Musings from AWS Summit: Make Infrastructure Irrelevant Again | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

I attended the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in Mumbai earlier this month, and two things about the event itself really stood out. First, regardless of the fact that the Summit was held in India, it was organized on a global scale with global flavor, which ensured that attendees heard about AWS’ global aspirations and strategy. Second, although the company’s leadership rightly spoke about their great services portfolio and how and why it is the best, they never ridiculed or demeaned any competitor. This is a mark of a great company that’s in it for the very long haul.

Not surprisingly, the key message I could sense was that enterprises should not own their infrastructure, but instead leave it to cloud vendors – read, AWS – that will make sure it runs smoothly without the need for any second thoughts. In short, make infrastructure irrelevant.

Here are my three key take-aways from the content at the Summit.

I Learned: Partners Used to Sort of Matter…Now, They Really Matter

AWS has always positioned itself as a partner-friendly cloud vendor. At the Summit, its focus on succeeding with partners was very evident through the services it demonstrated and the messages it delivered. However, AWS’ current mindset is about building great services that enterprises would want to consume through pull demand, rather than through extensive leverage of channel partners. Thus, while partners today may not be as important as AWS may want them to think, they will be increasingly vital as AWS further expands to enterprise-class customers. This means it will be in AWS’ best interest to nurture its relationships with its partners.

I Re-learned: On-premise is Here to Stay…Cloud or No Cloud

AWS is a smart company that realizes there will always be a case for certain enterprise workloads to remain on-premise. The Summit sponsor was VMware, the king of on-premise. With its “VMware on AWS” offering becoming available globally, VMWare and AWS need each other. Though AWS largely stayed away from embracing “hybrid is the model of future,” it did reluctantly admit that all enterprise data centers aren’t going anywhere. However, AWS plans to make enterprises’ journey to the cloud simple and seamless. Its strong partnership with VMware is a testimony to that.

I Un-learned: New Services Have Miles to Go…Which They Will

From DynamoDB to serverless to AI/ML services, AWS shined a spotlight on everything new. While most of its new services are witnessing massive double – even up to 5X – growth, they aren’t yet meaningfully contributing to AWS’ US$18 billion top line. Most of its business continues to be the traditional EC2, S3, and similar services. Talking to AWS clients and partners made me believe that most of them have grand plans for adopting these new services. And almost all of them appreciate the hand holding AWS has provided to make their journey less painful.

Though AWS never admitted it, it was apparent that it realizes the vast potential in this market. Out of its 125+ services, very few are consumed at a massive scale. This implies there is a lot of headroom for AWS, despite that it’s already clocking a run rate of US$20 billion. This is very similar to its online business which, despite its size, is only ~4 percent of U.S. retail. Given such potential, it is no surprise that Amazon is investing heavily in AWS. Indeed, most of Amazon’s operating profits in recent quarters have been from AWS.

The cloud market is in flux, and with the first and second generations of DR/back/email migrations now over, the next battlefield is the business process and AI/ML workloads. AWS has strong plans to lead this market as well. It will be interesting to observe how it shapes the cloud world. Can it influence it the way it did online retail? AWS certainly has the vision, capability, and aspirations. Only time will tell.

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