AWS Winning Our Minds But Not Our Hearts

[This is an editorial opinion accompanying our report on AWS summit that happened last week. Click on this sentence to read our report.]

AWS summit took place on Tuesday and saw many industry players showing support for AWS cloud services. The keynote delivered by CTO Dr. Werner Vogels displayed many services offered for their customers. Following the keynote we were invited to a group media interview with with Shane Owenby, Amazon Web Services Managing Director of Asia Pacific.

We have to say that for a company spearheading an era of flexibility, collaboration and openness that is cloud computing, we found the approach and over confidence of most of the AWS people we spoke to just a little too much. No doubt AWS are really hot and no doubt they will be a major force in public cloud, but the attitude of the people is surprisingly over confident and almost cult like in expounding the AWS way, it often seems more like speaking to people from IBM 20 years ago than a people from a company on the crest of this new wave.

At a time when even companies like Microsoft are opening up and embracing what used to be competitors, it seems strange that AWS seem so single minded in dismissing any other way than their own.

Perhaps this was most in evidence during the press interview with AWS head of Asia Pacific Shane Owenby.

When he was asked about local cloud providers who are building cloud offerings on Microsoft Azure Stack, he paid them no respect and dismissed them suggesting Azure has only been around about a year, as opposed to AWS which has nearly a decade of experience.

Well let’s dig a little further, actually Azure has been around since 2010 and in Malaysia the local providers that have been offering cloud services built on Azure intrinsically understand the requirements of this market have been around longer than AWS and a lot longer in this local market. In addition, Azure is built on a platform (Windows) that has been around a lot longer than AWS and is built on technology that people know, understand and trust from hands on experience. As opposed to the AWS approach which is more akin to don’t worry about how we do it just trust us that we know what we are doing. Trying to get answers about their underlying technology can be very frustrating.

We weren’t expecting Shane to sell for his competitors but acknowledging that others have a part to play rather than just giving a conditioned answer may have made his response more palatable.

Another example of this approach was when the question of security came up. Shane dismissed this out of hand. Explaining it’s not an issue any more, to paraphrase, he told us people used to be worried about data security in AWS but not anymore. Well in Malaysia and ASEAN where AWS is just at the start of its journey, security is still be a big question, right down to can we trust the faceless employees in the AWS data centres as opposed to the people that work in local datacentres that we know personally and have built trust with over many years? We feel this was a missed chance for Shane to actually reach out to IT professionals in this region and give them a more substantive assurance that we know many of them are looking for.

We genuinely found the over confidence and dismissiveness of any other way than the AWS way very difficult to warm too. As an example when discussing Dropbox’s decision to move off AWS, we were hoping for an analysis of why Dropbox believed it was the right move for them at this time. Such an analysis assists our readers could to understand what the genuine drivers are that companies use to decide when to use and also not not use AWS. We don’t see why AWS should have an issue with this, as they espouse easy in and easy out with no tie in. However, again this question was batted back with a nonchalant answer equating to - We think Dropbox got it wrong and they will be back.

On the question of easy out and no contractual tie in we alo struggle with the spin. AWS billing model charges for data out but not data in - that in itself tells a story. In addition at the current time actually moving enterprise applications out of AWS is not a simple exercise it takes time planning and will involve downtime. At DSA we have no issue with this, our only issue is why it is so difficult to get open and insightful answers from AWS rather than presenting a case and an angle which doesnt really give a complete picture.

We know that it’s amazing times for AWS right now. We also love their offering and have no doubt it is here to stay, but the battle for cloud is far from over and in our humble opinion the people running AWS in APAC region may need to take a slightly more conciliatory approach in the future. When competition hots up people will still lean towards working with the people they like, and if this attitude is persuasive, it might well be that AWS may be winning the minds of IT people but are they winning the hearts?  

On a side note, we can confirm that the new Malaysian office’s new country manager will be former VMware Country Manager Laurence Si, who we believe is likely to strike the right tone for the region, and in our opinion is a great hire.

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