Amazon announced an unexpected pick for the incoming head of its cloud-computing segment as the company’s profit powerhouse embarks on a crucial transition to maintain its dominance.

Adam Selipsky, CEO of Seattle software maker Tableau, will lead Amazon Web Services, current AWS chief Andy Jassy said in an email to employees Tuesday. Jassy is replacing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as CEO later this year.

“Adam brings strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team,” Jassy wrote. “We have a lot more to invent for customers, and we have a very strong leadership team and group of builders to go make it happen. Am excited for what lies ahead.”

Selipsky will inherit the division at its most profitable, but also at a time when competitors are nipping at AWS’ heels. Amazon’s loss to Microsoft of a $10 billion cloud-computing contract with the Pentagon last year, for instance, signaled to some that AWS’ seat at the top of the sector could be in peril. (Amazon has contested the contract award.)

Selipsky is not a new face at Amazon: He previously worked for 11 years as an AWS executive in a high-profile role overseeing the unit’s sales, marketing, technical support and customer service. In 2016, Selipsky took the top job at Tableau, guiding it through a reboot of its data analytics and visualizations business and 2019 acquisition by Salesforce for $15.7 billion, one of the largest purchases of a Washington-based company.

Tableau, which turns oceans of data into slick charts and graphs, has a rabid fan base among business executives, researchers and public servants. Tableau’s market capitalization more than quintupled during Selipsky’s leadership of the company until its merger with Salesforce, though it remained largely unprofitable during that time. Meanwhile, Tableau’s popularity spawned stiff competition from Microsoft and AWS, which developed competing cloud-based data-visualization software.

Advertising

Industry observers expressed surprise on social media at Jassy’s announcement. Many had pegged longtime AWS execs Matt Garman or Peter DeSantis as likely picks for the top spot.

“This I didn’t see coming at all,” wrote cloud-computing consultant Corey Quinn on Twitter. “Every indication was that it was going to be Matt Garman, not Adam [Selipsky].”

Selipsky plans to rejoin Amazon this May and will take the reins at AWS after a weekslong transition period, Jassy wrote.

Selipsky, nearly a lifelong Seattleite, describes himself in his Twitter profile as a “water skier, wine guy.” He once offered to lead a water-skiing outing on Lake Washington as an auction item for the Washington Technology Industry Association and is a former board member of Woodinville’s Silver Lake Winery.

Selipsky left the Seattle area after graduating from the private Lakeside School in 1984 to attend Harvard. He worked as a management consultant in Boston before returning to Seattle 20 years ago as a marketing executive for RealNetworks, where, according to his LinkedIn profile, he was eventually responsible for nearly a third of the company’s revenue.

During his prior tenure at Amazon, Selipsky served at Jassy’s right hand, helping the cloud unit outpace tech rivals Google and Microsoft. He was often the public face of AWS, a frequent guest on talk shows and the conference circuit to explain why an online retailer was going into the business of selling web-based software.

Advertising

Today, AWS is the economic engine powering Amazon, earning more than $13.5 billion last year — more than 63% of the company’s operating profits for the year — on annual division revenue of $45.3 billion.

Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are rapidly catching up with AWS’ early lead in the cloud-computing sector, though Amazon still dominates, commanding 31% of market share by revenue, compared with Microsoft’s 20% and Google’s 7%, according to market research firm Canalys.

More on Cloud Computing »

More

Selipsky will be succeeded as Tableau CEO by Mark Nelson, currently the company’s executive vice president of product development, Tableau spokesperson Olivia Cornejo confirmed.

“With 25 years of enterprise software experience, Mark has been on the Tableau leadership team for three years and he has deep relationships with our customers and employees,” Cornejo said in a statement. “We look forward to Tableau’s continued momentum and customer success.”