Fast-growing AWS seizes opportunity to expand in Asia

The cloud solutions unit of e-commerce giant Amazon is keen to help Thailand 4.0, writes Anucha Charoenpo in Las Vegas

Amazon Web Services set up its booth at the Cloud Computing Conference and Expo organised at AWS re:Invent 2018 in Las Vegas. More than 1,000 IT and cloud computing firms and startups joined the event. photos by Anucha Charoenpo

Amazon Web Services Inc (AWS), provider of the world's most broadly adopted cloud platform, plans to expand its customer base in 2019, especially in enterprises, software companies and fast-growing startups in Asia-Pacific.

The company is also willing to help our government fulfil its Thailand 4.0 mission and lift the country to a higher economic sphere.

Ed Lenta, managing director of AWS in Asia-Pacific, said he's been grateful for the way in which customers across the region have been adopting AWS platforms. The company does not break out individual numbers by country or even by geography. But in the third quarter of this year, AWS continued to be the cloud market's runaway leader. It's the fastest-growing business unit of e-commerce giant Amazon, with revenue up 46% year-on-year.

According to its latest report, AWS took in $6.7 billion in revenue in the fiscal third quarter ended Sept 30. That represented a 9% jump from the previous quarter, when AWS revenue reached $6.1 billion.

"The company is rapidly growing," Mr Lenta said. "Customers are choosing to adopt our technology very, very quickly. And because of that we are able to continue to invest in building teams in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Which is great we can have local teams. They move very quickly, listening to our customers and acting on specific requirements.

"So next year we will focus on particular market segments. We believe that the enterprises in Asia-Pacific will continue to adopt the cloud very quickly and are going to move more and more of their applications to AWS, and so we want to make sure that we will serve in helping them with these [data] migrations."

Mr Lenta spoke with the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview at AWS re:Invent 2018, which drew about 52,000 people from around the globe. The event took place Nov 26-30 in Las Vegas.

Mr Lenta said AWS also needs to help its customers build new applications, products and services.

Lenta: Grateful for customers in Thailand

"Next year we will focus more on the enterprises market," he said. "There are a huge number of software companies in Asia, and our job is to help the software companies moving forward. We continue to work with startups, which continue to be a huge area of focus for us. What we want to do is, we want to help small startups become the most successful examples of digital companies across Asia-Pacific."

Mr Lenta said that in recent years AWS has helped startups, providing them with technical training and systems to enable them to build new products as quickly as possible. AWS assisted them in migrating their systems and adopting new technologies like machine learning.

Asked what AWS can do to help startups under the Thailand 4.0 policy, Mr Lenta said he had heard about the government's initiative and was willing to support the policy if the country needs AWS to make 4.0 the most fruitful it can be.

Thailand 4.0 is a sector-specific industrial policy that aims to attract new investment and transform the economy. The military-led government wants to move the country into a new era defined by innovative, technology-based manufacturing and services. The policy was unveiled by the junta in May 2016.

Key differentiation strategies

Mr Lenta said AWS will focus on the pace of innovation on its platform and pay attention to customer needs and feedback.

He said customers tell the company consistently that they want lower prices, operational efficiency and technology improvements. AWS continues to reduce the prices at which customers are able to access its products. Clients say they like the company's global footprint. AWS is able to offer them 57 "availability zones" in 19 regions worldwide. It's important to them, because in many cases they want to expand their businesses.

"When our customers come to AWS, first of all they'll get help because we have the network of system integrators in several countries," Mr Lenta said. "We help them understand what architectures they need, help them in some cases if they want to move their businesses to the cloud."

Chief executive Andy Jassy (right) talks about AWS's cloud computing technologies and products.

He said AWS has listened to the demands of customers and discerned what they value from the platform: the pace of innovation. The company is making a priority of continuing to get as many new cases as possible into the hands of clients in Asia-Pacific.

Mr Lenta said this could mean areas like machine learning and infrastructure services. Or maybe customers need new capabilities in edge computing or the Internet of Things.

"It is really, really important for us to listen to our customers in Asia Pacific," he said. "Because the customers in Asia-Pacific have really specific requirements on the direction that they would like to see our services go and on capabilities that they want us to add to services or the way they would like us to be offering our services.

"And so it's up to us to make sure that we have a really robust mechanism to listen to our customers, to capture their feedback and to get their voices into the way they want us to offer those services."

He said another hugely important thing to AWS customers is the ability of the company to provide them a platform that is secure in order to protect their data.

AWS in Southeast Asia

AWS has been working with customers in Asia-Pacific for many years now. In Southeast Asia over the past few years, the company opened offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand and consulting offices in Indonesia and the Philippines.

In addition, the company can hire local people for all of those offices who can work directly with AWS customers and act locally and move quickly to learn about regional requirements.

Mr Lenta said AWS has the largest structural footprint available to customers in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

More than 20,000 participants attended the opening ceremony of AWS re:Invent 2018.

On the one hand, AWS customers both in Southeast Asia and across the world who want to take advantage of the global footprint can use it to capture customers and do business in the region. But in other cases, customers in Thailand or Southeast Asia want to focus on Southeast Asia. AWS can offer a broad array of services to customers in Thailand and has also built a number of Asian locations and many others around the world.

Mr Lenta said AWS is investing a great deal in the region and is extremely grateful for customers in Thailand such as Siam Commercial Bank and the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

He underscored that AWS is not focused on any particular market segment. It is seeking enterprises in Thailand, software companies, startups or just individual developers who might want to create new applications.

Customers in Thailand

Chawapol: Many clients in finance, retail

Chawapol Jariyawiroj, country manager for AWS in Thailand, said the company has numerous customers in the country, ranging from fast-growing startups to large enterprises and leading agencies looking to power their infrastructure, cut costs and make themselves more agile.

Some of the biggest enterprises are in finance and include the SET, Tisco Bank and other institutions. In the retail segment, Central Group is in the process of doing a lot more online business with cloud implications.

Kla Tangsuwan, chief executive of Wisesight, one of AWS's Thai customers, attended re:Invent 2018 and said his company is in a wide range of services, products and solutions with the goal of providing comprehensive and relevant social data analytics that enable clients to swiftly and effectively drive their business forward in an ever more connected world.

Mr Kla said he became a customer of AWS Thailand about a year ago and was happy because the platform can help control costs via cloud computing, reducing workload and other unnecessary clutter that arises from server management and computing systems.

"We do not need to pay so much money and spend so much time on computing system maintenance and services any more, as we have AWS to take care of them," he said. "We pay them on a paid subscription basis. Fees are based on a combination of our usage chosen by us."

New technology

Andy Jassy, chief executive of AWS, announced a new technology called Ground Station at the world event.

Mr Jassy described it is a service that makes it easy and cost-effective for customers to download data from satellites and into AWS Global Infrastructure Regions using a fully managed network of 12 ground station antennas located around the globe.

He said that once AWS customers receive satellite data at a ground station, they can immediately process it in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), store it using the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), apply AWS analytics and machine learning to gain insights, then use Amazon's network to move the data to other regions and processing facilities.

"Using AWS Ground Station, customers can save up to 80% of their ground station costs by just paying for antenna access time on demand," Mr Jassy said.

AWS has been in business for over 12 years. It offers more than 125 full-featured services for computing, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality, media, and application development, deployment and management.

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