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“Evolve or Die”: AWS Re:Invent Delivers Inspiration in a Cost-Conscious Environment

Technologists who traveled to this year’s AWS re:Invent hoping that AWS would provide clear guidance about cost-efficient uses of the cloud probably came away disappointed. Inspiration, energy, and a compelling vision for the future, however, made the conference more than worthwhile for the crowd of 50,000+ AWS devotees.

A keynote for the C-suite – not the technologists

 AWS recognizes the need to make the case for cloud-related spending to organizations’ executives. Revenues at AWS during this year’s second quarter rose 27 percent from year-earlier levels, the slowest growth rate since 2014. As customers tighten their belts in anticipation of a global economic slowdown, top executives are questioning their companies’ spending on AWS services.

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Adam Selipsky, the CEO of AWS, and Swami Sivasubramanian, Vice President for Data and Machine Learning, devoted much of their keynote presentations to client case studies.

Selipsky shared how AirBnB adapted to market conditions through its reliance on the public cloud during the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentioned companies that have trimmed the time they need to develop new features for their products by more than 40 percent after moving data to the cloud.

Those lightly sketched case studies appeared to target C-suite executives of AWS customers. Technologists, however, wanted to hear more detail about how to achieve cloud efficiencies, and they’re hoping AWS will deliver clearly delineated case studies before next year’s re:Invent.

New services and instance types are great. Guidance would be even better.

In the past, AWS has been reluctant to tell its customers how they should use the ever-growing functionalities of the cloud. They leave it to internal teams to discern the best way to leverage the vast library of AWS services. But it may be time for AWS to be more opinionated. For instance, customers now can select from about 600 instance types. They’re getting overwhelmed by too many choices, especially when most organizations will only use around 10. AWS needs to provide more guidance to customers about choosing the most efficient instance types for their particular use cases and tech stack, as well as other ways to optimize performance and cost.

Lift-and-shift isn’t going to cut it

There was no mistaking the concerted effort by AWS throughout re:Invent to convince organizations that they should move all of their internal data and applications to the cloud. But customers should not view the cloud as a lift-and-shift relocation of computing resources from existing servers.

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Data is the key to innovation. Companies that survive and thrive during times of economic uncertainty will be those that move data to the cloud and figure out how to use AWS tools to do something interesting with it. The status quo isn’t an option.

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Higher-order services provide the greatest value from AWS.

The innovative products that can be developed from those higher-order services justify companies’ investment in the cloud. The faster that companies can tap into those higher-level services, the faster they can leverage them to become more efficient. In turn, customers who optimize their existing spend can invest their savings into additional higher-order services that will generate more innovation and more savings in the long term.

Trust AWS: Your data is secure and compliant

CEOs, CIOs, and corporate legal officers may be raising questions about compliance, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and all the other issues that surround security and governance of data on the cloud. AWS is addressing the issue squarely. AWS, they like to remind customers, is the most secure place to store data and the most secure way to deal with it. Moreover, well-considered strategies for governance and structure on the cloud help ensure a standardized approach — one of the keys to efficient, cost-effective use of the cloud.

Innovation needs to rely on and be accelerated by a foundation of security and governance and not be curtailed by corporate inertia or the exercise of building that foundation from scratch.

“Evolve or die”

As Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer of AWS, put it so aptly during re:Invent: “Evolve or die.” This is a perfect guiding principle for technologists and their corporate executives for the year ahead. Developers need to think differently about the cloud, staying constantly vigilant for opportunities to leverage AWS to use data to drive innovation.

None of us can predict the future. It’s a fool’s errand to build products and services for a year or two down the road. Instead, today’s ever-changing environment requires that developers create something that will grow and evolve. That requires building solutions using event-driven architecture. Otherwise, technology teams will find themselves in the nearly impossible position of undertaking major reinvention, no pun intended, every few months.

Organizations realize that they need to innovate to not just survive but to thrive. Attendees went home from re:invent with a clear event-driven roadmap and renewed confidence that AWS checks the necessary boxes on security and governance. Developers should now have marching orders to accelerate their innovation projects and leverage AWS services to tide over this economic uncertainty.

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