Take Aways from the 2018 Chicago AWS Summit
Last week a few of us took a day to hang out with AWS for the Chicago Summit, I thought it would be worthwhile to spend a few minutes sharing what we learned from the day.
The Summit’s are great events for getting a quick download on specific elements of either running in or migrating to AWS, we found the activities to address a wide range of topics and areas of need for both IT Leadership as well as Architects and Engineers. We strongly suggest taking the time to attend if you have one coming to your city. First though, you need to determine how you want to use your day. The Summit not only offered your run of the mill conference style sessions but they also held several all day technical deep dive training classes and jam sessions where you could get your hands dirty in the console. These are part of the reason I think your day will be well spent regardless of what your role is. I chose the conference session track after spending the week prior at the AWS Detroit Migration deep dive and jam session (which I cover in another article). I decided my objective was to use the summit to get perspective on the approach AWS is advocating for enterprise scale adoption.
Alright, enough about the format, lets talk about some takeaways. Traditionally AWS has really been a great home for greenfield applications, catering directly to the developer or a startup (typically considered greenfield environments). Its been a good business model as they grew into the behemoth they are now. As they look to grow their enterprise footprint they are opening more tools, capabilities, and support avenues to assist existing enterprises with bringing their workloads to AWS (typically considered brownfield). This will be interesting to see as brownfield has been a key aspect to adoption that Azure has focused on beyond Office 365. During the keynote four local enterprise customers of Amazon presented, each sharing the product and services portfolio they adopted in the cloud to increase scale and performance of key applications or services to their businesses. Each of these involved heavy refactoring or new development but the push is on from Amazon to increase adoption in the Enterprise.
As some of you know I am a huge fan of using analytics to drive better decision making in the transformation process, AWS touched on this several times in the sessions I attended. With the tools available to visualize and ingest large amounts of well correlated data available to the general market in an inexpensive way its time that more decisions are made through these efforts. AWS demonstrated several avenues for feeding data from their discovery toolsets into Quicksight to make more informed decisions around your migration or transformation. Although I typically advocate discovery toolsets that provider a deeper view of data and the same process can be done in PowerBI, Tableau, etc. I think the principle remains the same, lets start using visualization and analytics to help us make better decisions.
Since we are on the visualization analytics conversation one key element from the Kickoff I gravitated to quickly was when Stephen Orban mentioned that 80% of analytics are not analytics, not exactly sure where he got his numbers but his principals were accurate. Putting a graph or data in a spreadsheet is not analytics, using technology to produce and forecast what data means is analytics. Too often I see the former and not the latter. Mr. Orban made an excellent point but the best moment of his speech, was his slide that simply stated:
“Dance like no one is watching, Encrypt like everyone is.”
That might make my quote of the year………..we’ll see how reinvent goes…………..I didn’t get a chance to join any of the security sessions or the security Jams at the summit but AWS is bringing a greater focus in helping their users gain a deeper understanding of their responsibilities in the AWS Shared Security Model, overcoming concerns around security in the cloud is another important hurdle for AWS as they tip the scales on Enterprise adoption.
The session closed with Mr. Orban reviewing the 6 Rs of migration (retain, retire, rehost, replatform, refactor, repurchase) he mentioned a few key points they are driving with clients. First migrate a small number of apps to test your methods, architecture, and ability to operate. I am in complete agreement with this. Transitioning to cloud means changes that will impact your entire business. Its important to take a test drive before migrating your enterprise class applications and services. His recommendation was to consider migrating the simplest applications first focusing on roughly the first 5% of the environment during the first 50 days. I think this is a solid approach to showing value and capability quickly in your transformation project that can often run for months or years. One important factor to consider about that model, your 50 day clock needs to start after you have completed a thorough discovery so you select the right 5% of your environment.
The second session I attended was their session on “Transforming for the Future”, The speakers broke session down into 6 sections they felt were key to each organization’s ability to transform their technology environment:
1. Embrace cloud computing – To truly take advantage of the future the flexibility, scalability, and speed of innovation that cloud provides you have to embrace it once you have vetted it. You will likely keep traditionally hosted methods in your enterprise in order to take advantage of cloud at its fullest you need to absorb as much as is appropriate for your enterprise.
2. Reduce lead time – Adoption of agile methods across all of IT is critical and limiting change into short digestible sprints, outside of refactoring they suggested limiting development teams to two weeks to make changes before moving to test and eventual migration.
3. Empower with self service models – Embracing cloud means little without empowering your organization, structured self service through appropriate cloud management platforms is key to increasing time to implementation while also controlling the structure of change in your environment.
4. Test hypothesis and run experiments – In order to drive innovation a fear of failure must be removed from your culture. You will need your teams to be able to build a hypothesis, test it, and fail fast. When a culture penalizes all failure it will choke innovation.
5. Build in security and compliance – In the shared security model with AWS the opportunity to focus your security efforts is available. If you want your enterprise to be successful it’s necessary to design with security rather than layer security on afterward
6. Engineer for resilience and chaos – The industry model for years has to been to design robust architecture with over capacity. When following the AWS well architected framework designing your applications and services to survive and thrive by utilizing resilient services and reduced dependency on infrastructure is the key to a successful transformation.
Each of these components are valuable aspects to successfully transforming your enterprise into cloud, but they need to be built into your operating model through a Cloud Center of Excellence, structured and controlled. You will want to adopt certain aspects first and weave other components into how your organization operates over time. Even if you are all in on moving to the cloud quickly, you will still likely operate at least a portion of your environment in a traditional or legacy format. Balancing the two will be important to your success on both ends of your transformation.
Amazon Web Services is definitely taking their focus to enterprise adoption, I expect that will be a significant focus of reinvent as well. The breadth and scale of the services AWS can now provide has made them a valid destination for your enterprise, both greenfield and brownfield. The key is the structure and process you take with your approach. We will be detailing several more articles around this subject as we go forward. In the meantime I suggest you find a day to spend at one of the remaining summits.