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Large-scale digital transformation with AWS

What we learned from AWS re:Invent 2019

Jan. 27, 2020 | By: Mike Driscoll

AWS re:Invent 2019 Conference

Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) annual re:Invent conference, the premium gathering for the cloud community, kicked off and wrapped up over the course of a December week in Sin City. But for once, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. From modern cloud analytics to business modernization frameworks, from cloud infrastructure complexities to innovating instance types—this year’s re:Invent was all-encompassing, and the insights learned have quickly seeped into organizational conversations everywhere. Aside from our own announcement regarding TEKsystems’ partnership with 1Strategy, AWS had 77 new product and services announcements—and those are just the headlines. While I’m not going to summarize every feature shared in the conference (you can find deeper dives directly from AWS), here are some of my top takeaways.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy’s keynote focused on leadership

Andy Jassy took three hours of his valuable time to talk to us about several topics, including how the keys to large-scale digital transformation starts with leadership—not just technical execution. Andy once again demonstrated his mastery of the AWS platform, relevant customer challenges and breakthroughs as well as his unique ability to both look down into the details of digital transformation and look around corners for what’s coming next. He introduced over 30 new features, releases, services, frameworks and modernization trends, a lot of which were aligned with machine learning that AWS has fueled into additional services over the past few years. Taking advantage of their more approachable and user-friendly machine learning models is clearly an opportunity for those looking to dive deep in transformation and drive change. From a transformational advisory perspective, he noted that the time is now for enterprise transformation to begin—or else you risk being left behind.

His top recommendations for successful digital transformation include the following:

1. Senior leadership team conviction and alignment. As organizations think about using this top-down approach, we’ve especially seen the senior leadership team convictions and alignment as evident to push and embrace.

2. Top-down aggressive goals. It’s more apparent than ever that we need to move faster than it feels comfortable in order to push through growth goals.

3. Train your builders. Really give them an opportunity to thrive on the platform—both customers and employees—in order to learn, grow and be in a better position to leverage the hundreds of services that AWS offers.

4. Don’t let paralysis stop you before you start. Avoiding the “great stall”—when you make some progress, but after the easy stuff, it gets hard. Multiyear commitments after multiyear commitments can be very difficult and daunting, as well as getting off a mainframe. But pushing through is imperative to drive success.

AWS announced the general availability of AWS Outposts

While Andy emphasized that waiting to migrate to the cloud may be risky, he recognized that it does take a significant lift and that organizations may not be ready to fully move yet. Enter: the general availability of AWS Outposts, “a fully managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, AWS services, APIs, and tools to virtually any customer datacenter, co-location space, or on-premises facility for a truly consistent hybrid experience.”

Essentially, AWS Outposts provides a pre-built rack of AWS infrastructure that can be collocated on-premises for organizations who have hybrid strategies and diverse technology infrastructure footprints. In many ways, Outposts represents a safe, viable option for those that want to maintain their on-premises infrastructure, while experimenting with putting workloads in the cloud. Outposts should accelerate opportunities for our customers to innovate by leveraging AWS infrastructure and services.

AWS Outposts is particularly relevant for highly regulated industries where they may be less risk tolerant or have increased security concerns and regulatory requirements. Having this secure connection to AWS allows customers to safely experiment and begin their journey to enterprise cloud migration.

AWS is taking a role in bringing 5G to life

Everyone’s favorite buzzword, 5G, was discussed at length surrounding an announcement that AWS is launching a new service called Wavelength to deliver 5G network capabilities “to the edge.” AWS has partnered with several telecom providers, the biggest with Verizon, to expand mobile performance capabilities that will strengthen connectivity, improve content delivery and drive better user experiences.

The focus AWS is applying around 5G networks further enables innovation and breaks barriers to progress, particularly as it applies to organizations envisioning a future state architecture that comprises mobile use cases, on-premises infrastructure and workloads in the cloud. I believe the real value of 5G is aimed at improving the lives of people both personally and professionally as they seek to do more on their individual, group or enterprise journey.

Partnership truly is the active ingredient

While organizations are looking forward in modernizing and moving to the cloud, they also need to be aware of what they’re leaving behind—their legacy systems, licensing contracts and mainframes—and the effort that goes with cloud migration. AWS reiterated the importance and relief that an experienced service provider or systems integrator can provide in terms of AWS solutions support at scale. AWS-specific partners who are dedicated to AWS platforms and have a deep expertise on AWS services can help organizations move faster and execute a majority of the heavy lifting, like TEKsystems Global Services, who has an AWS Well-Architected Partner status. Aligning with a true partner to consistently adapt and understand an organization holistically can bring specialized technical experience for a clearer path to desired growth and business impact.

Mike Driscoll has been advising customers on technology transformation for more than 25 years. He started his career at Ernst & Young and transitioned to Slalom Consulting in 2011. After 16+ years at E&Y/Capgemini, and nearly eight years at Slalom, Mike has shifted his focus to building a world-class partnership with AWS as the managing director of cloud enablement for TEKsystems Global Services.