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, Alibaba and Walmart. 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 experience’ treat of an online retailer. Infrastructure must become a high-value, high-experience 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, this time it's about frictionless access to IT infrastructure, as well as business applications. And it's equally a hot topic.
With their ever-growing catalog of infrastructure services from the cloud and their still rapidly expanding AWS 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 9 years of existence AWS managed to lower prices dozens of times, all in the best tradition of the highly optimized retailer that they are. Although, it’s not just about price, customers seek innovation – and the AWS pace of innovation is unlike any of the nearest competitors – with 2015 exceeding the already remarkable 516 new features released in 2014.
Today enterprises long to embrace agile and flexible approaches to provisioning infrastructure, an approach that the likes of SMBs and start-ups have been enjoying for some time. The agile approach need not be a pipedream, often the best way to start embracing this is to investigate a bimodal approach to IT – where Mode 1 maintains the traditional systems, and Mode 2 catalyzes the agile web-native opportunities. The best way to facilitate this need for agility is to make the customer experience as simple as possible, provide them the tools to provision their own infrastructure – after all, they know what they want!
We often discuss with our clients how quickly – and through what steps – they could benefit from the public cloud. And the same advice is repeated: we’re not saying an enterprise’s entire IT landscape should be on the public cloud next year. But for sure, it is quickly defining a new norm 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 - just to be perfectly clear - any comparable service; for example from Microsoft or Google). 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 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 innovate and continue to sharpen its proposition with new features and services. It's not a coincidence that the AWS marketplace starts to resemble the Amazon web store. You can only imagine what will happen when more business applications become available (anybody for a recommendation engine?) through the very same marketplace.
How is it all achieved? The answer is partially also 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 be nothing more or less than an exciting online catalog, filled with ready-to-use, industry best practice business services.
Disruption can be as simple as starting to think like a retailer, rather than an IT-provider. What would you do next?