Not long ago, we took a look back at the last decade of Amazon Web Services and its growth, particularly in terms of its reach into high performance computing and large-scale enterprise workloads. While the startup story is easier to tell for AWS in terms of the capex/opex advantage to compete with far larger companies, the enterprise use case growth of AWS is still a stunning story over time.
This morning during his AWS Summit New York keynote, AWS Chief Technology Officer, Werner Vogels shared growth highlights of the company over the last ten years, noting that the message is just the same as it was during the launch of the company’s cloud service.
“The economic model we sat next to those services is what allowed us to shift from capex to opex. We had, as Amazon, been on the receiving end of acquiring IT infrastructure—and we hated it. The only way to bring down our costs was to write a big check for hardware and licenses. What we needed then was to pay for what we actually used; there shouldn’t be a contract if it wasn’t needed. So we wanted to make sure our users had just that—access to capacity in minutes. It is that model that stull drives this—that and all the technology built on the side.”
While many of the companies highlighted at AWS events fall under the “startup” category, Vogels says it is hard to still call some of these startups in the true sense of the word. They are large-scale web companies—and require services and tools that match that. Accordingly, he announced several new additions to cater to the dev and test crowd on the microservices and container front. As of today, Amazon Web Services will also be dropping the cost of EBS snapshots by 47% and adding 66% more IOPs per GB as well as introducing a new load balancing tool for applications.
Among other announcements today were more details about the forthcoming regions. On the slate now are four new areas; one in the U.S. Midwest (Ohio), another in Montreal, one in London, and perhaps most striking, a new datacenter zone in China. Vogels says there are more on the way, all provided to make sure users are getting more local access to their end users and teams.
Indeed, much of today’s Vogels keynote emphasized developer productivity, but for our purposes, what was most striking was the look at enterprise growth that is happening for AWS—powered, of course by the developers and new access to tools they have within the Amazon cloud.
“Most companies today are going through a digital transformation, if they haven’t already,” Vogels says to strike the contrast between more nimble, agile startups that aren’t tied to decades of lengthy infrastructure acquisition costs and delays. “This digital transformation is now pervasive across the entire organization and it is key to survival. Competition isn’t going to come from a few other equally large players in an industry; it could well be coming from a more nimble, smaller company that might do a couple things really well.” As Vogel notes, this is something that AWS has seen happen in finance, due in large part to the scalable resources provided in their cloud.
“It is death by a thousand cuts,” Vogel emphasizes. “Capital is still scarce. So is access to talent. You need to be fast moving, no matter the size of your organization.” At the core of these statements is the concept of agility, and one step higher than that is the new world of serverless infrastructure. Vogels pointed to several examples of companies getting out of the business of running their own datacenters. The most notable example was GE, which has shuttered 30 of its 34 datacenters and has moved 9,000 workloads to the Amazon cloud. He also pointed to media giant, Conde Nast, along with a slide showing the vacant real estate left over from their massive datacenter.
All of this harkens back to the concept of lean operations—a term that is often used in manufacturing. The goal is eliminate “wait states” and waste, to drive flexibility and new development models. “The new world requires new ways of developing,” Vogels argues, “and agility is what we’re really striving for. This agility thrives in dev/test—not production. The ability to test with higher fidelity is a big deal; the testers in the old days had rotten old hardware and broken databases so this kind of fidelity was never possible. In the cloud, users can test at any level of fidelity they want, and this means getting products to market faster since developers aren’t waiting for resources. Further, Vogels says, “some customers are saving 75% of test and development costs simply by having the ability to power down resources when they’re done for the day.” This, he says, mixed with the 2X-3X productivity gains in developers by test/dev in the cloud is meaning big things for big business and the startups vying to compete with them. “It’s now about the applications, not the infrastructure.”
Aside from some of the announcements Vogels made this morning at the AWS Summit New York, much of his talk was focused on DevOps matters, particularly for startups. Those who had not reached large-scale web company status (the presumed next-level above startup) featured prominently. Aside from Lyft, which has graduated past the startup stage in terms of infrastructure usage, other speakers from smaller outfits spoke about the role of microservices and container management options and how those are powering both the speed and scale of their offerings. Ultimately, the lessons AWS learns in working with these nimble startups will bleed over into enterprise-level offerings, feeding the notion we already have that these small companies are teaching the big boys how to play at lower cost and with near limitless scale.
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