‘Not using cloud is just like fighting gravity’: Glenn Gore, AWS

‘Not using cloud is just like fighting gravity’: Glenn Gore, AWS

The head of infrastructure, APAC for Amazon Web Services says organisations not using cloud or looking at where it fits in their strategy risk being overtaken by more agile competitors.

“Cloud is becoming the new normal, and not using cloud is just like fighting gravity. It is inevitable,” says Glenn Gore, head of infrastructure, APAC for Amazon Web Services.

“If you are not using it or looking at where it fits on your own strategy, you run the risk of being overtaken by others using the platform to increase their agility and scale,” says Gore in his keynote at this year’s AWS Summit in Auckland.

More than 1300 business technology professionals attended this year’s conference.

Tim Dacombe-Bird, regional sales manager, AWS says this year’s event is a “dramatic turnaround” from the first summit in New Zealand three years ago.

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This year, he says, 61 per cent of attendees were from mid-market companies and above. Before, the majority of attendees were startups and small businesses.

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Default position

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“The cloud is becoming the default position of customers looking to build new applications and services,” says Gore.

Gore says when he joined Amazon, he would speak to an enterprise customer once a week. Now he is speaking to enterprise customers “multiple times a day”. Their questions include how to get the same agility of the startups, some of which they are going to compete with.

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The cloud is becoming the default position of customers looking to build new applications and services.

Glenn Gore, AWS

For startups, he says, cloud is a natural starting point as they like to disrupt long serving industries. “They need to innovate, experiment, take big risks to see what works and does not work.”

Related: Startups tackle ‘X’ factor challenge

Read more: Xero is New Zealand’s Hi-Tech Company of the Year

The software providers, meanwhile, are shifting across to make their software cloud apps native. “There are different services coming out natively from the cloud.”

The shift is also affecting the skills in the marketplace, as more people are getting AWS levels of training and certification.

“We are seeing people vote with their feet,” he says. “They want to play with technology that makes their life easier. People are starting to pick companies they want to work for based on new technologies, access to innovation and access to make a difference to things they are passionate about.”

Read more: More New Zealand businesses shift to the cloud: IDC

The themes of speed, disruption and innovation were reiterated by other keynote speakers who are also AWS customers – Xero CEO Rod Drury; Chris South, head of dynamics services at Network for Learning, and Thomas Salmen,GM of venture enablement at Spark Ventures.

Rod Drury: ‘Speed is our competitive weapon’

“Our culture is one of speed, says Rod Drury of Xero. “We know if we can go faster than incumbents we can grab significant market share,” says Drury, noting that Xero had released 729 updates last year.

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“We are continuously updating our product, speed is our competitive weapon,” says Drury.

He says when Xero started nine years ago, the three main accounting software vendors around the world had updated their software every 18 months.

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Speed is our competitive weapon…it just scares the hell out of our competitors.

Rod Drury, Xero

“What really turns me on is deployment speed and being able to really re-architect our whole dev model over the last two years so we can release small bits of functionality really, really quickly and take that dev ops time period out which gives us more and more velocity,” says Drury.

"It just scares the hell out of our competitors," he says. “They just have not had a competitor that can operate so quickly, and I think our numbers are showing this.”

He says the following title of a book remains Xero's mantra: It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow . It was written by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton and was Xero's reference long before Xero even started.

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Stable of startups

Thomas Salmen, GM, venture enablement at Spark Ventures, says AWS has allowed the group to process ever increasing sizes of data from its stable of startup companies. These include Qrious, Lightbox, Big Pipe and Skinny.

“We have got hundreds of terabytes of data, and AWS has been a critical part of that journey,” he says.

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Lightbox has had 7.5 million hours streamed since its launch. That is a massive tidal wave of content.

Thomas Salmen, Spark Ventures

Lightbox, for instance, has had 7.5 million hours streamed since its launch. “That is a massive tidal wave of content, he says. “The numbers are getting bigger every day.”

N4L head of dynamic services Chris South: Scalability

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Chris South talked about how AWS is helping the Crown owned agency meet the scale needed by the users of Pond, its online learning hub.

The audience for Pond is big, he says, and these include 60,000 teachers and 750,000 students, or 20 per cent of the New Zealand population. But If you add the community around them, like whanau it is “pretty much the whole country”.

Read more: Retailer Kathmandu moves to AWS cloud

“You are not going to run this stuff on small hardware,” he says. "We need the scale to do this,” he says, but do not want to do any 'heavy lifting' or 'reinvent the wheel' for the technology they will use.

He says when teachers told him how Pond has helped them find resources they could use in the classroom, the meeting “stopped being a technology conversation” and became a teacher conversation.

“If we can help the children’s teachers, it would make a huge start to making better education,” he states.

Related: Object lessons on winning users’ hearts and minds

Paymark CIO Dhaya Sivakumar: Moving into the digital space

Paymark, formerly known as Electronic Transaction Services Limited (ETSL), processes over 75 per cent of New Zealand’s electronic transactions. When Kiwis use an Eftpos or credit card to pay for goods or services in shops or online, chances are Paymark played a part in the transaction.

Dhaya Sivakumar, CIO of Paymark, says the company is moving into the digital space with the development of several products currently underway.

“Using AWS has enabled Paymark’s digital development team to develop products with minimal lead time whilst reducing the time spent on procurement and installation of on premise infrastructure,” he states.

The cloud has enabled our digital development team to develop products with minimal lead time whilst reducing the time spent on procurement and installation of on premise infrastructure.

Dhaya Sivakumar, Paymark

“It is absolutely at the crux of what we are doing in terms of the future,” says Sivakumar. “All our digital initiatives at this stage are being run on AWS. It is a natural fit.”

He explains AWS has allowed Paymark to quickly stand up and tear down infrastructure for development, product demo and proof of concepts, and testing. The cloud service has also allowed Paymark to manage costs without the need for heavy upfront investment.

The research and development team also utilises automation and code defined infrastructure, which means “less hands on work and rework with faster and repeatable processes,” he states.

EROAD engineering manager Jarred Clayton: Global growth

Jarred Clayton says Amazon is supporting EROAD's growth internationally, particularly in North America.

"We are constantly scaling up, using Amazon compute allows us not to worry much about the IT side of the business as we grow that market," says Clayton, the engineering manager at the road services and charging company.

Speed to market is very important for us…We have to innovate as fast as possible.

Jarred Clayton, EROAD

“Speed to market is very important for us,” he says, as EROAD also faces big competitors in the United States in the telematics and vehicle tolling space. “We have to innovate as fast as possible.”

EROAD is also using Amazon's data-warehouse-as-a-service offering, Redshift. This provided it the opportunity to provide an analytics offering to customers.

Clayton says the analytics helps customers benchmark with their competitors, and get massive data to be able to run their business more efficiently by using less vehicles, optimising their vehicle fleet or reducing fuel consumption.

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