Techsauce was fortunate enough to attend the Amazon Web Services Summit Singapore 2018, where we were able to interview our guest speakers, Mr. Nick Walton, the Managing Director of Amazon Web Services, and Dr. Chawapol Jariyawiroj, country manager of AWS Thailand.
What is the biggest challenge for an enterprise that wants to transform in the digital era and how can this challenge help them?
Nick: I think one of the challenges is that the number of customers that are moving to the cloud have difficulty understanding what the entire process is like. Most customers recognize that there is an inevitability of moving to the cloud because the proposition is so compelling. The AWS cloud has the ability to reduce costs and run new technologies in a flexible and agile way. The cloud has the potential to transform the fundamental process of customer experience. Customers want to get there, and they want to get there as fast as possible. The challenge they are facing is probably the lack of existing skills, engineering skills and cloud architecture skills. These are the biggest challenges that AWS is currently facing. How we plan to address these issues is through our provisional services. Our provisional service officers have the relevant knowledge and experience to help our customers migrate seamlessly to the cloud.
In addition, we provide training for our customers who are unfamiliar with the AWS cloud computing system. In fact, over the last 7 years we have trained over 25,000 people across Southeast Asia. There are more practitioners at AWS, making AWS more accessible for our customers. But we do recognize that there is still a shortage, we need to train more. We have an educate program, which is providing cloud architecture skills to universities. These participants are graduating the program with more knowledge and skills on cloud computing, artificial intelligence (A.I) and machine learning (M.L). If there’s one thing that we are working hard to help improve with, it’s building a bigger ecosystem of well-trained engineers.
Chawapol: I think the other aspect as Nick mentioned which is a well-known fact is that consumer behavior changes rapidly. The consumer demands a better product that is faster, cheaper and requires companies to innovate faster than ever before. Therefore, a company has to keep up with the demand and innovate faster, basically reinvent itself and become a disruption in the industry. You see this trend happening in almost every industry, financial services, retail and media entertainment. Even though these industries are unique in their own ways, most of the different industries are still facing the same challenges, such as disruption from a new innovative company. Besides knowing how to do business, a company needs to discover the best way to serve their customers.
A few years back, it was okay for a business to be on demand, in real time and adapt accordingly to what the customer wants. However, a business today needs to go above and beyond by predicting what the customer wants in the future. You need to know what they want before they even know. And that’s a huge challenge that businesses are facing. One of the solutions is identifying the correct cost structure that allows a business to experiment on new services and products as often as possible. It is important for a business to build something that does not exists today, to advance humanity forward.
Nick: I think that it is a very good point. Businesses move so fast now that technology needs to be able to respond. This is where AWS is so compelling, it allows you to experiment, try new things and be flexible. The old way of saying, “it’s a 2-year project and we need 10 million dollars to do it.” That’s not the way businesses operate today. In Thailand, we see a huge amount of interests in the financial services sector. And when I look at our ability to provide a secure platform, I am confident in our cloud services as lots of financial service organizations such as DBS and OCBC are currently using our platform. What’s interesting is that when customers start to understand how we do security, the amount of investment we put into security, our customers say that we are more secure on AWS than we are on our data center. And one of our large customers in North America, Capital One, their COO was on a stage roughly 2 years ago saying, “We are more secure on AWS than we are on our own data centers.” It is a very different change in mindset.
Customers these days do not trust cloud providers with their data. Do you have a plan to respond to the issue of Consumer’s data security?
Nick: We have heard from our customers from day 1 that ownership and control over data is critical. And so on the AWS platform, the customer has control over who accesses that data. We provide a rich set of tooling to ensure our customers that they have full control over their data. So that they can control at a very high granularity. Encryption is a good example, we provide multiple data options on encrypting data. Anything that is sensitive or confidential has been encrypted by AWS. Historically, encryption has been very complex and quite expensive. Customers have cut corners and not encrypt their data. Today, we make encryption very simple to implement. Thus, customers get even more control over who access their data. We are also very vigilant on data privacy, we ensure that we are able to meet our customers’ privacy requirements on AWS
Regarding the localization of data, do you plan to set up a data center in Thailand?
Chawapol: There are multiple factors that play into the decision for investment. Thailand is one of the countries under consideration. Hopefully the businesses in Thailand will continue to grow rapidly so that it will help us expedite that process.
Nick: We are constantly listening to feedback from customers. In the fullness of time, we expect to have investments in every country. But the timeframe is something that we are constantly adjusting and listening to for feedback. We do have customers in Thailand today in the enterprise and the startup space. They do run critical systems like SAP HANNA and get very good performance. They are able to meet the regulatory requirements. Hence, we do see Thai customers getting real benefits from our infrastructure.
Thailand could be a gateway to other markets such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Have you considered gaining more customers for your financial services as this might encourage SMEs in Thailand to use your services too?
Chawapol: Customers from the financial sector is one of the fastest growing revenue stream for AWS. However, among the financial service industry itself, the competition in Thailand is extremely intense. The competition though encourages innovation so that the consumer gets better customized services and products. They get faster and cheaper services.
How do you utilize machine learning with your cloud platform to support your customers?
Amazon started with their recommendation engine in 1995. We also do things like route optimization for delivery. We have a drone technology where we ultimately look to deliver products to customers in 30 minutes or less. That uses things like computer vision and the drones need to be autonomous. Birds and pets are also very difficult to deal with. If a drone is coming down to drop off something and there’s a dog in the backyard, then what does the drone do then? What we are doing now is externalizing a lot of this capability, so we do provide the A.I and M.L services that allow customers to build similar capabilities. And we are really excited about how we can fundamentally transform the customer experience through some of these technologies.
How the AmazonGo concept came about was that we realized that we were getting customers to come into our stores, choose the products they want to buy and queue up to give us money. We were getting customers to queue up and waste their precious time just to pass us the money, which we found was ridiculous. So we decided that we could scrape the queueing process with computer visions. And that was how AmazonGo was born.
Another recent example was OCBC, the OCBC bank in Singapore have created a lab, which experiments with using A.I and M.L to improve the in-branch customer experience, making it more streamlined and useful. The goal of AWS is to make A.I and M.L more accessible. Because currently there are very few people in the world who understand how A.I and M.L works due to its complexity. Hence, our strategy is to make A.I and M.L easier for normal developers to understand and utilize, putting this form of technology in the hands of more people.
What do you think about the future of using the Internet of Things (IOT) in Asia and how do you plan to support it?
Nick: Lots of customers and companies are experimenting at the moment, to find the use cases that are really compelling. We see some IOT use cases in agriculture, such as using IOT to run tractors in North America. And these IOT tractors collect a huge amount of information using their sensors. The large harvesters will be able to think about better crop efficiency. Considering the amount of agriculture across Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand I think there are huge opportunities for IOT in agriculture. I think IOT is being implemented in traffic management as well. the 200,000 taxis in Bangkok have got sensors in each of the vehicles and the sensors help collect and analyze data to improve the overall traffic conditions in Bangkok. However, implementing IOT is quite complex as you need to bring lots of different components together. You will also need to be able to store and analyze huge volumes of data. Hence, AWS is a great platform for analytics as making the other complex systems easier to understand is part of our strategy. We have management tools available such as Green Grass that helps our customers manage their IOT devices.
Chawapol: Just to add on about A.I and IOT, AWS has a very broad platform where we are continuously improving and adding new functions to our platform. So last year, we launched over 1400 new capabilities. We want our users to be able to operate and automate A.I and M.L technologies on their own. What’s unique about what we do is that we have data scientist who craft in-dept customized developing works from the ground up. We listen to the customers requirement and we work backwards from there. I can’t disclose it for now but in 3 to 4 months, look forward to seeing a very interesting case in Thailand of how AWS uses AI, M.L and IOT to make a difference in society. It will be very interesting indeed.
Nick: Yes, I agree. At AWS, we believe in giving customers a choice. We don’t want to mandate that they have to do something according to our way. We want to give customers a choice to solve the problems themselves.
It was a memorable session with Mr. Nick Walton and Dr. Chawapol Jariyawiroj at the Amazon Web Services Summit Singapore 2018 as they gave us more insights into the world of artificial intelligence, machine learning and internet of things technologies. We hope that our interview with them will inspire our readers to delve deeper into discovering these forms of technologies.