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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Days with AWS Federal

Today, I start two days of training with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Federal. If that's the first time you've ever heard about an AWS Federal division, your not alone. Held in downtown Washington, DC the course was invite-only and attendance was IT services firms that had demonstrated a clear track record of success in the Federal market. The companies invited to this inaugural session were:

o Abacus Technology Corp (http://www.abacustech.com)

o Acumen Solutions, Inc. (http://www.acumensolutions.com)




o Collabnet (http://www.collab.net)


o Foxhole Technology (http://www.foxholetechnology.com)


o Information Concepts (http://www.infoconcepts.com)



o Touchstone Consulting Group (http://www.touchstone.com)

o Turner Consulting Group (http://www.tcg.com)

From the AWS point of view, the stated objectives were to provide a high level overview of AWS, share their technology roadmap, develop joint sales/marketing strategy with key partners and to build stronger relationships within the Federal marketplace.

Personally, this was the first time I had ever heard the seminal AWS question: Do we have to start from 1st principles every time? In retrospect, this view really makes sense. AWS focuses on the "undifferentiated heavy lifting" letting their customers focus on their business - "differentiated value creation". This was also the first time I had heard of the "70/30 switch". Traditionally, up to 70% of an organization's IT resources are dedicated to necessary and mundane grunt work:
  • hardware management
  • software management
  • maintenance
  • load balancing
  • scaling
  • utilization
  • idle machines
  • bandwidth management
AWS optimizes the grunt work and enables the switch, allowing their customers to focus that 70% on value creation.

The morning session focused on describing the various AWS services. Some key points included:
  • Nothing on the AWS platform is language or technology dependant. Strings and HTTP seem to be the basis of everything
  • AWS offers application and operating system level visibility allowing customers to use their own application and/or operating system level monitor and scale solutions
  • Licensing software on AWS is dependant on the software provider. Microsoft won't let you bring your company's licenses into the cloud. Oracle and IBM, on the other hand, will let you put all your licenses on the cloud platform.
  • Software that binds itself to specific hardware can still be a problem.
  • Stay tuned for some exciting innovations around developer account capabilities (Account and subaccount availability)
The afternoon session did a deep dive on security. Yes, their system is secure. In the end, technology is not an issue. Within the Federal space the question is policy on the government side and a valid business case on the Amazon side.

(6/19 Update: In response to reader comments, security depends on the metrics an organization is required to meet. My statements on AWS security is not valid for all potential implementations.)

I would like to thank Carl Moses, Eric Lee and Kevin Kelly for today's welcomed and insightful session. The (unofficial) existence of AWS Federal is exciting news. I can't wait to learn more tomorrow.


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