Invisible Infostructure #5 – What Would Amazon Do?

Many of the most striking innovations in infrastructure serve the key objective of the enterprise: creating a superior customer experience. So why not go full circle and learn from some of the greatest retailers in the world to envision the next steps in infrastructure? As consumers, we all know the power of the web stores, the likes of Amazon, Apple, BestBuy and Gap. It only takes a short look at Amazon Web Services to see what happens when IT gets the ‘high volume / low margin / rapid delivery / great web experience’ treat of an online retailer. Infrastructure must become a high-value commodity to the business. Want to challenge yourself? Regularly ask yourself what Amazon would do.

It’s still an established benchmark for any application developer building a web shop: before starting to discuss structure, activity flow and layout, you take a look at the world’s leading example and see what’s hot. What would Amazon do?
Well, they are doing it again. And this time it’s about IT infrastructure and – more and more – business applications.
With their ever-growing catalog of infrastructure services from the cloud and their still rapidly expanding AWS (Amazon Web Services) marketplace, Amazon shows any IT department what they are up against in the forthcoming years: a neatly organized, easily accessible catalog of open, highly standardized, secure IT services, ready to deploy in seconds, paid per use, all on one invoice. And – of course – at incredibly competitive prices: in its 8 years of existence AWS managed to lower prices dozens and dozens of times, all in the best tradition of the highly optimized retailer that they are.
We have often discussed with our clients how quickly – and through what steps – they could benefit from the public cloud. And the same advice would be coming back over and over again: we’re not saying an enterprise’s entire IT landscape should be on the Amazon Web Services public cloud next year. But for sure, it is quickly defining a new normal in terms of how fast, easily and cost effectively a business should be able to procure and deploy new solutions.
That benchmark becomes apparent from the AWS marketplace (or for that matter any comparable service from for example Microsoft or Rackspace). Go to it yourself and browse around a bit. Will your IT department be able to provide the same, compelling catalog, with the same self-service, usage-based pricing and deployment in minutes? And even more important: are your prices more or less on par with what Amazon is offering?
Amazon Web Services is taking a retail perspective on IT: it aims to provide high volumes of excellent quality at low prices and uses its impressive growth to further sharpen its proposition. It’s not a coincidence that the AWS marketplace starts to resemble the Amazon web shop. You can only imagine what will happen when more and more business applications become available (anybody for a recommendation engine?) through the very same marketplace.

How is it all achieved? The answer is partially in speed. Amazon is a build, release, run, repeat master. Where many competitors struggle to successfully deploy application changes once a week without breaking live operations, Amazon is deploying fully automated and fully tested more than 1000 deployments per hour.

So what does a truly invisible infrastructure look like? Where do Virtual Lego and cloud orchestration eventually lead to? It might as simple as an exciting web catalog, filled with ready-to-use, industry best practice business services. IT can learn from retail how to get there.

Your expert: Harish Rao 

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2015 update series. See the overview here.