AWS Summit 2013 – London Edition

One day passed since I’ve come back home from London attending Amazon’s roadshow about their cloud offering.

Technical conference with keynote speakers including Werner Vogels himself. If you don’t know who Werner Vogels is then I recommend to google a bit about a person. Shortly, he is a CTO of Amazon. His keynote at Amazon conference in Las Vegas, hold last year November, intrigued me heavily. Especially with famous sentences like “academic research is done” and “everything what was to be researched is already researched” and “all architectures we dreamed about are finally possible”. I’m not sure how exact my memory about those sentences is, so please do not treat them as real quotes, yet meaning stays.

I flew to London as complete newbie to Amazon. I had some pre-sales knowledge and general understanding of Amazon’s direction but as technical person, architecture leader and consultant that’s obviously not enough to fully utilize the potential. I was curious and I’d hoped that my visit to London and AWS summit would feed my hunger for knowledge, new experience and to be better prepared to compare big vendors offerings. By big vendors I obviously mean Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

I’m happy as I’ve got my answers. As a person who was with Windows Azure from the very beginning (PDC 2008) and who was in Azure SWAT team in Microsoft Poland helping to sell the message in the local market I found many aspects really familiar. Often natural comment to me was like “yeah.. Microsoft has it too”, then I kept reminding myself that yeah, but Amazon was there in 2006 while it’s still MS who chases the rabbit.

Aside of feat-by-feat comparisons, I finally figured out how to position cloud computing platforms. At Microsoft we desperately tried to sell Azure to developers who:

- did not care

- were afraid that the legacy architectures will kill their years long efforts

- did not understand the value

- were afraid that something they used to have for free (dev environment) has to be paid with on demand basis

Then their bosses mostly from traditional Microsoft ecosystem of ISVs (with boxed solutions, easy to define, on-premise based business models) could simple not see the ROI.

What I’ve learnt at AWS summit that paradoxically cloud computing platform is not for developers in the first front. They have their role of course and choices to stay in their comfort zones, but making developers happy about staying with .NET, python or whatever to deliver cloud services is not enough to show the complete perspective. Big picture of cloud computing is designed for the IT and solution level of architecture, not software development level of architecture.

If I dared to explain my learning in detail, of course all dots would become connected but the trick is in messaging. Messaging when I don’t try to say that IT is not needed anymore as Microsoft will take care of it (while it doesn’t, it just provides basic level of high availability).

IT in the world of cloud computing is needed more than ever, yet it has to transform rapidly.

I loved the speech of CIO of News International, who said that before he joined the company they had IT department. After years of his operations they do not have IT department anymore. IT has emerged into Technology department. Suble change in names suggest one thing. IT department is perceived by its IT operations.  Those can be heavily automated and standarized by cloud based services. If all that ecosystem of solution can be designed, delivered and maintained well, IT can do what modern IT is supposed to do. Be much better connected to business and become such Technology department whose mission is not to run IT operations but to deliver innovation.

For such KPIs change. IT operations often are measured by cost to performance ratio. That’s how budgets are negotiated and challenged. Innovation goes completely different road. It’s about value to performance ratio, with such positioning IT gets tools to understand, measure and control ROI much better and those arguments are the arguments for much more efficient discussion about budgets.

That’s my biggest enlightenment from AWS Summit, especially if some details from their business model is considered as natural helper to unblock the conversation.

From technical point of view I was mostly bootstrapping myself into the ecosystem so I’ve learnt basics. I touched all components I needed to realize some pros and cons for particular architectural choices. At the end I summarized it and personally compared with Google and Microsoft offering. I challenged a few Amazon representants with interesting questions.  Many brought me answers like “we’re not ready to announce anything about it yet”, which to me with my corporate experience means “Yes, we do have plans, yet I cannot tell you when those will be announced, but I’d say ‘_no_ we do not intend to’ if it wasn’t the matter for this or next year”.

All my notes which have about 30-40kB of raw text brought me all answers to say that Amazon’s offering is most mature and most complete. Some would say still, I’m saying I’m happy that I’ve finally met the stack, the company and its value proposition.

Quite fun to be on the other side of such event and to observe how Amazon organizes events, touches the community and builds relations with developers. I’m glad I chose to fly to London for the event.

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