Disruptor Discussion: Jason Williamson on Amazon’s Plan to Own the Enterprise


Continuing our series of discussions with firms that are shaking up the traditional outsourcing business, I had the opportunity to talk with Jason Williamson, Global Leader, Management Consulting for Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The growth of AWS as a global infrastructure platform is unrelenting. There is little debate that currently, AWS defines the public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service market. However, my area of interest is more specific – are Fortune 500 companies and large systems integrators embracing AWS?

Here’s our conversation:

Hi Jason, thanks for taking time to talk with me. Tell us a little bit about your background.

Hi Stanton. It’s my pleasure to spend time with you. I am the Global Leader for what we call at AWS the Influencer community – those are firms and people that create and execute strategy and usually operate at the Board and/or C-Level. This helps customers build a clear plan on how to use the cloud for lowing costs, driving innovation and unlocking new revenue streams. I come from a bit of a hybrid background – spending time in management consulting, startups, enterprise software and academia. A significant portion of my background included leading large-scale data center modernization projects.

Amazon Web Services gets a huge amount of publicity, but it’s still not well understood by some enterprise buyers. Can you provide our readers with a high level overview of what AWS is, and just as importantly, what it is not?

AWS offers an alternative way to run virtually any business that uses technology. AWS offers a vast array of services from computing, storage, networking, database, monitoring and deployment. Everything that you expect in a traditional enterprise data center delivered in a reliable, secure and scalable manner. The technology infrastructure services that Amazon Web Services offers were inspired by Amazon’s own back-end technology infrastructure, and we’ve spent over a decade building AWS into one of the world’s most reliable, scalable, and cost-efficient web infrastructures.

Today, AWS powers hundreds of thousands of enterprise, government and startup businesses in 190 countries around the world. Customers include fast-growing companies such as Pinterest, Spotify and Dropbox to enterprises such Shell, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Schneider Electric, Bankinter (Spain’s 5th largest bank), Netflix, The French National Railways, Airport Nuremberg, as well as over 800 government agencies including the National Institutes of Health who together with AWS made the 1000 Genomes Project freely available on AWS.

Are you getting the traction you expected in the enterprise? Why or why not?

I’d say we’ve moved well past the stage of “are most enterprise workloads going to move to the cloud?” to “how quickly and which ones will go first?”. One of the things that surprised us early on in the business was how quickly this new way of IT gained traction in the enterprise. Enterprises are moving to the cloud at a very fast clip because they’re able to innovate more quickly in the cloud. Great ideas can take off and ideas that are not so good can fail inexpensively. In the past, developers and IT teams had to wait weeks to procure the resources to test a new idea. With the cloud, companies are unleashing innovation in their organizations by providing teams with access to cloud resources.

A real-world example of that is with Comcast, a global media and technology company. Demand for the company’s new X1 delivery platform exceeded the capacity of its on-premise data centers. By turning to AWS, Comcast was able to quickly add capacity with Amazon VPC and Direct Connect, expanding their data centers as they scale to provide interactive entertainment on demand.

AWS does quite a bit of partnering with the global systems integrator community. Can you tell us more about these relationships?

AWS has a rapidly growing ecosystem of systems integrators (SIs) all over the world. AWS partner ecosystem in total, has grown to more than 10,000 technology and consulting partners worldwide – including the largest SIs like Deloitte, CapGemini, Accenture, Wipro and Cognizant. The SI community is extremely important to AWS. These firms are able to design, build and/or manage solutions on the AWS platform. They have deep understanding around architecting for the cloud, migrating legacy workloads and innovating new solutions on behalf of customers. They have helped our major Enterprise customers execute and manage mission critical workloads worldwide. They are able to apply their knowledge of the customers systems to facilitate moving those to AWS delivering significant agility and cost savings.

Is using AWS the same as outsourcing?

No. With outsourcing you don’t trade capital expense for variable expense, you don’t get the elasticity and agility, and you can’t deploy globally in minutes. Take the point around global deployment and elasticity – in an outsourcing or co-lo environment you would need to plan for growth, renegotiate or create a new contract for a different global reach or pay hefty fees for spikes. With AWS, you have none of these considerations. If customers want to expand their infrastructure due to growth, development or for disaster recovery in another part of the world, that can be done with a few clicks in AWS. We allow customers to get out of the business of paying for and managing undifferentiated workloads and free up resources, money and people, to focus on core business.

What is your biggest opportunity – and your biggest challenge?

Our biggest opportunity is helping customers across virtually every vertical market across the globe, for almost every use case, see the impact of low cost utility computing. Whether that’s regulated data storage for financial services companies, with NASDAQ, or clinical trial simulations with Bristol Myers-Squibb – we’re seeing the availability of IT resources dramatically increase the pace of innovation for these customers. Why? Because companies and organizations can focus on what really differentiates their organizations – whether it’s analyzing petabytes of data, delivering video content, building great mobile apps or even exploring Mars – and leave the heavy lifting of the underlying technology infrastructure to AWS.

I love to use customer examples around what is happening in the enterprise today. Thomson Reuters consolidated several webcasting technologies and leveraged AWS to build one global platform. By using AWS, Thomson Reuters reduced operating costs by 40%–50%. With some webcasts attracting over 2,000 concurrent viewers, the global webcasting platform is now poised for unrestricted growth.

Our biggest challenge is getting these great customer examples out to companies who have not tried out the cloud, and helping them understand what their opportunities are.

Look for Part II of my Disruptor Discussion with AWS next week. Jason Williamson is Global Leader, Management Consulting for Amazon Web Services. You can connect with Jason on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

About the author

Stanton helps enterprise IT and sourcing leaders rationalize and capitalize on emerging technology opportunities in the context of the global sourcing industry. He brings extensive knowledge of today’s cloud and automation ecosystems, as well as other disruptive trends that are helping to shape and disrupt the business computing landscape. Stanton has been with ISG for more over a decade. During his tenure he has helped clients develop, negotiate and implement cloud infrastructure sourcing strategies, evaluate and select software-as-a-service platforms, identify and implement best-in-class service brokerage models, and assess how the emerging cloud master architecture can be leveraged for competitive advantage. Stanton has also guided a number of leading service providers in the development of next-generation cloud strategies. Stanton is a recognized industry expert, and has been quoted in CIOForbes and The Times of London. You can follow Stanton on Twitter: @stantonmjones.