What you Need to Know about Amazon Web Services
Mar 19 2017
Companies around the world are flocking to Amazon Web Services. This article explains the shift and what Australian and New Zealand companies need to know about it.
In our 2014 blog post on What IT Leaders Need to Know about the Cloud, ComActivity made the prediction that a tsunami was coming with more and more businesses adopting cloud solutions. At the time, we made the recommendation that IT leaders take a proactive approach by preparing a transition plan for moving their infrastructure to the cloud.
Well, the tsunami has arrived! A recent Future of Cloud Computing Survey across 38 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, showed that SaaS (Software as a Service) was being used in 77% of organisations while IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) was used by 67% of organisations. In this article, we’ll examine why the cloud computing is becoming the new standard for IT, why Amazon Web Services is currently in the lead, and what local businesses need to take into consideration when choosing a cloud offering.
Why Cloud is Becoming the New Normal
Move from capital to variable expenditure
Cloud computing allows organisations to move from capital expenditure to variable expenditure. In an Infrastructure-as-a-Service model, for example, infrastructure is an operational cost based on usage, without a large capital outlay affecting business cash flow.
Lower variable expense
The massive scale of these cloud service providers means that they can harness buying power for better value than an individual business could expect. These economies of scale mean a lower variable expense than sites could achieve on their own.
Using a cloud model lifts the burden of accurately determining capacity from the IT Department. Instead, business can quickly ramp up and scale down according to changing needs. This gives organisations an agility that would not be possible independently.
Access to cloud infrastructure on a global scale means that businesses can quickly deploy applications around the globe with a lower latency for users.
Focus on core competencies
With cloud, the organisation can outsource much of the specialised IT work that applies to every business, such as storage, database and application management. The IT team is then freed up to focus on the core competencies that are unique to the business.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is still clearly leading the field in Cloud Infrastructure capabilities. Also, to put the comparison in the figure below into perspective, the Gartner report states that the AWS cloud has ten times more computer power than the other 14 cloud providers combined thanks to a few years’ lead into the market.
Another recent Gartner review on Critical Capabilities for Public Cloud Infrastructure has also placed AWS in the lead against competitors in each category measured. The report had this to say about AWS: “AWS appeals most strongly to customers who value thought leadership, cutting-edge capabilities, or a “safe” provider that has a well-proven service and is likely to continue to be a long-term market leader.”
So what makes AWS Cloud a top choice for businesses?
Here are some of the factors…
The AWS Cloud infrastructure is designed around Regions and Availability Zones. The ANZ Region includes two Availability Zones in Sydney. Each Availability Zones consists of a physical data centre, with redundant power, networking and connectivity, all housed in separate facilities. Having two Availability Zones in the Region means that production applications and databases which are more highly available, fault tolerant and scalable than would be possible from a single data centre.
Netflix is now on the AWS Cloud after a 2008 database corruption caused a three-day disruption to movie rentals. Moving 100% of Netflix’s IT Operations to the AWS cloud gave the organisation a more distributed solution where there could be no single point of failure could bring down the entire system. The move to cloud has also supported Netflix rapid growth through Amazon’s global infrastructure and quickly scale up storage and processing.
Having the largest customer community providing feedback has allowed AWS to develop the richest capabilities for its customers. With several years’ market lead on competitors, AWS can now provide the broadest and deepest functionality. These include Network Services, Compute Services, such as VM’s, auto-scaling and load balancing, Storage and Database Services, such as the Relational Data Service where AWS manage the database availability for customers, and Hybrid architectures to connect the AWS cloud with on-premise software.
These capabilities include scalable, elastic resources that allow fast provisioning of virtual servers and scaling up and down according to demand. Advisory Business Consultant, Mitch Edwards, says “ComActivity can bring up a server in about three minutes in our Virtual Private Network with Amazon.”
Qantas are transferring their website, which takes up to a million bookings a day, to the AWS Cloud. The transition will allow the airline to process bookings in real time instead of processing them in batches. Scaling is important to cover demand peaks on the website and, with AWS Management Console, Qantas can track how much capacity is used and the associated costs.
NASA has been using the AWS Cloud since the Mars Rover Mission to quickly deliver images for analysis and review. AWS has enhanced collaboration between scientists by allowing them to quickly access the cloud and provision thousands of instances then share those resources, removing many former bottlenecks to scientific research.
Concerns about security in the cloud are less common and CIOs are more likely to now have the view that the AWS Cloud is more secure than their on-premise networks. This is partly due to AWS having a number of highly security-conscious customers, including the US Government, the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and the US Central Intelligence Agency. AWS has been assessed by Gartner as able “to meet most requirements for security and regulatory compliance.”
The two other leading cloud service providers are Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, which these also offer advantages for their customers.
Azure is often seen as the cloud for hosting Windows applications, or those developed with Microsoft tools. An important consideration for Australian sites is that Azure has data centres in both Sydney and Melbourne.
Google Cloud Platform offers developers some great features and a rich set of APIs to work with, as well as a powerful platform for large-scale batch jobs. However, as yet, GCP doesn’t have any Australian or New Zealand data centres that would make it a more attractive proposition than Microsoft or Amazon.
While AWS is still the lead contender, Gartner also warns that because AWS has extensive capabilities, customers “need to pay attention to best practices for resiliency, performance and security” to get the most benefit from the product.
An Australian Perspective
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report on Paid Cloud Computing in Australian Business last July showing that the number one factor preventing or limiting use of cloud computing services was insufficient knowledge of cloud computing services (23%). Meanwhile, in Manufacturing and Retail trade, reduction in IT costs was listed as a top benefit of using of cloud computing services (41% and 43% respectively). Businesses who delay decision making on cloud risk losing out on the competitive advantage offered by cloud.
The Next Step
There are many considerations when considering a cloud strategy and sometimes it is difficult to know the next step, but below are some actions that business leaders can take today.
Invest in your team
In order to make the best decisions on utilising cloud for your business, be prepared to invest in your IT team’s training on cloud computing services. An educated team can better advise on a potential migration path to cloud.
Understand your options for Infor M3 in the Cloud: SaaS vs Iaas
SaaS: Infor have released SaaS options for M3 as CloudSuite Fashion, CloudSuite Food & Beverage, CloudSuite Equipment and CloudSuite Distribution. These are currently single-tenant environments managed by Infor, e.g. installation, tuning, security, upgrades and patches. All software license fees for Infor CloudSuite and hosting are paid on a subscription basis.
IaaS: For those who want more control over their environments, but still want to take advantage of cloud, a very good alternative is an IaaS cloud solution, where M3 software license fees are still required upfront and M3 is not managed by Infor, but the cloud infrastructure is paid for on a subscription basis.
ComActivity has a number of consultants with Amazon Web Services certification and we use the AWS cloud for our own infrastructure.