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Amazon exclusive: It’s not all drones you know

As Amazon continues to expand its cloud service offering, we caught up with Danilo Poccia, technical evangelist at Amazon Web Services, to gain an exclusive look at what the company has in store for its small business clients in the future.
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Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon, offers a range of cloud computing services from businesses of all sizes, from startups to centuries-old enterprises.

All services are offered on a pay-as-you-use pricing model, ensuring that a business only pays for the amount it needs and doesn’t break the bank locking into expensive contracts. As Poccia put it, business owners “only pay for what they need, when they need it”.

AWS boasts clients from all walks of life – over a million active customers every month in 190 countries, made up from government, education, non-profits, corporate entities and startups.

If you’re new to cloud services, it may sound daunting at first – but it could make your business run more smoothly in the long run.

Changing services

AWS is constantly working to keep up with the ever-evolving needs of its customer base, and in 2015 alone there were 722 new services and features launched.

Over the past ten years AWS has moved from providing the building blocks of IT infrastructure to the full spectrum of infrastructure, platform and software products, as well as enabling deployment of partner software through the AWS Marketplace.

“There is no longer a need to raise vast amounts of capital to procure and build your own datacentre, all the services a fledgling business needs are available through AWS or the AWS Marketplace,” explained Poccia.

Taking the bull by the horns

It would be practically unheard of for a startup to enter the world of business these days without using cloud services of some kind, but frankly many business owners would rather focus their efforts on developing and growing their products and services.

However, some small business owners may still struggle with the relatively new idea of “the cloud”. For this reason AWS offers AWS Activate, a programme offering everything needed to get started – including AWS Support, online training, credits to assess the AWS Self-paced labs and a range of third party offers – all free of charge.

Cloud services may sound complicated initially but, as Poccia said: “Anything that can help make the long list [of business owners’ worries]a little shorter, or at least easier, is music to entrepreneurs’ ears.”

One particular company making the most of the cloud services on offer at AWS is Gousto, a business that specialises in delivering boxes of fresh ingredients for meals directly to its customers’ doors.

Shaun Pearce, VP engineering at Gousto, said: “Because the cloud is so automated, it’s also measurable – this means it’s easy to attribute cost and measure spend against delivered value, without the need for cumbersome and time consuming auditing and approval processes.”

Mike Nuttall, VP of LendInvest, a marketplace for property lending and investing, agreed: “We have on tap access to complex, secure and fault tolerant infrastructure without needing to source, host and configure ourselves and we have visibility and manageability of costs.”

A chance to innovate

Game-changing inventions never come to be in the first version, but Poccia explained AWS gives entrepreneurs the flexibility to try out lots of ideas: “Because of its cost-effective pay-as-you-use model entrepreneurs can create technology environments to develop and test new ideas and then switch them off when they aren’t needed any more. This kind of flexibility was never available before cloud so innovation was limited.”

Pearce from Gousto agreed: “AWS gives us access to sophisticated software platforms already deployed in a robust, scalable manner. Having this software available at the touch of a button is highly beneficial to us. It has allowed us to concentrate on our products, innovating far more quickly than we otherwise could have.

“It allows us to concentrate on what we do best, which is looking at how consumers want to explore food, and choose their meals for themselves and their families.”

For Pearce, it is this chance to innovate and the ability to explore customer behaviour on Gousto’s site and app that provides AWS’ real value – it will do more for the company in the long term than mere saving on its bottom line would have done.

Nuttall from LendInvest has also found that the AWS platform made room for more innovation in the company. He said: “We can put together full infrastructural solutions on demand from a single source which saves a lot of time and gives us access to technologies that would be a steep learning curve were we to try and build them out on our own.”

Scalable investments

Poccia claimed that the plan for AWS is to offer IT infrastructure that is “cost effective and scalable and flexible” so that businesses can grow according to demand.

A business that has found this to be a saving grace is Adbrain, a provider of customer ID mapping technology helping users deliver a personalised customer journey across devices, channels and platforms.

Ed Chater, chief marketing and strategy officer for Adbrain, told us: “Cloud services are critical to do what we are doing, which is to collect enormous amounts of data from disparate sources, in a number of varieties, and at great volume.

“To do this using our own platform, alongside building and working with our product, would be prohibitively expensive.”

Security concerns

One thing that comes up time and again when speaking of cloud services is security – how secure is your data if you store it in the cloud?

Poccia has stressed that this should not be a concern. “AWS has been architected to be one of the most flexible and secure cloud computing environments available today and our scale allows us to invest significantly in more security policing and counter measures than almost any large company could afford themselves.”

In fact, late last year US bank Capital One announced it will reduce the number of its own data centres from eight to three by 2018 in favour of running a lot of its processes on AWS, believing it can operate more securely that way.

Looking to the future

AWS is staunchly committed to driving innovation off the back of customer feedback. It does this by maintaining a “startup mentality” and a “philosophy of being firmly customer-focused,” according to Poccia.

Poccia explained: “We only develop new features and services that our customers need and have told us that they need, and this is not going to change.

“For example, recently, in answer to our customers’ interest in the Internet-of-Things and their desire to build business and solutions based on it, we announced the AWS IoT platform.”

This platform, built specifically to match customer demand, provides a software developer kit that makes it easy for developers to connect devices to AWS Services and other devices, secure date and interactions, process and act upon device data, and enable applications to interact with devices even when offline.

Amazon may dominate headlines with its AmazonFresh, Kindle and drone services, but it looks like the company has a lot more to offer behind the scenes.

Looking to the future, AWS can be expected to move with current cloud trends, and have an offering on the table in time for demand. Watch this space.

Amazon Web Services is sponsoring the Digital Business of the Year category at the 2017 Amazon Growing Business Awards. If you think your business is worthy of such an accolade, get nominating online now.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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