CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF THE BRIEF ANNOUNCEMENTS MADE AT AWS SUMMIT TORONTO?
AWS Summit Toronto is an annual event and this is the second year we’ve had it in Toronto. It has grown considerably since 2018 and we had over 4,500 people attend this year’s summit. This year’s summit featured over 70 sessions ranging from business to deep technical content. The aim of the event is to offer attendees an educational, training and enablement experience. It is not a sales and marketing conference; it is intended to help people learn more about AWS and our partner ecosystem by letting them hear from our customers. We find that the most powerful way of translating the technology is to hear from customers, and that is why we had a number of customers on stage this morning.
We made three major announcements at the AWS Summit in Toronto: The first is, that we’ll continue to extend our edge locations globally and have opened another edge location in Toronto. It is part of a network of 187 edge locations around the world.
Second, we are adding a third Availability Zone, which is being built right now, in Canada. We’ll launch it in early 2020 and it is something that a lot of our customers have been asking us for. So, we’ll have a third Availability Zone in the AWS Canada (Central) Region in the not too distant future.
Third, we announced we were recently awarded a contract by the Canadian Federal Government to host its Protected B workloads. This is a big milestone because it means that the government can accelerate their migration to using cloud services, and customers who sell to the government and must deal with protected content can now do that. It is also a strong signal and confirmation that our solution is secure for government workloads.
Post my speech, our keynote speaker, Joshua Burgin, technical advisor to AWS Senior Vice President, Charlie Bell, took over. Joshua primarily talked about the growing capabilities of AWS. During the course of his speech, he introduced three great Canadian customers of ours – NuData Security, which is now a MasterCard business; Hootsuite, a leading social media management platform and long-time AWS customer; and Sun Life Financial. All three of them have completely different use cases and that’s always exciting for customers to hear about firsthand. Also, in all three customer cases, our partners have contributed to their success.
The remainder of the day saw our customers participating in multiple segments and learning levels to learn how AWS can help them innovate with speed and deliver services with scale, flexibility, and reliability.
HOW IS AMAZON WEB SERVICES HELPING CANADIAN BUSINESSES EMBRACE CLOUD TECHNOLOGY?
We’re trying to help Canadian businesses understand how cloud capabilities can help them. Many businesses have been running their IT workloads on-premise. But now, it’s possible to run workloads in the cloud to avoid having to expend capital, or own/manage infrastructure. By taking advantage of the cloud, customers take advantage of the features that make the cloud very attractive. It’s a pay-as-you-go model – you only pay for the resources that you need. It’s an elastic model which means you can scale up or down. Also, it offers a high degree of agility. Previously, companies that wanted to expand globally had to provision or buy infrastructure in different countries. However, now they can simply scale their applications to different countries in ways that they couldn’t have done before. So that’s an exciting dimension for companies that are looking to expand.
We have a regional team, which is distributed across Canada, that engages directly with the customers. We also have a huge team that works with partners because often, SME customers in certain verticals have unique challenges and therefore, our partners can help translate our capabilities discreetly into something that’s valuable for a retailer or manufacturer or a dentist.
We’re definitely seeing a huge adoption of cloud technology and it’s been accelerating as we now have tens of thousands of customers in Canada using AWS. We have a huge portfolio of customers across the country, many of which are SMEs. Whether it is a startup or a traditional business, SMEs are taking advantage of our cloud capabilities to enable themselves to think differently about how they use IT, to add more leverage to lower their costs and to help them move more quickly.
CANADIAN BUSINESSES ARE SLOWER TO ADOPT NEW TECHNOLOGY IN COMPARISON TO EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN COMPANIES, WHAT IS AWS DOING TO EDUCATE AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY?
I am not originally from Canada. I moved here 13 years ago and I’m now a very proud Canadian. One of the things that people would tell me when I came here was that “Canada is generally a bit more conservative.” That’s not necessarily a wrong mindset. One of the things I’ve observed, having been here for 13 years, is that although Canadian customers may take a little longer when it comes to adopting newer technologies, the process of adoption actually accelerates once it’s been legitimized. I think we’re seeing that period now. As recently as 18 months ago, I would get questions from customers like “Why should I move to the cloud?” Now, that’s very rare. The questions they now ask are, “Where should I start?” or “What should I start with?” or “How do I get help?” So, I think there’s a really fascinating opportunity now for Canadian customers to accelerate.
At AWS, one of the ways we try to encourage Canadian businesses to adopt newer technologies is to talk about what our customers are doing. That’s why it’s so important to have companies like Hootsuite, which used to be a startup or NuData, that was an SME when it was acquired, and enterprises like Sun Life talk about what they’re doing with AWS technology. As much as possible, we try to share experiences to help potential customers think about how they can move more quickly by hearing from their peers. That’s a big part of what the AWS Summit is about. It’s about helping customers to see just what the art of the possible is, and then helping them with either education enablement, or where to go and get help to activate. It’s also about promoting our partner ecosystem, which are equipped to help our customers as well.
“INNOVATION IS KEY, AND WITH AWS, WE’RE HELPING TO DEMOCRATIZE ACCESS TO A TECHNOLOGY THAT ENABLES INNOVATION. THE CAPABILITIES THAT RUN ON AWS HAVE BEEN BUILT BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM MANY, MANY CUSTOMERS, ACROSS EVERY INDUSTRY. THEY’RE USED BY THE LARGEST ENTERPRISES TO THE MOST INNOVATIVE STARTUPS; IT’S AN ALL-IN-ONE PLATFORM AVAILABLE TO EVERYBODY. “
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF CLOUD TECHNOLOGY?
We believe that in the fullness of time, very few companies will choose to run their own infrastructure because it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not that it didn’t make sense in the past, as at the time it was the only way of doing it. In the past, if you had a dependency on using infrastructure, you had to own and operate it yourself or get someone else to do it. But now, in this new paradigm, there’s really no requirement to do that for all the reasons that were scary before. Businesses can now use this elastic compute on a pay-as-you-go basis.
I think it’s important to note too that the portfolio of services in the AWS cloud continues to grow. Our model is all about listening to feedback from customers and then continuing to invest in the platform. And so, in the four years that I’ve been at the company, the categories and services that run on the platform have grown from around 50 to over 165 services now, and you’ll see more come as we go through this year. This rapid rate of evolution of the cloud is a function of the adoption of the customers and the feedback that they provide to us. Ninety to 95 percent of our development is a result of feedback from customers, either about adding new services or extending the capabilities of our services. The other says five percent of development are the things our engineers have anticipated coming around the corner.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE RESOURCES AND SERVICES THAT AWS PROVIDES TO HELP SME OWNERS SUCCEED AND GROW THEIR BUSINESS?
We have a lot of educational information, resources, and courses available, much of which is categorized by vertical, for example. There are lots of case studies too, as we think it’s important to be able to see what’s possible with AWS technology. we also run a whole series of free events across the country called AWSome Days, which are an opportunity for people to come and get some exposure to the possibilities with AWS cloud services. Companies can explore the platform itself, and learn how they could apply it to their business. Increasingly, we’re also running more verticalized events, so, if you’re in a particular sector – whether it’s oil and gas or financial service – for example, or you’re somebody who perhaps would like to sell to a particular market, you’re able to see what others are doing and think about how you can leverage the AWS cloud.
And then we have, events like today’s the AWS Summit Toronto, with a range of training and enablement capabilities from just understanding the business of the cloud and why it should be interesting and what it means, all the way through to specific capabilities which are relevant to particular markets or sets of technical training.
What we try and do is to provide a fabric where we can take customers on a journey of learning about why the cloud should be important to them and how it applies to their business, all the way to getting training that supports enablement.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION GO HAND IN HAND?
Yes. If I think about my work with every kind of size and scale of business across Canada, innovation ultimately is the lifeblood of every company. If you look at the history of companies that were once great brands and have disappeared, when you trace what happened, you’d often find that it was either because of a lack of innovation or because they rested on their laurels.
Innovation is key, and with AWS, we’re helping to democratize access to a technology that enables innovation. The capabilities that run on AWS have been built based on feedback from many, many customers, across every industry. They’re used by the largest enterprises to the most innovative startups; It’s an all-in-one platform available to everybody. We provide this huge portfolio of building blocks where people who have great ideas can build things and try things and experiment in ways that they couldn’t in the past, just because they’d be limited by how much they could expand. Now, they can try doing something by leveraging this incredible set of capabilities, and if it works, they can scale it up very easily, and if it doesn’t, they can shut it down. The technology itself is a great enabler to help people to innovate and to try new things. We think that being able to do lots of experiments at a low cost really is the fuel for that innovative mindset. I’m fortunate to see a lot of that across the country as companies can try things and experiment in ways that perhaps they couldn’t in the past.