Cloud is the new normal

06 May 2018 | Natalie Bannerman


As one of the market leaders in cloud technology, Ian Massingham, chief EMEA evangelist at AWS, speaks to Natalie Bannerman about the trends driving cloud consumption and his thoughts on the future of infrastructure providers

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We often talk about the cloud as the technology that is transforming business appli-cations and soft- ware. It’s usually spoken of in terms of something emerging and new, but Ian Massingham, chief evangelist at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Europe, Middle East and Africa, brings a new perspective to the conversation.

“I already think it’s the new normal for customers that want to deploy applications, build new services or modernise their existing IT. I think a lot of the evolution of the cloud has rapidly taken place over the course of the last five years or so, where mainstream adoption amongst traditional enterprises has really started to accelerate.”


Market snapshot

As one of the biggest players in cloud services, AWS is a $20 billion run-rate business, growing by about 45% year-on-year with a market share of approximately 35%. Despite this, the worldwide IT services market is worth approximately $3.5 trillion, so Massingham says there’s still a long way to go before you can say that the cloud is ubiquitous or has reached a position where it’s most of IT.

Many of you would be forgiven for not knowing exactly what a chief evangelist is, but he explains: “We call it evangelism at AWS but, in other companies, the team and role I’m involved with would probably be called developer relations.”

In short Massingham’s role is to educate and build awareness among software developers and architects, who use the vast array of API’s available within AWS, to be affective users of the platform and how to put AWS to work to help them build products or services. 

He says there are several different components driving cloud consumption today. The first is that the people who are building brand new products or appli-cations are interested in accessing a set of services to help them get their work done in a quick and efficient manner. “Its very rapid, very responsive, very cost optimised and very secure,” explains Massingham. “Plus it allows customers to offload a lot of the undifferentiated, unnecessary heavy lifting associated with building appli-cations to someone else and to focus their efforts on what’s really unique about their application and the problem that they’re trying to solve.”

And some customers are trying to modernise their existing IT. “They already have applications that are running their business so they want to modernise those services and deliver those applications in a more efficient, secure and lower cost manner,” he says. Internet of things applications, data-centric applications, artificial intelligence and machine learning are the big three that are accelerating in terms of importance.

Unlike the many who are hailing hybrid cloud as the future of cloud technology, Massingham sees it as a phase that allows companies to reach their end goal. 

“I think hybrid cloud is going to be a reality for the foreseeable future because, although enterprises in the main can see a strong business case for doing things adopting the cloud, they simply have to prioritise the way in which they make that change,” says Massingham. “You can’t flick a switch and overnight suddenly have modern state-of-the-art IT. You have to move through a journey in order to get to where you want to be, especially when you have that level of complexity and operating constraints that many enterprises have.”

He thinks that idea that you can have multiple infrastructure providers within a business is not going to be the normal pattern. “I think you’re going to have one predominant provider of infrastructure, probably one of the large cloud providers, and then you’re going to have other suppliers of IT who you purchase applications or business services from instead, which is in line with the rise of the subscription-based software model.”

On the topic of multi-cloud convergence, Massingham adds that “customers will buy the solution that best fits their use case requirement, and they’ll be really quite ambivalent about whose infrastructure that solution is running on.”

We move on to discuss AWS as a business and the challenges the company faces around cloud adoption. Massingham replies: “We face a challenge in educating customers about the reality of using the platform we provide. Unfortunately it’s still not uncommon that you’ll come into contact with customers with misconceptions about the cloud.” 

Another challenge is the inherent complexity of large enterprises. “They have complex landscapes of technology and a lot of complexity in applications that have grown up within carriers and working through that is something that can take a little bit of time.”

Speaking of educating customers, security is one particular area that customers need to be taught about when it comes to AWS.

“Customers might feel that for some reason the cloud offers a lower standard of information security or that compliance in the cloud is more difficult than it is with owner operated infrastructure,” he says. 

“But when customers have adopted AWS they find that it’s easier to maintain a robust security posture in the cloud because they have less heavy lifting to do. It’s also easier to achieve compliance in the cloud, because the auditors are familiar with how the security controls are applied within cloud and, of course, they are standardised across all customers. There tends to be a lot of pre-work done by AWS and other operators to ensure that the cloud offers a safe, secure and reliable location for customers to run mission critical services.”

AWS has almost 2,000 security controls that are continuously audited by third parties. He explains that AWS operates something called the shared responsibility security model. It means that AWS jointly shares the security responsibility with its customers. “We secure our low level services infrastructure but of course customers choose what applications they are going to run on the platform as well as what data they are going to store and process with AWS and customers are ultimately responsible to their stakeholders, we’re not. So in GDPR terms we’re a processor and our customers are controllers of the data.”

AWS became fully GDPR compliant in March, a fact that Massingham says “underscores that it’s simpler and easier for customers to reach the right level of security and compliance in the cloud than it is with traditional models.”


Enterprise and wholesale 

Enterprises have many demands of their cloud provider but top of that list is trust. “Security, compliance, operational excellence, reliability: these are all absolutely key in ensuring we maintain the trust of enterprise customers. You need to serve their customers in the way they would serve them themselves,” he explains.

Next, referenceability. “If I’m a CIO or an enterprise decision maker looking to buy technology, one the first things I will do is look at analyst reports and look at my peers.” And last, portfolio breadth. “You wouldn’t buy a car that doesn’t have enough seats for your passengers, so why would you buy a cloud that doesn’t have the basic features that you need?” he asks.

AWS is a major consumer of network infrastructure, with its 18 global regions weaved together using subsea and surface fibre. Massingham says that the company delivers a lot of traffic to the public internet and also receives a lot of traffic from the public internet. “We have many partnerships with retail carriers like Vodafone, BT and Colt,” he says. “This is the way that carriers play a really critical role in customers’ access to cloud in a reliable, secure and performant manner. We have a broad partner ecosystem of operators that we work with and we’re always looking for more, to provide our customers with more choice.”

AWS still shows no signs of slowing down. Describing the company’s plans for the future, Massingham says: “We’ll continue to expand our geographic footprint, adding to our existing 18 regions around the world where customers can access AWS services. We’ve already announced Stockholm and Bahrain, which we’re going to open over the coming months.” 

The company will also expand in the area of services. Over the last 12 months period, an average of 100 new services and features a month have been added to the AWS platform, says Massingham, driven largely by customer feedback. He says that the company will look to expand its services footprint in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Whether it’s still emerging, evolving or maturing, the cloud is undeniably here to stay – with AWS as one of its leaders. Massingham has it right when he says: “It’s a services-based world.”