Amazon web services : Business Innovation in cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is making the case for its cloud platform as a driver of business innovation, saying that as the cost of using its infrastructure falls, so does any risk associated with a new venture.

The firm also argues that AWS is now a mature and robust enough platform for enterprise workloads, citing some customers using its infrastructure to operate even mission-critical applications.

At the AWS Summit in London, chief technology officer Werner Vogels said the cloud platform has had a fundamental impact on how IT has evolved since it launched in 2006. He stressed the firm’s commitment to openness and value as reasons for the success of AWS.

“We do not lock you in to any type of technology. You can choose any operating system and any application; you can run them all on AWS. There is no contract to force you to be our customer for say, five years, and this means we need to be on our toes – if you not satisfied, you can just walk away,” he said.

As Amazon continues to expand, this drives economy of scale and cuts costs, which the firm passes on to customers to keep them happy, with some customers seeing a 40 percent reduction in their bills at start of 2012. But this also helps to ensure customer success, according to Vogels.

“If we can get the cost of computing down low enough that you don’t need to worry about it, then the type of new applications we can help create will be enormous. Our aim is make infrastructure so cheap that it will drive innovation,” he said.

Vogels claimed that economics rather than technology is driving cloud uptake, with customers realising that they can gain access to IT resources quickly without any purchase cost, and only pay for what they use.

“You increase innovation when the cost of failure approaches zero, and so you can stop wasting money on IT, and spend it on the things that really matter for your business – building better products,” he said.

Amazon: cloud computing driving business innovation

Meanwhile, Amazon’s chief information security officer Stephen Schmidt detailed some of the lengths the firm goes to in order to safeguard customer data. These include ongoing security vetting of staff, restricting access to the AWS infrastructure to key staff, and all accesses logged.

The firm is clearly doing something right, as it was able to line up several customers at the AWS Summit which are increasing their use of the Amazon cloud platform.

News International chief information officer Chris Taylor said that AWS now provides about 20 percent of the organisation’s total compute power, and this is likely to expand.

“We’ve virtualised 90 percent of our infrastructure now, and will soon be at 100 percent. After that, the desire is to move it to the cloud,” he said.

AWS gave News International early access to its DynamoDB cloud database service to power the access control system behind the publisher’s paywall, according to Taylor.

DynamoDB is a fast, fully managed NoSQL database service that makes it simple and cost-effective to store and retrieve any amount of data, and serve any level of request traffic. All data items are stored on Solid State Drives (SSDs), and are replicated across 3 Availability Zones for high availability and durability.

With DynamoDB, you can offload the administrative burden of operating and scaling a highly available distributed database cluster, while paying a low price for only what you use.

“That allows us to deal with over 45 million transactions per month from just two mid-size EC2 instances,” he claimed.

The Dutch central bank has also approved AWS as an outsourcing platform for the financial services industry, according to Amazon. Vogels also offered some predictions for future trends, including real-time analytics and use of encryption to protect data becoming routine.

“Analytics is still in flux. In the next two years, many prods will go real-time with feedback loops based on real-time analysis of data,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hadoop and MapReduce will become invisible, according to Vogels.

“Expect to see many layers built on Hadoop to make it more efficient and easier to use, with richer environments built on top of Hadoop and MapReduce.”

Vogels promised that customers can expect to see new encryption tools from AWS in the near future to help protect data.

“Encryption is going to be the most important tool to use in the coming years. You should be using it not just in the cloud, but also on-premise to protect your customers,” he said.

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