AWS: Bigger than Diageo or BA… and with more to come

Amazon Web Services has an annual run-rate of over $18bn and is still growing in all directions

How big is Amazon Web Services? Certainly it must rank as one of the largest “companies within companies”. Its annual run-rate revenues exceed $18bn making AWS a bigger turnover firm than, say, Diageo, British Airways or Bank of New York Mellon. It’s only a little smaller than Telstra, British American Tobacco or Bristol Myers-Squibb and its trajectory – a 42 per cent year on year growth –  means it will surely pass many banner brands in the near future.

Its recent Transformation Day event in London may have been overshadowed by Microsoft’s Future Decoded show down the road but the consensus was that the former was a more worthwhile gathering and it still managed to fill out a sizeable venue. Judged by the company it keeps, AWS is also a big fish swimming in the mighty Amazon. One of the bigger news events was that BT would join the likes of KPMG in providing consulting services around the enormous, disparate and ever changing set of AWS offerings. Gartner’s hallowed Magic Quadrant gives it the prime top-right location, ahead of Microsoft and Google and with the rest bunched in a pack a world away.

Ian Massingham, global leader of AWS evangelism, justifiably boasted that, “Using AWS has become the de facto model for start-ups.” If Amazon can confidently claim that it is the retail success story of the 21st century so far then AWS is the field of gold on which a hundred flowers blossom.

Even for established companies, AWS provides a catapult to efficiencies, flexibility and the opportunity to try things. For example, Andrew Brem, the chief digital officer of Aviva, spoke on AWS’s behalf at the event. His employer has its roots in the late-17th century, one of a few insurers created in the wake of the Great Fire of London. Another speaker, Doug Gardner, is CIO of fast-fashion brand River Island which has antecedence in a 1940s fruit-and-veg stall. Gardner was one of several IT leaders who said one of the keys to success on AWS-based digital was to forget the past. “Initially we bought a lot of shiny things and put them on big pile of poo,” he lamented of earlier on-premises infrastructure errors. Today, the company is closing datacentres to operate more on AWS.

Anne Boden, CEO of start-up Starling Bank, said: “I had a 30-year career running big enterprise IT for AON, ABN AMRO, Allied Irish, RBS… I was very, very good at running anything that had a budget of a billion but I didn’t have a clue [on smaller engagements]. What had taken me £30m people were doing [in the cloud] for £30k and my after initial scepticism I realised that people had changed and financial services was far behind. Technology had transformed at a time of financial crisis. What I had learned was totally wrong; the world had changed and I had to do something about it.

“I spent 20 years with project managers, outsourcing, offshoring, structuring, having committees, I live in a world where super-agility, engineering culture and being a technologist is now sexy. There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what cloud is but if you invested a huge amount in people and structures and supporting a certain way of doing things then saying none of those religions and principles apply is a hell of a shock.”

Gavin Jackson, AWS UK managing director, said that cloud had matured to the point that the new knowledge exchange was about soft skills not technology:

To continue reading this article register now