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AWS Summit Sydney: Stormy Weather and Cloudy Forecasts

By J.R. Storment on April 27, 2015
AWS Summit Sydney 2015

Despite the storm of the century, Sydneysiders flocked to the AWS Summit last week. The event was held in the cavernous Hordern Pavilion on a 4-sided stage configured in the way you might expect to see a boxing match. The keynote opened with a loud, electronic music-fueled video touting AWS’s growth in the Asia Pacific region: thousands of companies, 13 AZs, Edge locations, 40 new services.

The heavy rains kept some attendees away, but the event still managed to draw over 3,000. What was striking was the large number of Australian banks and financial and public sector agencies that attended. At the Cloudability booth we talked with bank after bank who had already begun using AWS “in anger” (an Australian expression meaning to use something for real and beyond just practice). In this case, it meant that they were running production workloads on the cloud, much farther along than their more conservative American counterparts.

Fastest growing multi-billion dollar enterprise IT vendor in the world

Last year the Sydney summit brought the announcement of AWS Cost Explorer, highlighting just how important the cloud cost management space has become. There were no new product announcements at this year’s event, but AWS was not shy about highlighting their growth. Mike Clayvill, AWS VP of Worldwide Field Ops, gave the keynote and focused on the changing tone of cloud over the last few years of Summits.

AWS Summit Sydney keynoteIn 2013, there was a shift from “if” you could run important workloads in the cloud to “how.” In 2014, the conversation turned to determining if you could get completely out of datacenter and into the cloud, and connecting AWS with your remaining datacenter in the meantime so that it became an extension. In 2015, cloud has become the new normal. At many companies in attendance, you now need to make a compelling business case in order to bring it on-premise.

On the back of this change, AWS is seeing 102% year-over-year growth in services like S3, and has become the fastest growing multi-billion dollar enterprise IT vendor on the planet. Mr Clayvill highlighted a slide that showed AWS’s revenue growing at nearly 2x that of Salesforce and nearly 3x that of Google. He also made a point of calling out those “down at the bottom who are not growing as fast” no doubt a reference to IaaS competitors HP and IBM.

Qantas is relying on cloud for turnaround

It’s been well documented that Qantas has had some significant financial challenges recently. Chris Taylor, the new Qantas CTO, outlined how they are using AWS to help cut costs. Re-architecting and running on the cloud has enabled them to cut their deployment times from 6 weeks to mere hours. Even more interesting is how they are using cloud to cut real fuel costs in planes. With fuel as the largest expense the airline has, any reductions can have material impacts on the business. Previously it took Qantas 4 months to process flight plans for new routes; on cloud that time was reduced to 4 hours. They’re even running big data analysis on flight data over the last decade or so with a view to providing real-time feedback to pilots, ensuring they can take the most fuel efficient route to compensate for weather patterns.

Exchange rates are causing cloud bills to rise

AWS Summit SydneyAn unexpected challenge highlighted by many companies on the exhibition floor was how the widening gap between the US and Australian dollars has caused their AWS bill to grow accordingly. AWS bills in US dollars. When the US dollar is stronger than the Australian one, it means Aussie companies pay more for the same cloud services. This left some customers struggling to determine how much of their increase was due to currency inflation and how much to growing usage. We of course pointed them to Cloudability’s Time Period Comparison feature as one way to highlight the changes. One technology company shared their strategy of buying US dollars with their yearly AWS budget in an attempt to buffer them from currency changes. This strategy is not foolproof by any means though, and if the trend continues AWS may need to take actions to address the impact on cloud bills.

Cloud is the new normal

Australia is the most urban nation in the world. Because of its density, it’s hard to remember that the entire country is only 20 million people. Sydney is big and modern: the skyline is full of glass and steel, the geography is large, and the population is a substantial 6 million people. Melbourne is nearly the same size and growing quickly. Australians are aggressive about living in a multi-tenant, shared city infrastructure. Their approach to cloud is no different. When you see national banks like NAB and formerly government owned airlines like Qantas going all in on cloud, it’s clear that cloud truly has become the new Australian normal.

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