Teresa Carlson, VP at Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary, looks after state, local and central governments, NGOs, and acts as advisor on global policy issues. She talks about Amazon’s evolution and its India roadmap
Pratap Vikram Singh | August 13, 2016
Teresa Carlson once helped Microsoft in devising strategy for the US government. Now at Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary, she looks after state, local, central and regional governments, educational institutions and NGOs, and acts as an advisor to the firm on global policy issues. In an interaction with Pratap Vikram Singh, she talks about Amazon’s evolution and its India roadmap.
How has Amazon Web Services (AWS) evolved since 2006 when it started offering storage solutions?
We are turning 10-years-old. We have been growing very fast and have over a million customers today in 190 countries. Cloud is the new de-facto IT infrastructure for individuals, enterprises and governments around the world. We started in 2006 with [our first service being] called S3, a simple web-based storage service. It was quite popular. Today, we offer many compute instance type, different storages, database services, all types of applications, networking and security compliance.
We have grown into a most innovative cloud computing company in the world, with more services and capabilities. All that started from the learning we had inside Amazon. If you ever heard Andy [AWS CEO Jassy] telling this story… he talks about how within Amazon we were doing siloed IT work and he was asked by Jeff [CEO of Amazon.com Jeff Bezos] to find out why we were moving slow in some of our projects. What he found was that a lot of different groups within Amazon were trying to create their own infrastructure. Nothing was working together. So they embarked on a project to look at how to consolidate our efforts to move faster. That was part of the cloud computing strategy that made AWS. Second part is the learning we established on the Amazon.com side, running a massive infrastructure for both retail side and also doing our business for sellers. We took all those learnings.
We have the best knowledge in the world of how to run this kind of business. Why wouldn’t we share that with individuals who are trying to be disruptive in their IT needs? When we launched AWS in 2006, a lot of individual developers started utilising AWS because they were computer scientists and engineers who were constantly working for ways to get compute power and storage. It got popular as many of the developers and engineers started startups. Now we are the absolute choice of startups, many enterprises and public sector.
How much of your business comes from the public sector?
We went from 2,000 to 2,300 government entities around the world in last 12 months. From 5,000 to 7,000 education institutions and from 17,000 NGOs to 22,000.
What are your plans for India?
We are setting up a region here. By region we mean availability zones. In these availability zones we have a cluster of data centres. It will make easier for the government entities to work with AWS. What happens is that many governments want to have a region within their country to address any kind of data sovereignty issues. It is going to open the market. We already had people from AWS working [in India] since 2010. We have 75,000 customers in India. Our business is growing very fast and with a region in India the business will just explode. As region grows we put more data centres.
Jeff Bezos announced $5 billion investment in India and AWS is a part of the continued journey and roadmap for India. India is a very important country for us. As we set up a region it would trigger economic development and jobs creation. It’s really a startup engine. Startups flourish, new jobs are created. Enterprises say that they can be competitive through utilising the cloud. It allows them to experiment, fail and recover fast, scale globally and lower down the cost.
What differentiates the US and Indian public sectors?
In the US, we had an individual who was CIO of the US government – Vivek Kundra. He said that too much money was spent on system integrators, not really delivering on projects. The IT projects were failing. People were creating things which had a higher failure rate. He said we have to move towards the cloud. The federal government created a cloud first policy, wherein every new IT project would be evaluated and the respective agencies would be asked why they wouldn’t use cloud. At the same time, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created the definition of cloud. They both worked with companies like AWS on defining cloud. From there they created a framework for security and compliance – FedRAMP. It is not only consumed by the government but also by many private enterprises. It incorporates all security controls that are looked across the cloud. The government has set low, medium and high levels of compliance and we have achieved high. The department of defence (DoD) and the intelligence community have their own set of compliance standards. AWS complies by all those standards.
(The interview appears in the August 1-15, 2016 issue of Governance Now)
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