At the beginning of October I attended Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference. The rapid pace of innovation AWS brings to market in the cloud computing space creates a new environment that government CIOs need to adjust to, in order to harness the full benefits of 3rd platform native technology vendors.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended Amazon re:Invent, Amazon Web Services (AWS) global conference. That gave me the chance to experience first-hand a 3rd platform technology NATIVE vendor. And by that I mean a vendor that was born in the era of convergence between cloud computing, mobile computing, big data and analytics and social media. A vendor that has no legacy in the mainframe or client-server era, thus it has the benefit of dedicating most investments to bringing to market new features and functions, rather than protecting the installed base or modernizing the existing portfolio. But there is more than that. Three other things stood out for me:
- Leveraging cloud computing as a powerful means to innovate, and not only reduce marginal costs. The major benefit of the public cloud is not the cost saving that everybody thought about five or six years ago. The main benefit is the agility to innovate at scale through automation of new features and functions, as the costs and risks of piloting and scaling, or piloting and failing, then switching to a different approach are low. The conference was a testament to that, as AWS launched multiple new services in the area of open source database, security, configuration, IoT, and big data and analytics.
- Being a heavy user of ICT, before being a vendor. Amazon uses massive computing power to be competitive in its e-commerce business. That gives AWS the advantage of a large scale in-house user to test new capabilities, then automate earnestly to make them affordable for users in other industries. As a user of ICT, Amazon also values very much the developer community, which represented a large share of the approximately 18,000 attendees at the conference; this is a recognition of the role of developer in the fast-paced, agile 3rd platform technology ecosystem.
- Launching services that challenge partners and not only competitors. During re:Invent AWS launched new services that widen significantly the choice for customers, but also challenge directly partners; perfectly in line with the spirit of the 3rd platform technology ecosystem characterized by dynamic shaping and re-shaping of alliances. For example:
- The support for open source database Maria DB widens the user choice of AWS supported relational and non-relational database management systems to a total of seven, but also competes directly with Microsoft and Oracle, the very providers of some of those seven tools.
- The new launch of the QuickSight BI visualization solution on top of the SPICE data integration platform offers new choices to business analysts, but also challenges partners like TIBCO Jaspersoft and Tableau that leverage SPICE APIs on their turf.
- The launch of Kinesis Firehose data stream loading capability and AWS IoT (beta) managed cloud platform is a first foray in the IoT business, which supports, but also goes head to head with some capabilities offered by important customers like GE.
What does this all mean for public sector CIOs - there were many, particularly from education institutions at the event -? It means they are dealing with a new breed of native 3rd platform technology vendors, which are increasingly investing to penetrate the enterprise market, including public sector, such as AWS, but also Salesforce, Google, Apple, Workday, Tableau, Qlik and many others.
Public sector CIOs should take advantage of the flurry of new features and functions that these vendors are bringing to market. That does not mean they should plunge into 5 or 10 years contracts with them. Public sector CIOs should rather leverage the cloud to experiment with less risky workloads, then choose the features that are relevant for their business users. This approach will help them innovate fast, while minimizing shelfware and lock-in.
Public sector CIOs should also engage with the vendors to innovate. These vendors, also because of the fast revenue growth they experience, focus on fast roll out of cross-industry features and functions. By engaging with 3rd platform native vendors early on, public sector CIOs can drive development of capabilities that are closer to the need of their mission, keep the vendor aware of the need to maintain architectural openness to contain the cost of integration and migration and support developers, and ensure information assurance practices are compliant with public sector regulations. Compliance is the easy part; in fact AWS showcased a large number of 'public sector grade' security certifications at the conference. The difficult part will be finding business models that entice risk averse public sector CIOs, as well as 3rd platform native vendors to collaborate on the open innovation and verticalization of solutions and services.