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Amazon keeps its brand front-and-center in these listings, but make no mistake: these sellers are crucial to the company's future.They now supply about 40 percent of the items sold on Amazon annually.Through its Amazon Web Services (AWS)–a menu of products that pioneered the idea of cloud computing–the company has transformed the internet startup economy by opening up its digital infrastructure to anyone.

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At 1.2 million square feet, PHX6 consists of two fulfillment operations working as mirror images of one another, a redundancy that lets the FC scale up or down in response to rising and falling demand.Last year, Amazon says, third parties sold more than a billion items worth "tens of billions of dollars."Through a program called Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, the world's largest online retailer not only lets other sellers list their items on its website but lets them outsource shipping as well.As we saw when we toured the Phoenix facility, third-party products come into the fulfillment center like any other inventory and sit on the same shelves as stuff sold by Amazon itself.Much in the way cloud services and the data centers that house them have become the foundation of doing business online, Amazon's fulfillment centers have the potential to become the networked hubs of the consumer economy, the biggest of big boxes that free up businesses to focus on making things rather than moving them.Entering the fulfillment center in Phoenix feels like venturing into a realm where the machines, not the humans, are in charge.Vogel says that selling directly on Amazon made getting started much easier than trying to get the attention of buyers from big-name retailers.

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