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‘Our priority is to make AWS services simple, seamless and friction free’

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Based out of Singapore, Santanu Dutt, Head – Technology, Southeast Asia, AWS believes that ‘constant transformation is the new normal’. Recently, AWS announced a new release of AWS Outposts, which is going to deepen the footprint of AWS in hybrid cloud game and also accelerate the adoption of hybrid cloud in manufacturing, healthcare, telcos, media and entertainment, and financial services. In a conversation with Sandhya Michu, Dutt shared the AWS services roadmap for the Indian market

With AWS Outposts’ availability in India, can we say this move will help AWS to accelerate its hybrid cloud footprint in the country?

Over time, we believe that most customers will continue to reduce their local data centre footprint; this is what customers tell us. We did not really launch AWS Outposts just for the sake of being in the hybrid cloud space; we do things based on customer feedback. One of the things customers told us was that as much as they continue to migrate their applications on AWS Cloud, some customers have major applications and some have a small set of applications that require low, single digit, millisecond latency requirements for processing on premises, as well as have dependencies on premises with other legacy applications that couldn’t move to the cloud, so having a hybrid approach made sense. Now, we have been having a hybrid play and a set of services in the hybrid cloud for a long time – VMware on AWS. In fact, AWS was the first public cloud provider with which VMware signed a hybrid cloud agreement as a partner three or four years ago, in terms of having their VMware SDDC (software defined data centre) offering on public cloud. For a long time, we’ve had AWS Direct Connect and our VPN offerings with which customers can seamlessly extend their data centre into the cloud. So customers have been using hybrid cloud in that sense for a long time. Customers also additionally asked us for a native cloud-like compute offering and storage offering, and additional offerings that AWS offers on the public cloud also on premises, so that those applications that probably don’t make sense to move to a public cloud as of today, can continue to operate on a cloud-like infrastructure, without necessarily having to physically move out of their premises.

Who do you think, are the early movers to AWS Outposts ?

Customers in the space of manufacturing, healthcare, telcos, media and entertainment, and financial services for example, have for a long time had these applications. For example, in stock trading, customers have been for a long time trying to create applications on the cloud, but they would have requirements in terms of developing a very low latency trading platform in a very secure environment. In such cases, they may not be able to achieve that by hosting some of the core trading platforms on AWS Cloud because there will be latency between them, their end-users and the AWS Region. So by bringing compute facility within their data centre, we reduce the latency to a large extent. We haven’t had any beta customers as yet in India, we have a couple of them in the US, but with the announcement today we will hear a lot from our customers across these spaces of manufacturing, healthcare, retail, telecom, media and entertainment, and financial services. So, we are really targeting a broad set of customers across India for AWS Outposts.

Which are the major technology shifts you have seen during the pandemic?
In the new normal, we are seeing an entire spectrum and different dimensions of customers. As you would agree, what we are seeing now with the pandemic is really unprecedented, for governments and businesses included. What it has done is that it’s really given even more urgency for customers to leverage AWS public cloud in a greater way, even more than before. The videoconferencing platform Zoom for example, has had a lot of usage, and major parts of Zoom’s infrastructure runs on AWS. has had increased deliveries on the e-commerce side and large parts of its infrastructure is on AWS. We have literally seen a surge in our contact centre solutions – there are several industries where customers are calling in with even more velocity and volume than before, to cancel bookings, check on their accounts, etc.; and businesses in these industries have needed to scale using a scalable cloud-native contact centre like Amazon Connect. Not only that, we also see integration happening between Amazon Connect with Amazon WorkSpaces, which will evolve more in the future. So, we will eventually see private virtual desktops that can be available anywhere in the form of Amazon WorkSpaces connected to Amazon WorkDocs for document management, and even Amazon Chime to be integrated with services like AWS Chatbot, which is an intelligent chatbot which can be used to interact with Amazon Chime rooms, Slack channels and AWS services. So, AWS Outposts is one of those solutions which gives traditional customers who have wanted to run their legacy solutions in a more cloud-like manner or cloud-like environment, with the ability and additional flexibility to now actually run them on premises because AWS Outposts extends into their premises.

How can your existing and new customers avail the benefits of AWS Outposts ?
A lot of customers basically used just off-the-shelf hardware – servers from other vendors, which they would use normally in a data centre to actually run those applications that they could move immediately to AWS Cloud. And by using AWS Direct Connect, Amazon VPC (Amazon Virtual Private Cloud), and AWS VPN (AWS Virtual Private Network), they extended those capabilities or those applications to the AWS Region where they ran, whatever the public cloud version of their infrastructure. Now the challenge with that was that it was a different piece of hardware, it’s static, it’s not AWS-owned and there’s very little we could do to give them the scalability and seamless extension of AWS Cloud in that static hardware. So now, those applications can move to AWS Outposts. Customers are basically getting that seamless extension of AWS Cloud literally with all the 175 AWS services, at their choice and flexibility with integrated AWS Outposts compute offerings. Think about the customer’s ability to scale up, scale down, integrate their applications with the security available in AWS Cloud, and the ability to use the monitoring services that we provide, etc. All these become integrated as a seamless extension, it’s completely transparent. These are things that they couldn’t do as seamlessly in the past up until today, simply because customers worked on other hardware that they purchased off the market.

How Outposts’ pricing model will be different from your cloud services ?
Yes, the pricing model of AWS Outposts overall is slightly different. What I mean by that is we have always had broadly two models in the AWS public cloud version – one is an on-demand model, where customers pay by the hour, and there are no long term commitments and contracts. And the second one is where customers purchase AWS Reserved Instances. This is useful for customers who have 24×7 running applications which are never going to shut down, as they might as well purchase AWS Reserved Instances where they reserve capacity from AWS for three years or one year, and then they pay for that upfront or partially, or on a monthly basis, and get the benefit of an optimised cost or discounts in return because of their commitment. With AWS Outposts, given the nature of the offering because we ship an entire AWS Outposts offering to a customer on premises, we don’t have an on-demand pricing model, but we do have a reserved instance pricing model, where a customer actually pays or reserves for three years for a variety of compute instances, and they can choose how much configuration they need here. Customers have to commit for three years, and from a pricing perspective, the commitment starts from the smallest instance which is used for development testing, which would start at a range of US$ 225K – US$ 250K for three years, including compute capacity for that instance type, storage capacity (block storage), and the AWS installation, racking, stacking and management costs. This price increases for the bigger instances for those three years depending on the use case of the customer. So, we could have a customer that wants to run a very graphics intensive use case in the media and entertainment space, who could go for a much larger compute capacity and specific instance type, as compared to a customer who wants to run development and testing workloads to test the public cloud, who could go for a smaller compute capacity and instance type.

Can you elaborate the roadmap for Outposts variants in India
We have one variant (the native variant) and have the second variant coming out in the near future. So one is the native variant, which is the AWS variant, which includes compute instances, block storage that comes in with the compute for storage on the compute instances, and other services coming soon such as a database service, Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), which is our Hadoop-based analytics service, Application Load Balancer, container services, and so on. However, looking at our other managed hybrid services that we have used in the past, we have also pre-announced that we will be coming up with support for VMware cloud on AWS, as well, to be run seamlessly on AWS Outposts in the near future. So that is on the roadmap as well.

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