6000 People and No-one had Nephophobia !!

Nephophobia: noun for a fear of clouds. The word origin is Greek nephos which means ‘cloud’

On Wednesday 28th June, my business partner (Ray Bricknell – https://www.linkedin.com/in/raybricknell/ ) and I were fortunate enough to attend the AWS London Summit along with 6000 other folks to and learn all things AWS and meet partners who provide services for AWS’ platform.  It’s fair to say each of the 6000-people attended were ‘pro cloud’ and there were no nephophobia sufferers to be seen. When Ray started the business in 2010 there would probably have been 5900 nephophobia sufferers, and he would have been treated like a leprosy sufferer in Roman days; it’s amazing how things change over time…. Perhaps we’ll rebrand to “Piso Kathe Nephos”?

AWS is such an amazing force in this space, their revenues in cloud alone are larger than the nearest four competitors combined (including Azure).  Gartner has recently put AWS top right in their magic quadrant (depicted below) for leaders in worldwide public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). However, I feel it’s doing a AWS an injustice to only rate them for compute and storage -when they provide so much more than just base layer infrastructure.

Many people mistakenly (I used to be one of them) think of AWS as only adding value to the ‘big’ web companies such as Netflix, etc. or start-ups who don’t have the capital to outlay for infrastructure. Times are changing and many enterprises are now using AWS. As a business, BEC is a strong advocate for finding the best execution venue (BEV) for each workload and we believe that our regulated mid-tier financial and legal clients must now consider AWS as one major potential venue when evaluating where workloads should be migrated to. Apart from everything else – some of both the dominant and the most disruptive “Line of Business” ISV’s in these markets are now developing on AWS.

The “journey to the cloud” (apologies for the overused phrase) is still a challenge for firms with ‘on-prem’ ‘Legacy’ workloads. AWS will provide you with a great platform once you are there but you need to find and use the right partner to help get you onto the platform – that is simply a must.  Why re-invent the wheel when some firms have been doing this work for 4 or 5 years already?

The summit for us was a great opportunity to meet up with some of our existing partners, but to also meet some new ones. With the help of some new BEC clients, we will now evaluate their suitability for regulated markets – and score them against the Clover index. Step one: We heard ‘through the grapevine’ that it wasn’t at all cheap for partners to exhibit for that one day – so if they were there, then they were serious about playing in the AWS community and feel that is where the market is going!

I’ve outlined below some of my takeaways from the keynote session from a perspective of what our financial services clients would like to know about AWS:

  • Out of the 6000 people who attended (NB: at AWS’ first event in London they only had 600)
    • 40% were still evaluating cloud (but I’m sure of the 40% there is a large portion where someone in their organisation is paying for AWS on a corporate credit card – ie ‘Shadow IT’)
    • 16% were using AWS for single digit workloads
    • 44% were using AWS for the majority or all of their firms’ workloads. Unfortunately there was no sector breakdown which would have been interesting to find out. (Its very clear to us that FS and Legal significantly lag other sectors in the UK space)
  • AWS describes “cloud as the new norm” and this was a common phrase used throughout the day. Their year on year revenues (2016 to 2017) increased by 43% (16Bn USD in revenues for the last fiscal year).
  • AWS referred to the large (multibillion dollar) hardware companies (IBM, Cisco and HP) as the “old guard” and showed an interested graph denoting how these companies are going backwards in terms of their growth compared to the “new guard” companies (“new guard” companies are Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow, AWS etc.)
  • In region AWS Data Centre nodes are being deployed to meet local requirements. London went ‘on-line’ in December 16 -> Dublin used to be closest node for London clients prior to this deployment. For some organisations, the latency gains wouldn’t have made much difference. However, for some of our Financial Services clients who have latency sensitive workloads, or a discomfort with non UK deployment of their systems, this means more workloads are candidates to be deployed into AWS
  • The AWS CTO (Dr. Werner Vogels) made a very clear statement that Information Security needs to be your number one priority and should ‘trump’ everything else. Dr. Werner then explained that AWS will provide you with the tools to stay one step ahead of the threat. He then mentioned something very interesting: AWS has seen Financial Services companies migrate their data to AWS as they believe it to be the safest place. The rationale was to leverage on AWS’ massive investment in specialised people and tools for Information Security as the Financial Services companies themselves admitted they could not warrant this type of investment. This, in essence is the primary ‘economy of  scale’ argument driving all outsourcing / cloud.
  • The CIO from BP (Claire Dickson) gave an excellent presentation on how BP decided to embark on AWS with “both feet”. The programme’s objective was to remove their cost base by closing data centres and removing the “end of life burden”. “Loving AWS” is something Claire now hears frequently within BP as the programme has brought agility and cost savings to her business. An interesting statistic was provided: A dataset which historically took seven hours to process in the legacy environment now takes just over three minutes on AWS. With many of our Financial Services clients running very complex risk and investment models, the benefits of AWS scale in terms of “ramping up the compute” is already bringing some big efficiencies to our client base. One client spins up 600 Linus servers every night for an instance Monte Carlo Risk calc. They used to get a figure a week AFTER the process began. Not alot of help when you want to know your current risk profile!
  • Database licence costs from Microsoft and / or Oracle can be a large portion of many of our client’s yearly IT spends. AWS are seeing their clients using the migration to the cloud as an opportunity to move away from the traditional database providers and use open source databases (e.g. MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB). AWS offers a database migration service to these open source databases and they have migrated over 28,000 databases to date.
  • There was much talk about high-availability, fault tolerance, etc. but no mention of Disaster Recovery. Although AWS’ can provide you with different availability zones, etc. you still run the single vendor risk. Therefore, we still believe that your DR design needs to be factored into any migration into AWS. Products like Zerto that provide data replication to different platforms will be one of the key tools to use in these instances in future, and we like the idea of an including an independent low cost DRaaS provider in the end-state. This combo neatly meets Entry/Exit planning demands from the FCA too. Something we’ve been advocating now for years.

In conclusion, a great event and ‘not bad’ for a company that started selling books from a garage 23 years ago! The third wave of IT is upon us and we are watching history in the making …

If you work for or independently consult to an FS and Legal firms in the UK – and you missed out on attending our AWS InTheClouds@TheShard event on Sept 28 – why not reach out to arrange a free cloud strategy or peer market update workshop? Email ray@behindeverycloud.co.uk.

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