AWS’ journey in the Indian government is just beginning: Teresa Carlson, VP, Worldwide Public Sector

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Amazon believes that the opportunity in the government space is huge, as the cloud is perfectly suited for handling large sets of data and gain rich insights. In an extensive interaction with Jasmine Desai, Teresa Carlson, VP, Worldwide Public Sector, shares how Government departments can benefit from the agility and scale of cloud enabled innovations.

How can customers change their traditional IT-buying behaviour to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud services model, especially in the Government space?

The journey of government to the cloud is a bit different due to regulations and policies, procurement methods and lot of legacy infrastructure. Having a cloud first policy is one of the ways to move swiftly to the cloud. True cloud computing is the ability to get started with no upfront cost, scale as you need to, benefit from utility based pricing and scale globally. The journey in the Indian government is just beginning from an AWS’ perspective. Governments have to be very clear on the security and compliance framework. For example, there is FedRAMP process in US. We have achieved every level on it. Commercial companies now are also assessing themselves against FedRAMP. It will be important for India to have a framework for security
and compliance so that agencies and ministers know what they are assessing against. The most vital benefit for the government would be that once we achieve these levels, the ISVs building apps on this platform would inherit these security controls.

We have a program called AWS Educate. We will help the government to quickly train individuals. The government has the ability to procure the cloud through Capex versus the Opex model. In the old school model, most government departments have over-purchased infrastructure. For example, many ministers will say that they have 20 PB of data that they want to move to the cloud. When we assess their storage, they may have just 10 PB of real data that they need to move.

Government departments should be able to act and behave like start-ups. They should be able to try and test because they can do it at a low cost which they were not able to earlier. They need to have good procurement vehicles that are cloud friendly. They can continuously take advantage of innovations we are rolling out.

The public sector business for AWS started about five years ago. The early adopters were not IT leaders but they were business mission leaders. They did it because they had a budget to run the program and all of a sudden the budget started decreasing. For example, NASA JPL had the Mars Rover. When they started the program they thought it would last only six months. However, the Rover kept going and they did not have the IT budget for this because they were building traditional data
centers. AWS helped them with storage and streaming. From these mission leaders we saw its evolution among IT leaders. Presently, it is again going back to mission leaders.

Security is also seen less of an issue now. The issue is more around culture, training and skill-sets, procurement. Mumbai will be one of our APAC regions. We do availability zones and in those zones are clusters of data centers. Once we get into a region, it really moves fast as it provides the local access, low latency to those application and storage.

What will be AWS’ value proposition to government customers?

We have a five year head-start than any other vendor. We have rich platform capability. In the previous Gartner Magic quadrant, compared to the 14 other providers of cloud, we have ten times the compute capacity. We are the largest provider for the government around the world in the cloud. What really sets us apart is our customer obsession. 90 to 95% of all our services are customer driven. That is why we have a million active customers. Our security compliance capabilities are directly driven by the government requirements. With our Direct Connect feature, we directly connect between the customer’s datacenter and ours so that they can traverse the Internet and have quick access. There is VPC (virtual private cloud) and within that we do encryption and tunnelling. We have a new service called Inspector that tests when one is building an application and runs assessment of the application before it is deployed. It tells the security holes and remedies for it.

We have Government competency already for partners. We have increased our partner eco-system by 80% in the last 12 months. The Government can leverage analytics in a big way to innovate. Governments in general have the largest data-sets. Governments can leverage AWS from a data-set perspective mainly because they can take that data-set and can place it on AWS and open it to the world. They can bring insights and education research into data-sets. Sometimes we host them for free.

For example, the very first data-set that we worked with government on was the Genome data-set with the National Institute of Health. In the first week of hosting it on AWS, we had 3400 new researchers crowd source on the platform. 2400 new genomes have been processed from that in multiple countries.

How do you see the consumption of cloud changing over time?

We think that in time customers will only use one cloud provider. We do have many tools which support the hybrid model. We want customers to move quickly into the cloud, but if they want to move out, we want to help there too. We do not want to create any sort of vendor lock-in. Hybrid is a short term strategy. It is hard to standardize and set policies in a multiple clouds scenario. It costs customers more money to run multiple clouds.

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