Sada Rajagopalan, Director of Solution Architecture, Asurion
Every customer facing products and serves organization today is constantly being challenged with the need for better, cheaper, richer and faster features in their service offerings. Successful enterprises are obsessed with their customers and leverage them for all possible cross and up sell opportunities. This approach is a key strategy to increase top line revenue growth alongside with expanding customer and geographical base.
One of the primary mechanisms to expand the product & services spectrum and create a culture of “customer obsession” is driving innovation through lean product development. Cloud First adoption helps drive technology and product innovation as it reduces cycle times to develop product concepts and either succeed or fail fast is what I believe.
“The approach to drive innovation is to utilize the current legacy assets and connect them with new product concepts that could succeed or fail fast”
Cloud First is relatively an easy adoption in a SMB landscape. In a large Enterprise setting, shifting the culture to embrace cloud and promote adoption is a huge challenge. Most enterprises have large sets of legacy enterprise assets that fuel and support the current business operations. The approach to drive innovation is to utilize the current legacy assets and connect them with new product concepts that could succeed or fail fast. Such innovation can only be promoted by moving the innovation to an environment that supports lean product development combined with devops and agile based approaches to shorten cycle time.
In order to be successful in this approach there are some key challenges every enterprise should solve for:
• Strategy to expose the legacy assets to cloud applications using a standards based approach.
• Identity & Access Management strategy that bridges across cloud and on-premise environments.
• Clear and concrete understanding of the security, risk and compliance requirements that influences the architecture.
• Well thought out infrastructure strategy to connect and manage a cloud environment similar to that of an on-prem environment.
• Strategies to support applications that constantly outgrow traditional datacenter capabilities by virtue of being “location transparent”
The drivers for Asurion to adopt and expand into Cloud are two fold
• Agility – Faster time to market for our new and innovative product concepts to better service our end customers
• Efficiency – Consolidate data center investments across the globe and use cloud for newer, untested opportunities where customer adoptions may be uncertain.
Time to market is paramount in any competitive industry and the technology industry has centered around a few themes such as Agile software delivery to support lean product development, Devops to reduce cycle time and align with lean methods, Minimum Viable Products (MVP) and Fail-fast methods to quickly conceive, prototype and qualify product ideas. In an enterprise environment with richer controls, processes and risk adverse posture, the above-mentioned agility methods simply don’t work. So what are the alternatives and how is the industry coping with these challenges while driving the pace of innovation.
Frankly a few trips AWS reinvent and regional summits revealed that some of the largest process driven environments such as DOW Jones, NASA, GE and Boeing have seemed to figure this out and are executing on a cloud first strategy efficiently.
AWS provides rich sets of capabilities that enable the hungry product and development teams with tools to produce minimum viable products rapidly.
This combined with exposing your legacy assets as a set of services/ apis accessible to the lean product development teams the fuel is added to the fire.
Asurion supports customers, wireless and retail partners worldwide. Due to the safe harbor and data privacy and residency regulations, the data center footprint is spread all across the globe. Partnering with a large credible IaaS leader such as AWS, it provides risk mitigation and better serves our end customers with enhanced SLAs. Furthermore, this shifts the cost management from a CAPEX to OPEX model in new & unproven territories where if the business does not turn profitable or viable, we can cut our losses and walk away with very little CAPEXwrite-off.
“The process of choosing a cloud services provider begins with assessing the foundational technology, network and security controls, operational automation, application support and industry adoption”
Like many organizations we have been cautious in the cloud adoption journey by usinga “multi-cloud strategy”. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been one of the key partners enabling IaaS offerings in variety of technology areas.
AWS Thought & Technology Leadership in Cloud services
The process of choosing a cloud services provider begins with assessing the foundational technology, network and security controls, operational automation, application support, industry adoption and ability to continuously innovate and stay ahead of customer challenges. These dimensions align extremely well with the Infrastructure building blocks and automation provided by AWS’s services such as EC2, S3, EBS, RDS, VPC, and DirectConnect . Additionally, products that support Services Oriented Integration (SOI) and API management align and work well in the AWS landscape providing options to integrate over the public Internet using simple REST integration mechanisms.
AWS as an enabling partner
When you make a strategic shift in direction towards a disruptive technology adoption such as cloud, picking the right technology partner is a key for success.
The foundational elements in AWS such as the virtualization technology, strong security posture, software defined networking, virtualized block and object storage and managed database services coupled with ease of use APIs , strong developer integration and partner community support positions them as a strong partner.
Asurion’s investments in internal cloud and automation efforts to expose a ‘single pane of glass automation across platforms’ is very aligned and compatible with the management of infrastructure and application components in AWS.
Cost – Economies of Scale
An important dimension in selling a Cloud first adoption with a large enterprise is the ability to justify new OPEX investment into a CSP while depreciating the CAPEX investment of current assets. By virtue of “Law of large numbers” and “Economies of Scale” a CSP such as AWS has better leverage and success in negotiating prices with its providers to drive down cost to the customer and increase competition. AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google have all been extremely competitive in this space driving the cost down every year for services. On top of that, AWS also provides innovative cost optimization techniques such as Reserved/ Spot instances where by if you can do a little prediction to your usage patterns you can save a lot of cost on an annual basis.
Security – The First order of business in Cloud First adoption
Solving Security should be the most important priority in any Cloud first adoption. This directly relates to the famous “Shared Responsibility Model” evangelized by AWS. This model clearly demarcates the CSP vs the Customer’s responsibility in the Cloud security context. Most CSPs have come a long way in securing the most complex certifications by virtue of demonstrating the security capabilities and controls. From a customer standpoint, solving for security topics such as handling of PII data, securing data at rest/transit/cache, administrative controls via bastion hosts, Identity and access management, Network Integration with on-prem using VPC and/or Direct Connect, Utilizing built-in controls such as Security groups, NACLS with appropriate network design in the cloud promotes a richer and more complete security posture comparable or superior to an on-prem security environment.
One of the important success factors in picking either a technology or product is to measure how mature is the ecosystem around it. AWS as a service provider has worked to create a strong and powerful ecosystem of providers who range from providing O/S images, Database software, Commercial Off The Shelf software (COTS), Cloud management tools, Auditing and Compliance tools, Deployment and automation tools. The interesting fact is there is a equal distribution of commercial and open / community sourced projects coming out of donations from companies such as Netflix, Yelp, LinkedIn.
AWS as Cloud service provider is aligned well with most enterprises business geography in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Japan and Australia. AWS reduces the risk of providing reliable, secure infrastructure services as compared to a local / regional colo provider.
Lastly, when partnering with a technology or services provider, the alignment of organizational cultures is very important. Organizations who are committed to excellence in customer services align very closely with the customer obsession principle practiced by Amazon to derive better business benefits.
Cloud adoption is a long journey very similar to the shift from internally managed private datacenters to data center colocation services. Picking the right partner in the early stages is vital to achieve successin driving the strategy to realization. AWS with the market positioning, continuous innovation and wide range of service offerings is providing a jump start for enterprises that are boldly embarking this path.