Highlights from the 2015 Razorfish Tech Summit

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Today marked the seventh iteration of the Razorfish Tech Summit, which brought together more than 200 technology industry executives in New York City to discuss software innovation. The two-day, invitation-only event was collaboratively sponsored and created with Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Appirio, Dynatrace, hybris, IBM, Rackspace, and Yahoo.

The Lab at the Tech Summit included hands-on demonstrations, in partnership with NYC Media Lab, which gave attendees the chance to experience technology projects produced by students from schools including Parsons, New York University and Columbia University. The students were tasked with inspiring the next wave of technology and were given the opportunity to demonstrate their projects alongside installations from Razorfish Global, Rosetta, Dynatrace and Hybris. Popular demonstrations included:

GlassMouse, which invigorates streetscape and mallscape windows with new invisible powers of interactivity; Flatline, a visualization of an individual’s social media presence as an electrocardiograph; and Pure, a speculative wearable piece commenting on the growing issue of pollution and functionality of clothing. This project is a response to the lack of concern for air quality and the impracticality of the modern fashion industry.

Along with the interactive demonstration area, a lineup of panel discussions inspired attendees throughout the day. The event kicked off with an opening talk from Razorfish Global Chief Technology Officer Ray Velez, who encouraged executives to “build experiences that are timely, relevant and smart.” Velez mentioned Marc Andreessen’s quote “software is eating the world” to highlight the ways in which technology is creating an environment that is bringing together physical and digital experiences. Despite the changes in technology, Velez urged: “Consumers are more in charge than ever before. They are expecting services that are built just for them.” Velez emphasized how machine learning, cloud, and big data technology are critical in putting the customer at the center of their business endeavors.

The consumer experience was at the heart of the first presentation of the morning led by Piers Fawkes, who is the founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK.com and PSFK Labs. Fawkes gave the audience a preview of his “Future of Retail” report, noting the innovative ways retailers and brands are using technology to connect with consumers. He explained that the new shopping experience revolves around ten pillars, ranging from creating confidence among shoppers to delivering a delightful, unique retail experience.

Next, Dr. Steven Abrams, the director of Watson Ecosystem Technology at IBM, took the stage to explore cognitive computing and how humans and machines are collaborating in surprising ways. “It is not man versus machine now,” Dr. Abrams said. “It is man working together with machine.”

He cited various examples of how cognitive computing might work in different industries, whether it is a chef using a collaborative partner for recipe ideas or a physician working to better diagnose patients by analyzing the medical records of those who experienced similar symptoms. A video shown during the presentation also showcased the work of Elemental Path in New York City, which is using IBM’s Watson technology to develop connected toys to aid children in learning.

Following Dr. Abrams’ presentation, Razorfish leaders Christopher Follett (Executive Creative Director) and Eric Campdoras (Creative Technology Director) encouraged the audience to view the retail environment in a new way. Their demonstration of “Talk & Shop,” which involves a mix of iterating prototyping, artificial intelligence, synchronization and voice capabilities, showcased how mobile can enhance a consumer’s shopping experience.

And as today’s consumer is very much influenced by mobile, David Iudica, Yahoo’s director of strategic insights and research, revealed findings from a global study conducted with Flurry Analytics with 6,000 smartphone users.

Highlights of the study include:

  • People are adopting smartphones quickly due to the multiple products it has replaced

  • More efficiency and a better experience will lead to increased smartphone usage

  • Phablets are the fastest growing device; as screen sizes grow, engagement will increase

  • In the U.S., people spend three hours and 40 minutes a day on mobile devices

  • Native mobile advertisements on premium earn three times more attention from consumers than the static banner ad

Following this deep dive into smartphone usage, Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist of MIT Sloan School of Management, shared how machines and humans can work together, stressing people still have the upper hand. “Our brains and our minds clearly do remain valuable even in a world of advanced technology,” McAfee said. We all felt reassured when he guided us to a recent report, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market.” He also encouraged the audience to “be more geeky” and to embrace data to make better decisions. The team appreciated hearing the geeks (data-driven decisions) vs. HiPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion) debate.

Amyx+McKinsey Founder Scott Amyx, Founder & CEO then discussed how wearables and the Internet of Things can provide new capabilities that impact the brand engagement cycle. He shared examples from retail and omni-channel marketing that showcase how to engage consumers in new ways. He also explained how wearables and the Internet of Things can enable better experiences by measuring emotion. One statistic he shared that surprised the crowd was 55% of what we as people communicate is done via body language.

After Amyx’s talk, David Nuescheler, the VP of Enterprise Technology at Adobe Systems Incorporated, delivered a presentation entitled “Technology Paradigm Shifts.” He explained why Adobe’s priorities in open, cloud, and mobile experiences are critical to their future success. He wrapped up with the new truism, “the only constant now is the acceleration of change.” RAZORFISH_SPEAKERS_1883

Next, NYC Media Lab Executive Director Justin Hendrix led a panel with the Razorfish Emerging Experiences team including, Steve Dawson, Luke Hamilton, Charles Fletcher and Kat McCluskey. The group shared about the future of augmented and virtual reality. “These technologies are beginning to create a lot of buzz,” Hendrix said, noting that $150 billion will be invested in the space by 2020. Sensor technology and 3-D design were cited as innovations in the category.

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The discussion then transitioned to the NEXUS Customer Intelligence Marketing Operating System (MOS). Panelists Samih Fadli, Chief Intelligence Officer, Razorfish Global; Dmitri Tchikatilov, Global Business Development Executive for Digital Advertising at Amazon Web Services; and Tom Kotlarek, Executive Vice President, Technology Razorfish Global, shared the ways data can be leveraged to drive targeted customer experiences and boost engagement. With incredibly powerful big data technology, enabled through cloud computing, Nexus has a great answer to the oncoming deluge of data coming from the greater and greater proliferation of data. Nexus has a vision to use data to listen to customers enabling breakthrough experiences.

Visa’s Senior Vice President Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation Shiv Singh—our former Razorfish colleague— delivered a dynamic presentation, “Five Ideas for Marketing Transformation.” Singh says this kind of marketing revolves around open source brand building, transmedia storytelling, ubiquitous engagement, being anchored in owned media experiences that mirror the model of a publisher or magazine, and adopting a marketing checklist that takes full advantage of digital. “Software is becoming culture,” Singh said. “Technology is culture—it is life.”

Hilary Mason, the founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, which advises brands on data strategy, closed the Tech Summit with a look at data science. Mason presented on “Innovation Through Data,” exploring how companies like Reddit, Foursquare and Google Maps are utilizing data effectively. She mentioned that companies of this nature are driven by data due to access to sophisticated computation, the ability to collect and store it, and being adept at analyzing it in an efficient manner. Mason also touched on machine learning. “We are at the beginning of machine learning applications,” she said. “We will see machines that interface with us.” Check out her recent book, Data Driven: Creating a Data Culture, on how to use data to help drive your business.

Hands down, it was our best Tech Summit yet. Watch this space—in the coming days we will publish another post that contains links to many of the presentations.

Razorfish Global Technology Summit 2015

The seventh iteration of the Razorfish Global Tech Summit explores an element that’s crucial to the success of any business today: software innovation. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen once stated in The Wall Street Journal, “software is eating the world,” and this is certainly the truth today. In today’s tech-driven world, businesses thrive only by embracing change and being willing to rethink their business models when the time calls for it. Software is at the root of this level of innovation.

More than 200 executives across the tech industry will gather in New York City for a premier conference that explores the theme, “Business Transformation Through Software Innovation.” From leveraging data and analytics to engage consumers in meaningful ways to developing next-generation Internet of Things experiences around their interests, software is at the heart of every brand that’s driven by innovation.

Leading technologists will gather at this special conference to share knowledge about the software innovations that have changed the way they do business. Folks ranging from Andrew McAfee to Hilary Mason will discuss technologies that have disrupted and future technologies that will disrupt.  Attendees will learn how software and digital experiences can enable a company to operate more efficiently, grow revenue and provide greater value for both consumers and employees at the right time. In a world where the consumer is in charge, software innovation is the only way to reach your customer. From engaging panels to hands-on demos and experiences, the Razorfish Global Tech Summit is a conference tech industry professionals—and thought leaders—can’t miss.

We will wrap up the event with a series of hands-on workshops for our clients and teams to help drive the first steps to reaching the strategic path put forward by the visionaries during the day 1 presentations.

Currently, this event is invite-only. If you have any questions related to tech summit, or would like an invite please contact techsummit2015@razorfishglobal.com

Austin Razorfish Techies Help To Empower Girls in STEM

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Girlstart, an organization whose mission is to empower girls in Math, Science and Engineering, hosted their 10th annual STEM Conference in Austin on April 11, 2015. Over 600 girls from 3rd-8th grade registered for the all-day event where 26 hands-on workshops were led by over 100 STEM professionals from companies including Razorfish, Cisco, Emerson, Dell, 3M, Thermo Fisher, Xerox, Applied Materials, Texas Gas Service, Electronic Arts, and more. There were also 100+ volunteers from companies including Dell, Samsung, Intel, IBM, VISA and Farmers Insurance to help make the day a success.

Razorfish led 2 workshops called “Girl Code” where we introduced the girls to the wonderful world of coding, design, UX, and copywriting through the process of building a website. We started by putting our content into HTML code and had the girls give us ideas to make it ‘prettier’ before introducing them to CSS. The class compared a design comp and the work in progress to find differences using a word bank of CSS terms. They then helped us during a live coding portion to customize the site how they wanted after we addressed the differences they found between the design comp and the live site. Overall, the girls left feeling inspired and excited about so many potential career paths in STEM.

Razorfish participants: Britney Jo Ludkowski, Camille Church, Hillary Oneslager, Jaime Sporl, Anna Lepine, and Jessica Grantham.

Girlstart created a highlight video of the day: http://bit.ly/1DzBINM

Pictures from Razorfish’s workshop can be found here: http://bit.ly/1MzGzai ``

Essilor of America – a Razorfish, Adobe and AWS Case Study

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In 2014, after a comprehensive RFP and review process, Essilor of America selected Razorfish to be a Digital Agency Partner for its consumer brands, including but not limited to Varilux® , Crizal® and Xperio UV™ lenses. Less than a year later, we have successfully launched all three redesigned brand sites on the Essilor of America new digital marketing platform.

The Challenge

Essilor of America was looking for a new creative design and experience as well as a digital marketing platform that could support the Varilux brand experience, but also incorporate Crizal, Xperio UV, and potentially other brand experiences in the future. The goal was for consumers to have a common experience across Essilor digital properties and have a extensible digital marketing platform to support it. Razorfish has developed a number of multi-brand platforms for other clients, including a productized digital marketing platform built around Adobe technologies, Fluent.

Essilor of America’s digital properties were all hosted and maintained by corporate IT and hosted outside the US. As such, new projects, redesign and/or updates required significant coordination with the international team. The existing corporate content management system was also not equipped to meet the needs of the business.

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Why Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Razorfish and Essilor of America evaluated a set of content management platforms against the current and future business requirements including but not limited to: cost, breadth of features (target and personalization, digital asset management, campaign management, multi-site and multi-language support), out of the box integrations with other marketing tools, open source foundation and standards based support, reporting capabilities and industry ranking. Razorfish and Essilor of America also evaluated a set of cloud hosting vendors against a set of business and IT requirements including but not limited to ability to scale, cost, time to market, deployment agility, technology breadth, security, disaster recovery support and innovation. In the end, Essilor of America selected Adobe Experience Manager hosted on Amazon Web Services as its Digital Marketing Platform and Infrastructure. Razorfish helped Essilor of America design and establish a new infrastructure to support the new digital marketing platform. With the expectation that additional brands share the platform in the future, AWS allowed us to design and perform capacity planning for the current needs, with the ability to scale easily for seasonal peak times and for future needs. For high availability, we built a multi-server platform that spans availability zones within the region. While Disaster Recovery is not currently a requirement, utilizing Razorfish Fluent AWS Cloud Formation templates, AEM scripts and backup data and snapshots saved in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) will allow us to stand up a complete AEM stack within minutes, if needed. As the solution was intended to support both consumers and eyecare professionals, Razorfish, AWS and Essilor of America worked closely together to address current and future security requirements. We utilized Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to isolate each environment from each other and to add multiple layers of security to supplement security groups and network access control lists. A private facing subnet was created for the AEM author and publishing server instances with only the web server/dispatcher server available in the public-facing subnet. From an application perspective, we used AEM User and Group Management features to create groups and permissions for each brand site to provide controlled and appropriate access to brand managers and their agencies.

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On the experience front, Razorfish performed a full redesign of the Varilux, Crizal and Xperio UV brand websites, delivering bespoke and fully responsive and mobile-friendly experiences that stay true to the brand while utilizing shared and reusable templates and components built on Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). AEM’s Multi Site Manager (MSM) module and blue print capability allowed us to build a site structure that supported multiple brands in multiple languages. AEM’s out of the box Digital Asset Manager (DAM) was ideal for creating a library of assets for the brands that can be shared as needed. Overall, AEM empowered the digital marketing teams and their agencies to own content creation, modification and activation in a timely and efficient manner.

Timing and Results

By partnering with Razorfish for both creative design and technical execution, and leveraging our experience in building AEM solutions on AWS, we were able to accelerate the design, build and deployment of the newly redesigned Varilux USA site within four months. Even with a two month lull after the Varilux USA release, Crizal USA successfully launched in January 2015 and Xperio UV immediately after in March 2015, completing the three main consumer brands in less than a year.  Both Crizal and Xperio UV have been redesigned and launched on the same digital marketing platform, building on top of and benefitting from the infrastructure, site architecture, templates, components and services already built for Varilux. Currently, additional experiences and microsites leveraging the same platform are in progress.

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Varilux USA – http://www.variluxusa.com Crizal USA – http://www.crizalusa.com Xperio UV USA – http://www.xperiouvusa.com

About Essilor

Essilor is the leading manufacturer of optical lenses in the United States and is the market leader in progressive, high-index, photochromic and anti-reflective coated lenses. A pioneer in the development and production of ophthalmic lenses, Essilor employs more than 10,000 people throughout North America. Essilor manufactures optical lenses under the VARILUX®, CRIZAL®, TRANSITIONS®, XPERIO UV™, DEFINITY®, THIN&LITE® and other Essilor brand names. Essilor Laboratories of America, Inc. is the largest, and most trusted, optical lab network in the U.S. and offers a wide choice of services and lens brands, including Essilor premium lenses, to eyecare professionals across the nation. Essilor of America, Inc. (Essilor) is a subsidiary of Paris-based Essilor International, a publicly held company traded on the Euronext Paris stock exchange (Reuters: ESSI.PA).

The Journey From Recruiter To Coder

When Anthony asked me to write this blog post I didn’t know where to start… My name is Greg Pfaff and I work for Razorfish as a Senior Recruiter. For 8 years I have recruited the best software engineers I could find for my clients, the last 4 have been for Razorfish and it’s been a wonderful experience. During my time here I have learned a lot and have accomplished personal and professional new heights. Through lots of learning, Razorfish awarded me the fortunate opportunity to make the switch from the recruiting field to be a full-time Front-End Developer. I didn’t know how to start this article so I googled it, what I found were mostly articles about software engineers turning recruiter and not the other way around. So I’ll do my best and give it shot to give you my perspective.

Learning a new skill set and starting from scratch can be daunting but it can also be very rewarding. Talking to software engineers and web developers all day became a lens into a gigantic playground that I needed to be a part of. It doesn’t happen over night but here are the steps I took which helped me gain entry into the field. I started off with some nightly boot camp classes, this way I could keep my day job and familiarize myself with basic technologies. From that point, I started to leverage any online resource I could find. Setting up specific times and dates to make sure I was investing into my technology skill-set. Any question you might have, I am willing to bet there is someone who has solved it beforehand and can add an answer. To compliment the other steps I tried to interact with anyone who was more senior than I was. Whether it was asking development questions for potential recruits or pairing with programmers at Razorfish. Talk to as many people as you can! They are an invaluable resource into learning about technology and the beauty of the tech community, in general, is they’re always open to lending an ear and helping you solve a problem. One thing to keep in mind is that they were once in your shoes and know how hard it can be at times. The key is to keep on keeping on!

The journey will be long and arduous but I am extremely excited for what is ahead of me. I am leaving a field where I have spent the last 8 years and joining one where I am very green. The challenge that is ahead of me is exhilarating as I will be continuing to learn and I can’t wait to the see the possibilities!

by Greg Pfaff (recruiter turned coder)

The Success of Embracing AngularJS in a Large-Scale Enterprise Solution

by Jeff Chew (@therealjeffchew) - Technology @Razorfish

On March 17th, I gave a talk at the Google office in Chelsea describing how to build a scalable AngularJS project. The magnitude of this kept with me for weeks leading up to this event, seeing that AngularJS is a JavaScript framework created by Google themselves. And looking at the roster, there were a couple of hundred people signed up to come, with an additional 200+ in the waiting list.

Rewind over a year ago, I joined the Ford account at Razorfish understanding that I’d be taking on and leading the Presentation Layer charge of a massive revamp of the Ford and Lincoln owner portals (http://owner.ford.com / http://owner.lincoln.com).

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Its predecessors were on a platform called Fatwire, which the client has decided to leave on the wayside for a re-platform to the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), an enterprise level content management system (CMS) by Adobe. Part of this revamp, we took the opportunity to reevaluate the performance and how we could make things better. Where it landed, we opted to separate all of the logic into various layers instead of letting the server side do all of the heavy lifting.

In the new stack, we are allowing AEM to do only what it does best, which is to deliver content. We then extracted all of the SOAP operations from the server side, and exposed those as a RESTful API layer that can communicate with the presentation layer. What this means is that all of the business logic now falls on the hands of the front-end.

We selected AngularJS as the framework of choice. In addition, we embraced AngularJS as a whole, and used it as a pure solution rather than a mix of other frameworks or libraries (i.e. jQuery, etc). This allowed us to fully utilize its unit testing capabilities, as well as the ability to fully modularize the product we are building. To elaborate on the idea of modularization, AngularJS gives the power to separate functionality into smaller pieces that can then be put together wherever those pieces are needed. For example, if we are creating a hook into the service layer, we only need to write it once then place it in any section that needs to use that hook. This particularly came in handy, as the number of RESTful service integration points reached close to 90 by the time the site launched.Extending the idea of modularization further, I was tasked with also architecting two projects that came in during the year; Ford’s corporate site (

Extending the idea of modularization further, I was tasked with also architecting two projects that came in during the year; Ford’s corporate site (http://corporate.ford.com) and another property owned by Ford called Quicklane (http://quicklane.com).

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Even though these sites had different business needs, I went with the same architectural structure as the Ford and Lincoln owner portals, then kicked off the respective development teams. What we noticed was that we saw a lot of commonality across the various work-streams. We didn’t think it made sense to reinvent things like an accordion, carousel, or even how we handle responsive imagery. We modularized all of these as standalone components, which we could then pick up and place from one work stream to another with minimal integration time.

The Ford corporate and Quicklane sites launched successfully in Q4 2014, while the owner portals launched without a hitch at the end of Q1 2015.

We also saw some considerable performance gains during our performance and load tests. Some highlights to note compared to the old Ford/Lincoln owner portals:

  • Login & Authenticated Homepage: 50% faster @ 9x load
  • Registration: 130% faster @ 3x load
  • Upload Software Installation Log: 328% faster @ 100x load
  • Check Sync Software Status: 536% faster @ 6x load

Part of the exploration of architecting a scalable AngularJS solution, I quickly realized that the approach we used was not documented or spoken of anywhere in the tech community. I took this as an opportunity to share how we were able to successfully leverage AngularJS on an enterprise solution across multiple work streams.

I prepared my presentation hot at the heels of the most recent launch, which wasn’t much time. On top of that, I was scheduled to do a dry run of the presentation with Google a day after the launch date. Fortunately, our launch went so smoothly it gave me time to start thinking around how I wanted to tell our story to Google and the tech community at large.

The final story evolved into two separate tales. One is how to guide a new AngularJS developer from a basic project, to something that is scalable and can be used in a real life project. This was told with multiple sample projects and building from a baseline to a usable product. The other story was the problem we were faced with, and how we applied this guide to the various Ford projects that are live today.

All in all, I’m proud of the work that the Razorfish Ford team was able to accomplish, and even prouder of the fact that we could tell our story outside the walls of our office. The presentation at Google was well received, and was delivered to a packed room with people standing in the back.

The presentation was recorded, and will be available on Google’s AngularJS Youtube channel in the near future.

Yahoo’s first Mobile Developer Conference

Impressions from Yahoo’s first Mobile Developer Conference By Fred Welterlin and Grant Damron

Yahoo held their first Mobile Developer Conference in San Francisco last week. Overall we are most impressed and excited that Yahoo appears to be getting back to focusing on innovation (not content curation), as shown from some of the product feature launches. The day began with Marisa Meyer and Simon Khalaf clearly pinning Yahoo’s future as a “mobile first” oriented company. Note that in the context of Yahoo’s strategy, “mobile first” really means “apps first.” Khalaf in particular illustrated the current app usage revolution by cross examining analytics that suggest a huge exponential growth of app usage well into the future. Interestingly, while a handful of social apps (Facebook, etc) represent where consumers spend the majority of their time, Yahoo asserts that the largest growth areas (the long tail) will be elsewhere- specifically, shopping applications. Yahoo wants to position itself as a leader by providing the technologies that allow start-ups and existing businesses to grow mobile app based commerce and perhaps even leverage some of Yahoo’s content offerings.

Central to the “app first” strategy is Flurry (acquired by Yahoo this year), the premier mobile analytics tool. The rapid integration of the firm into Yahoo’s larger ecosystem has made it possible for a collection of new (and “free”) products to be developed and announced at the conference, named the Yahoo Mobile App Development Suite (featuring 6 tools that mostly support analytics and monetization). Of the new offerings, 2 analytics oriented tools caught our eyes:

  • “Explore” allows users to run custom queries on data in real time, generating high quality graphs within seconds. Think along the lines of Tableau, but free. A quick overview of the service’s architecture presented in the afternoon implied some fascinating innovations and, not surprisingly, that it is running Hadoop under the hood.

  • “Pulse” has a little ways to go- but has potential. It allow devs to send analytics data from the app to other services (reducing overhead - most noticeable in terms of network and battery usage). Only one service is currently integrated, limiting its immediate utility. It will be interesting to see what other analytics services get on board, down the road.

As for monetization, Yahoo has been a major player in targeted advertising for some time now, so it’s no surprise that their tools are designed to funnel data through their ad platform as much as possible (this is what makes it possible for Flurry to be free!). While not exactly new, the most significant ad-specific product unveiled was the Native Ads Service. In an attempt to move beyond the ecosystem of boring ad banners, the service provides applications with all the assets for a quality ad (copy, image, etc) while allowing the apps themselves to handle placement and presentation. This encourages more consistent integration with the host app’s content. Yahoo presented numbers that support an increase in conversion rates, at least within Yahoo’s own apps.

Our Take Away Clearly, Yahoo is looking to empower native app start-ups with “free” tools that provide them with measurement so that product refinement cycles can occur quickly, based on direct feedback. Coupled with seamless integration of advertising (for example, we noted beautifully integrated BrightRoll video ads within some app demos), and the potential to leverage Yahoo’s enormous reach with users and content (news, sports, etc), business developers for mobile applications have a nice set of tools to help them find an edge in the increasingly crowded yet still “wide open” mobile ecosystem. Show me the money!

Amazon Web Services – Bigger and bolder, but will it be the new normal?

A recap of this year’s edition of the AWS Re:Invent Conference

Contributed by Anoop Balakuntalam

Over the last few years, Amazon has gone from being a brand recognized as a leading commerce player to a brand that is also on the cusp of becoming a technology giant. With cloud operations in over 11 regions across the world, over a million active customers including 900 government agencies worldwide and over 500 significant feature & service launches in just this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has shown that it has the breadth and depth to be a leader. In the 2014 Cloud Infrastructure as a Service Magic Quadrant, Gartner rated AWS as having the furthest completeness of vision and highest ability to execute, and also observed that Amazon Web Services has 5 times the compute capacity in use than the aggregate total of the 14 other providers in the quadrant!

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Number of significant new features and services from AWS

 At the recently concluded third edition of the AWS Re:Invent conference at Vegas, AWS further entrenched its position, demonstrated its lead and came off as much bolder in its messaging & offerings. The presence of over 13500 attendees from 53 countries gave testimony to the reach and size of Amazon Web Services. It would be safe to say that in the enterprise technology circles, the word Amazon now first evokes images of a computing & technology provider and then that of a commerce player. In some ways, AWS also feels like the new Apple with crowds eagerly waiting to hear about the new service launches (all held carefully in secret until the keynote) and then the (virtually) long queues to get access to the feature previews!

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Razorfish on the SI slide – Day1 Keynote by Andy Jassy, SVP, AWS

One of the most pervasive ideas that AWS presented at the conference was the idea of “cloud as the new normal”. The idea that it is no longer a question of “if” or even “when” you should move to the cloud, but that if you are not already on the cloud you’re falling behind. In fact, AWS took its messaging one step further to talk about how several large enterprises have made the decision to go “all-in” with Amazon. Companies like Major League Baseball were invited to talk about their decision to go with AWS, several of whom made a reference to how it was a no-brainer to choose Amazon. At the end of it all, one might be forgiven for thinking that the message was that “AWS is the new normal”!

Although this year’s conference was largely about taking strides to change the course of technology and to make its presence felt in devops, AWS also continued wooing its enterprise customers. Philips Healthcare spoke about the massive petabyte scale of real-time streaming & compute they’re using to change the world of healthcare. AWS also talked about how security & compliance are now the reasons and not the blockers for cloud, which was followed by a presentation by Intuit to go with this message.

Several new service announcements were targeted at the enterprise buyer:

  • The AWS Key Management service for encryption key management & compliance, to bring easier management of keys providing greater visibility & control.

  • The AWS Config service was presented as an alternative to ageing ITIL toolsets for resource visibility, dependency tracking & configuration management.

  • The AWS Service Catalog to enable enterprises to provide discovery & provisioning of approved services on the cloud to its users via a custom catalog.

Some of the boldest moves from Amazon were its ventures into attempting to change some of the core fundamental building blocks in the software world. Two in particular stand out:

  • AWS Aurora – a new MySQL compatible database engine with enterprise grade performance, cloud grade scalability & fault tolerance and open-source grade pricing. AWS claims 5x the performance of MySQL at one-tenth the price of comparable commercial databases. This is the first time that Amazon has offered a core software service such as a cloud-grown relational database engine to the enterprise as a possible alternative to large well established commercial offerings.

  • AWS Lambda – a way to run highly available, highly parallel, event-driven code functions in the cloud without the need to manage any kind of infrastructure! This is clearly an attempt to redefine how software is built with new patterns that are entirely cloud-first.

These launches are massive leaps from the heretofore wrapping of existing software & paradigms in scalable automated cloud services, to defining completely new kinds of services and paradigms. All very bold moves and compelling, but concerns of lock-in lurk under the surface.

AWS also strengthened its presence in the world of devops with its share of new “agility is the holy grail” focused services:

  • AWS CodeDeploy – AWS made available to the rest of the world an avatar of its in-house code deployment service that currently enables an average 95 deployments every minute! AWS also announced the availability of two other Application Lifecycle Management tools in early 2015 – CodeCommit and CodePipeline. While CodeCommit seems to be in direct competition to GitHub allowing developers to host code closer to their AWS environments, CodePipeline seems to be the AWS native way to do Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment.

  • AWS EC2 Container Service – With a large section of devops professionals expecting some kind of a container service supporting Docker, AWS would have a done a disservice to itself by not announcing one. The demo showed how containers are automatically scheduled across underlying heterogeneous infrastructure components. The topic of VMs vs containers will continue to be the rage this coming year.

Finally, AWS also made several overtures to propagate its view of how to think about, operate and run technology organizations. Several references were made to the three pronged AWS culture - customer focus, innovation and long term focus. Some enterprise patterns for technology adoption and governance were also discussed.

We were fortunate enough to hear Jeff Bezos speak and the insights he shared were pretty amazing. Considering the first couple of years of AWS many people were questioning the strategy. Right now however, it seems few are wondering. His advice that leaders need to counterbalance the ‘institutional no’ is something that AWS buyers have certainly lived. It was also interesting to hear from Steve Schmidt (CISO, AWS) who made several good points about managing security and urged his audience to make it easier for people to do the secure thing than to do something insecurely.

No developer, no project and no enterprise can afford to ignore the new forces and paradigms that Amazon brought to the table. Bringing the ability to run code without having to manage any infrastructure and having Intel develop a processor exclusively for Amazon, are clear indicators of an emerging giant. With the number of “all-in” migration clients presented at the conference and the repeated reinforcing of the message of “new normal”, AWS is still the biggest force to reckon with despite the heating competition. But as Gartner said, the race has just begun!

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