savings Data PBS AWS reInvent2023 Werner Vogels Keynote

He cited PBS’s drastic cost reduction of 80% in streaming expenses after their cloud migration, attributing it to a revamped system configuration. This blog highlights how PBS speeds deployment and reduces costs with AWS Fargate. Also, you can find how PBS leverages AWS to build a streaming platform by re-architecting it into the cloud here.

Financial Savings and Environmental Impact

Vogels intertwined financial savings with environmental responsibility, articulating how minimizing cloud usage correlates with a reduced ecological footprint. He cited WeTransfer as an example, showcasing their remarkable 78% reduction in environmental impact through streamlined server resource consumption, earning them recognition as a Certified B Corporation.

Cost reduction of wetransfer aws reinvent2023 werner vogels keynote

He culminated his talk by introducing ‘The Frugal Architect,’ a resource sharing his expertise on prudent cloud infrastructure development without exorbitant spending. You can find the details of the use case in this aws-insights blog WeTransfer cuts server emissions and grows core business on AWS

Cost as a Crucial Aspect of System Design

Cost, alongside security and performance, emerged as a pivotal facet in system design, Vogels underscored. Therefore, cost and sustainability should be treated at equal weight when it comes to non-functional requirements.

Non-functional requirement cast sustainability aws reinvent2023 werner vogels keynote

Designers were urged to pre-estimate costs meticulously and elucidate them to clients, aligning cost considerations with business objectives rather than solely technical ones. Instances like leveraging AWS services such as S3 or DynamoDB necessitated considerations of transfer rates, storage, and request requirements, ensuring alignment with business goals throughout the design stages.

To sum up the first law Make Cost a Non-functional Requirement, Vogels stated as

Consider cost at every step

Aligning Costs with Business Goals

Vogels stressed the importance of aligning costs with revenue-generating activities within successful architectures. Implementing economies of scale to curtail expenses with an increasing customer base was highlighted.

T2 instances usages aws reinvent2023 werner vogels keynote

He delved into the evolution of AWS Lambda’s pricing strategy, transitioning from T2 instances to the innovative Firecracker microVMs for superior resource optimization. Vogels also advocated for exploring energy-efficient programming languages like Rust, showcasing AWS’s adoption in Firecracker and a substantial segment of their S3 service, aiming for more efficient and cost-effective solutions. This blog is really helpful about Firecracker — Lightweight Virtualization for Serverless Computing.

Lambda compute pooling aws reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

The primary objective remained to build adaptable systems without detrimentally affecting customers.
Vogels emphasized that ignoring costs while building technical and economic depth leads to debts you’ll have to repay. He stressed the importance of the Systems that Last Align Cost to Business and summed it up as,

Pay off your debts

Cost alignment 2nd law the frugal architect AWS reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

As builders, we need to consider that revenue is crucial — and use that knowledge to inform our choices. Because growth at all costs leads to a trail of destruction.

Balancing Trade-offs in Architecture

Inviting Cat Swetel from Nubank, Vogels shared insights on the delicate balance between cost, stability, and performance. Discussions revolved around adjustments made, focusing on areas such as microservices garbage collection and database caching strategies.

aws reinvent 2023 werner vogels keynote Cat Swetel presentation

The emphasis lay on architects continuously gauging and adapting, comprehending the cost implications of each microservice and feature. She presented that their 90 million customers saved $8 billion in fees in 2022.

The AWS Case Study: Nubank here

So in consideration with Architecting is a Series of Trade-offs, decisions entail trade-offs between cost, resilience, and performance, perpetually at odds with non-functional demands. The adage “Everything fails, all the time” underlines the need for resilience, potentially impacting performance. Achieving the right balance means aligning technical and business needs to match your risk tolerance and budget. Frugality isn’t just about spending less but maximizing value by discerning worthwhile investments. In this section, Vogels summed it up,

Align your priorities

Monitoring and Control for Cost-Efficient Architectures

He started by reminding everyone that Amazon is a massively microsystems-driven environment where each of the costs to a particular service is of a request to the service will have a certain cost.

Amazon metrics for system cost aws reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

Underscoring the perils of unmonitored systems leading to unforeseen costs, Vogels announced AWS Management Console’s new service, myApplications, and Amazon CloudWatch Application Signals that help to automate the instrumentation of your application. This blog will guide you to automatically instrument and operate applications on AWS easily. These tools are aimed at enhancing cost and sustainability tracking.

cost control conversion per request aws reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

Vogels stressed the need for active implementation of cost controls within architectures, emphasizing the necessity of mechanisms rather than relying solely on intentions considering the law Unobserved Systems Lead to Unknown Costs, summing it up saying as,

Define your meter

He introduced everyone to tunable architecture in software engineering. Frugal architecture boils down to monitoring closely and saving money smartly. Well-designed systems allow you to take action on chances to improve the systems.

Tunable building blocks aws reinvent2023 Vogels keynote

To do this, decompose applications into tunable building blocks that can be adjusted. So he advocated for tier-based controls, enabling the toggling or throttling of components by business entities referencing the law Cost Aware Architectures Implement Cost Controls saying that,

Establish your tiers

In this way, the granular control over components such as switching off features, throttle, turning off pre-fetch calls, reducing logs/metrics, showing fewer details, and so on optimizes both cost and experience. Infrastructure, languages, and databases should all be tunable and we have to give control to our customers that must be tied to business impact.

Incremental Cost Optimization

Highlighting cost-saving as a gradual process, Vogels emphasized meticulous attention to minor details focusing on the elimination of digital waste.

Saving opportunities aws reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

Strategies included discontinuing or resizing underutilized services, transitioning to more cost-effective solutions, reducing the current resources to the amount of resources that we need for our application, and conducting detailed analyses of computing resource utilization through tools like flamegraphs. This detailed scrutiny helped identify and rectify significant cost-driving areas, such as garbage collection and application configurations.

Using machine learning algorithms, CodeGuru Profiler can help you find your most expensive lines of code and suggest ways you can improve efficiency and remove CPU bottlenecks.

Amazon Codeguru profiler graph visualization aws reinvent2023 Vogels keynote

It provides different visualizations of profiling data to help you identify what code is running on the CPU, see how much time is consumed, and suggest ways to reduce CPU utilization.

Vogels ended the section on Cost Optimization is Incremental by explaining that the pursuit of cost efficiency is an ongoing journey and summed it up;

Continuously optimize

Continued Improvement and Innovation

Vogels started the section Unchallenged Success Leads to Assumptions with a very wise woman, Grace Hopper’s quote

The most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘we have always done it this way.’

He emphasized keeping in mind that building the development phase can be costly, yet the operational expenses of running our application far exceed the development costs.

Continuous improvement aws reinvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

He cautioned against complacency, warning about the perils of entrenched assumptions, and emphasized the need for continual evaluation and improvement whether it is a platform or programming language we use in the application. He highlighted the prevalence of higher operational costs compared to initial build costs, stressing the necessity for ongoing evaluation and enhancement.

Vogels said that we always need to continue to learn, disconfirm our own beliefs, and put our ego aside as being the master programmer, but start thinking about the cost and the complexity of how to deal with garbage collection and summed it up,

Disconfirm your beliefs

Anticipating the Future by Observing the Present

Vogels touched upon the evolving landscape of AI, acknowledging its growing influence, yet emphasizing the enduring relevance of traditional machine learning and AI development methodologies.

Predict the future aws reinvent2023 Vogels keynote

He accentuated the pivotal role of big data in effective AI applications, likening machine learning to a magnet that identifies crucial information within vast datasets. Vogels spotlighted several organizations leveraging AI to address real-world challenges, showcasing its applications in precision medicine, environmental monitoring using satellite imagery, and combating child exploitation through detection platforms.

Inviting Dr. Rebecca Portnoff, Head of Data Science at Thorn, shared insights on their nonprofit’s organization leveraging machine learning tools to scan millions of digital files globally for potential cases of child sexual abuse. Highlighting the challenge, she mentioned that manually sifting through over 88 million files in 2022 could take up to three years to uncover a single instance of abuse amid the vast data pool.

thorn application child sexual abuse cases aws reinvent2023 Vogels keynote

However, employing machine learning as a powerful tool expedites this process significantly, acting like a magnet to swiftly identify these critical instances. You can find the case study of Thorn in Amazon aws-ai-for-good news.

Practical Experimentation in Machine Learning on AWS

Sharing a personal experiment, Vogels demonstrated the ease of employing ML on AWS by creating a brain analyzer mock-up for radiology hospitals, aiming to expedite stroke diagnosis, getting a 360-degree view of sort of the state of the patient which helps drive diagnosis much faster than before. As always said if we do not have good data, we do not have good AI.

360 degree view diagnosis aws reinvent2023 werner vogels keynote

He stressed the importance of every second in critical scenarios. Additionally, he discussed the comprehensive ecosystem supporting ML work, highlighting Amazon CDK ML constructs and AWS Application Composer, concluding by emphasizing that there has never been a better time to be a builder.

AI/ML AWS Services Amazon CDK Application Composer SNS reInvent2023 Werner Vogels keynote

He built the system in a hacking way only on a Friday afternoon for five weeks in a row. So he emphasized that

If I can do it, you can do it

The application is available for all on Github to experiment with and see how easy it is to start building.

Amazon Q is a great learning tool to understand the complete code base, not only at a file level but also at all system levels which is a game-changing advancement of AI.

Throughout his keynote, Vogels passionately highlighted the transformative potential of technology, illustrating how these seven laws empower architects to craft resilient, cost-conscious, and forward-thinking architectures.

AWS reinvent2023 werner vogels keynote aws builder

Emphasizing the pivotal role of innovation and adaptability, he culminated his session with the resounding statement,

There’s never been a better time to be a builder

Now go build

Conclusion Werner Vogels AWS reinvent2023 keynote

encapsulating the spirit of opportunity and innovation in today’s technological landscape.

AWS services Werner Vogels AWS reinvent2023 keynote

The learning and building opportunities are endless right now and it’s just a very exciting time to be a developer as well as builder.

If you found this article on Vogels’ keynote on this AWS re:Invent 2023 and the 7 laws of #thefrugalarchitect helpful and insightful, we encourage you to share it within your network. Your sharing can spark discussions and help others delve into the world of cost-aware and sustainable architectures. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #thefrugalarchitect to contribute to the ongoing conversation and connect with like-minded individuals seeking innovative architectural approaches.

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Md. Mostafa Al Mahmud

Full-Stack Software Engineer || JavaScript Lover || Experienced with MERN Stack || Mongo, Express, React, Node, ES6, Netlify, Heroku, Firebase, Version Control