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January - 2013 - issue > In Conversation
The Cloud Advocate
Dr. Werner Vogels
CTO-Amazon Web Services
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Founded in 2006, Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company (NASDAQ:AMZN), provides IT infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services, now commonly known as cloud computing. Having enabled traditional organizations like Shell, New York Times and several others to move towards cloud AWS is one of the biggest and most widely used cloud computing platforms.

Dr Werner Vogels is the CTO of AWS and the visionary who has been instrumental in AWS's journey. In a conversation with Dr Vogels, he shares about the journey of cloud computing and other major trends in the industry. Excerpts from the interview.

People first started considering cloud out of the cost picture but the agility provided by the technology to make an organization move faster became the prime reason. It could be around existing production system or building new channels for either of them, cloud is a no brainer.

New age CIOs bring agility to the organization:

The role of the CIO is transitioning but is not deviating away from the 'I' or Information. In the old world before cloud technology became commonplace, a CIO's prime objective was to reduce cost and to provide the customer with more control of the IT organization. These decisions did not help the agility of the company. IT organizations were thus seen as the blocker of any new implementation in the company.

The agility and ability from cloud is rapidly revolutionizing the role of CIOs. Now instead of being a blocker a CIO is the enabler of innovation. They need not abide by long contracts and can acquire resources whenever they need. A CIO also does not require investing in capital because everything comes under operational cost. He is capable to exactly allocate what kind of resources he has acquired for a particular business unit. Instead of being the Chief Procurement Officer, he is now seen as somebody who fuels innovation, by allowing business units to move faster.

With increasing consumer choice the competition is turning almost murderous. Business units need to move much faster and must identify their product cycle early on for successful product development. A CIO is now capable of supporting this process. This modification enables companies to develop multiple products simultaneously as opposed to the old world of IT where organizations had no choice but to develop only one or two products because experimenting was expensive.

Industries and their transition
towards cloud:

Cloud is a disruptive technology and faced marginal apprehension only because it challenged the age old IT organizations which had held CIOs hostage since time immemorial. But CIOs quickly realized that cloud computing is not just a new technology but a radical way for managing resources, innovation and making business successful.

It is surprising to see almost all the verticals and industries embrace cloud. Let alone traditional IT companies, but a plethora of non IT companies too moved to cloud computing. Industries such as hotels, construction, pharmaceuticals etc have made the leap to cloud. A common trend is that businesses most unlikely to move towards cloud are sometimes the first to move towards cloud because for them IT is not a core competency. Any time or effort that they need to spend on managing IT resources is actually taking time away from their core business.

The biggest challenge for organizations while embracing cloud is to manage change and help individuals go through the transition.

Cloud fuelling the big data and
mobile wave

The integration of data analytics into all business operations is the next big thing. Big data is the ability to process large amounts of data to create competitive advantage which comes from better understanding of your customer. It essentially comprehends how your customers are using products in real time. Big data is radically different from old world business intelligence. Companies now gather information from every possible source, be it social networking sites or their own website and then all the data is brought into one place and is used to understand patterns of customer behavior. This in turn helps them build better products.

Cloud is powering this Big data movement in a huge way since data analytics requires a company to carry out millions of computations. Cloud is a convenient platform to run these computations making it different from doing on premise analytics. It also adds an economical advantage since companies only need to pay for what they use and not for the entire software or the expensive supercomputing hardware.

The other big trend is the integration of mobile into enterprises. Jeff Bezos, Founder, CEO Amazon.com said that in the years to come Amazon will see most of its sales being driven from devices other than the Personal Computers. Other enterprises are also following suit and embracing this trend openheartedly. We can look at this trend from two perspectives, the first being the employee point of view. Mobile provides people working in an organization to be connected to work even when they are out of office. The second is the products developed by these enterprises must be designed with a mobile first outlook for enterprises.

The proliferation of these devices is also increasing alarmingly and in the years to come these devices will only be a window to access the data that you require be it newspaper subscriptions, music, movies etc. and all this information will live somewhere else i.e. on the cloud.

Consumerization of IT

Consumerization of IT is rapidly growing. Enterprises in the old world saw companies coming up with only one or two devices, which reduced choice for customers. The new world of IT offers them a range of devices at competitive prices. People working in enterprises also purchase high end devices and want to use these devices for work purpose. The flexibility of these new services comes from cloud technology. So letting people bring their own device into the company ushers in increased productivity in the organization. These devices become more of an asset for the company instead of being a liability.

We can see a young group of leaders coming into the enterprise who are comfortable with using software in a different way than traditional IT. Instead of forcing this new workforce to use the old ways, CIOs are going with the flow and providing to their workers flexible work options. And this makes the business units and their workers really successful.

As the CTO of an organization which provides a platform for other businesses to run, puts me in a very responsible position. My priority is to make sure that the customers get the absolute best reliability, performance and security. AWS’s vision and mission is to help businesses and developers build reliable services and sophisticated applications. This is a promise the company intends to keep. (As told to Rachita Sharma)
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