AWS partners speak: how an online bookstore transformed IT

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AWS partners speak: how an online bookstore transformed IT

Amazon Web Services this week marked a decade since its inception, and leading Australian channel partners have told CRN how the public cloud giant helped rewrite the rulebook for enterprise IT and push the sector to a consumption model.

Richard Steven, chief executive of ITOC, said the explosive growth of AWS over the past decade had been "truly remarkable".

"The whole ICT industry has been disrupted and the once online bookstore has taken on the giants of IT and become the cloud platform of choice against all odds," Steven added.

In a blog post celebrating the anniversary, AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr wrote: "A decade ago, discussion about the risks of cloud computing centered around adoption. It was new and unproven, and raised more questions than it answered. That era passed some time ago. These days, I hear more talk about the risk of not going to the cloud."

Mark Randall, director of sales and marketing of Australia's first AWS premier consulting partner, Bulletproof, compared the rise of public cloud providers to the PC revolution of the 1990s.

"While Microsoft and Intel put a computer on every desk, Amazon have democratised access to data centres, with flexible computing capacity available to everyone on a pay-per-use basis. This has unleashed a new wave of digital innovation and allowed business owners to innovate without the constraints of traditional IT infrastructure platforms."

Mark Randall, Bulletproof

By making complex enterprise IT infrastructure accessible within a few mouse clicks and the swipe of a credit card, AWS helped foster a new generation of digital technology startups that circumvented the traditional process of purchasing and provisioning systems.

This was the case for Brisbane-based partner CloudTrek, which launched in 2013 "without buying a single piece of hardware", said principal solution architect, Mark Green.

"To set up a brand new company it would have previously required purchasing an amount of hardware to run our own business applications. With AWS, we were able to immediately deploy resources for our own internal applications without the procurement cycle, delivery, configuration and management headache that previously came with standing up a business from scratch."

CloudTrek has gone on to become an AWS advanced consulting partner, with a host of "large-scale projects with some of Brisbane’s largest public and private companies" under its belt, said managing director Neil Hitz.

Base2services is one of Australia's longest-serving AWS partners, having led more than 250 implementations since 2007.

Managing director Arthur Marinis told CRN: "For the industry, it took a while for everyone to really understand the impact, but it has changed the way companies develop and the way they look at services. Most importantly it has significantly reduced the capex model that was required to satisfy peak load situations for applications."

Marinis said he has witnessed "the demise of old-style hosting and more companies moving to cloud-style services".

"Procurement has radically changed. Buying software and infrastructure by the hour has removed the barriers most companies have with massive licence costs."

Asked to single out the Melbourne partner's biggest project, Marinis said: "If I have to pick one customer that stood out in recent times, it is one of our international customers. When they came to us, they already had 2 million hits a day and kept on falling over at this point. Working with them, we managed to get them to 20 million hits a day.

"Recently they had to handle 50 million. We worked with them to change the way they developed, the technologies they used and to leverage AWS’s edge services. All in all, this only took three weeks. That’s pretty cool," he added.

Arthur Marinis, Base2services

Growing pains

The past decade has not been without its challenges for AWS. The company has seen its share of mass outages, while many doubted its profitability, given the reputation for low prices.

Speaking at its 2014 conference, the president of channel analyst outfit Canalys, Steve Brazier, said "the economics of infrastructure-as-a-service model represent a pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme".

“You need to sign up customers and you build a data centre. But then those customers need to do more and more, expect more performance and higher SLAs, and you have competitors pushing you down that direction too. So you have to build more and more infrastructure to keep the customers happy."

Amazon responded to doubts over its public cloud P&L last April, when it broke out AWS performance in its annual results for the first time. To the surprise of many, AWS was one of the most profitable business units within the retail empire.

Another major stumbling block in Australia was fear around data sovereignty, a debate given major impetus following Edward Snowden's revelations of widespread data collection by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

AWS put these concerns to bed, for some at least, with the launch of its Asia-Pacific (Sydney) region in November 2012, which brought two availability zones to this country.

James Bromberger, lead architect of Perth-based system integrator Ajilon, called out the launch of the Sydney region as a significant milestone for AWS – "opening up the public cloud for those customers wishing to perform jurisdictionally sensitive workloads in a hybrid environment, easing the transition".

Amazon's foray down under gave it a huge first-mover advantage over its biggest rival, with Microsoft taking another two years to establish an Australian availability zone for Azure.

Despite its late entrant to public cloud, Microsoft has been aggressive in trying to close the gap with AWS in the infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service domain. Azure and AWS are the only two companies in the 'Leader' box of the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, Synergy Research said AWS's market share was 31 percent, more than three times its closest rival, Microsoft Azure, at 9 percent, followed by IBM SoftLayer at 7 percent and Google at 4 percent.

AWS has kept its innovation edge with a ceaseless array of new launches, and its Australian partners were quick to tell CRN how these tools have continued to create new sales opportunities.

Asked about innovation, ITOC's Richard Steven and CloudTrek's Neil Hitz both pointed to AWS Lambda, which was launched last year and allows users to run code without provisioning or managing servers.

"Serverless architectures are the future and when you consider the implications on the supply chain and the wider IT industry, we've got a revolution not an evolution ahead," said Steven.

Besides the new services, IT partners highlighted AWS's maturing Australian channel strategy.

While the first wave of the AWS is epitomised by young, nimble cloud integrators like Base2services and CloudTrek, now the vendor has firmly cemented relationships with traditional IT solution providers. Datacom, for instance, was crowned one of the world's first AWS managed service providers last June.

Distributors have also got in on the act, with the likes of Westcon, Avnet and Distribution Central all allowing partners to provision AWS instances from recently launched cloud marketplaces.

Charles Blaxland, senior software engineer at Melbourne-headquartered AWS partner DiUS, said: “AWS has put a lot of focus on building partnerships in the Australian partner ecosystem since the opening of the Sydney data centre. We’ve seen them do an excellent job building strong professional services and solutions architecture teams here, who are willing to dig in and work with us to make sure customers are successful with AWS, not just during pre-sales, but throughout the project implementation."

Charles Blaxland, DiUS

It was a sentiment echoed across the partners who spoke to CRN.

"We have observed that partners are finding their niche and specialisation in the AWS ecosystem," said ITOC's Steven. "There is an emergence of partners having specific competencies by virtue of their demonstrated technical proficiency and proven customer success in AWS solutions offerings."

Stefan Jansen, the vendor's ANZ head of channel and alliances, said AWS had continued to invest into its Amazon Partner Network (APN). The day before this year's AWS Summit in Sydney, the vendor will be running a Partner Summit.

“We are also seeing partners working more collaboratively with other partners in delivering end to end experiences to our customers," said Jansen. "For example, Ultraserve has successfully delivered an easy to install and manage e-commerce platform using the SAP Hybris product and are now delivering customers at global scale.

"Another example is where a large global system integrator and a local born-in-the-cloud DevOps partner successfully delivered a new operation model for cloud adoption with a large financial services company," Jansen added.

CRN and iTnews are exclusive media partners of the 2016 AWS Summit. Make sure to drop by our stand at the conference, which takes place on 27-28 April at the Horden Pavilion in Sydney. The Partner Summit is on 26 April at the Sofitel Wentworth.

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