On Wednesday, we spoke with Teresa Carlson, Amazon Web Services’ vice president of worldwide public sector, during Amazon’s two-day symposium in Washington, D.C. Our conversation touched on what agencies are now doing with AWS, how federal IT cultures are shifting, how AWS allows government innovators to “fail cheaply” and how the U.S. stacks up globally when it comes to cloud computing. Read our full Q&A below.
Q: You said at the beginning of the symposium that this is “a learning experience” for attendees. What have you learned over the course of these two days?
A: I’ve learned that our customers are expanding their use of AWS in more mission-driven ways, our customers are sharing much more openly about their experiences with AWS. I’ve also learned people love it when they come to a conference and they think they’re gonna have something really meaty, and they walk in and it’s something they can use. Customers this year are being a lot more open. Two years ago, people were not all that open. They didn’t have a policy, they didn’t have a security compliance regime, they didn’t want to get up publicly and talk. Last year’s conference was good, but this years’ is so much better because of the openness.
Q: One person sharing their story was CIA CIO Douglas Wolfe. He talked about how the CIA’s work with AWS is extremely important, but he also talked about a “culture clash” during the process of moving to AWS. How does AWS help agencies move past any culture problems that still surround cloud computing?
A: Culture is just part of the process. It’s mainly because there’s both terminology and process change that a individual or organization or a large enterprise has to go through when they move to the cloud. That’s common to us. We take customers through culture changes every day, and that’s part of being customer-obsessed. This is a big shift for government, they’re not used to cloud computing in the enterprise. We’re on this journey together and that journey is how we come together.
Q: During your keynote Wednesday, you talked about allowing your customers to “fail and fail cheaply.” That’s tough to hear when you’re working for the government, that it’s okay to fail. How does Amazon allow these agencies to embrace that mindset?
A: I look at it as failing fast and cheaply so you can be successful faster. Anyone who understands the concept of innovation knows that innovation doesn’t happen overnight. There’s lots of failures before you end up where you need to be. You don’t want any failure to be so expensive that it devastates what you are trying to achieve. You want to be able to learn from a failure, recover and take that failure and move faster to success. I think that’s what our customers are seeing with AWS. It allows you to try multiple things. Failure is just going to be a part of what everybody is going to go through.
Q: What can we expect from AWS in the next 12-24 months?
A: I think you’re going to see a lot more [software-as-a-service] applications, a lot more of the move to truly on-demand buying. The other thing that I think you are going to see is a lot larger mission applications being moved into the cloud. Massive data center migration, taking and lifting that entire data center. A lot more movement toward large enterprise applications being built from scratch on a cloud-based model. We’re at the point now where people are understanding [the cloud], are using it in a very solid way. We’re going keep pushing ourselves, we are going to listen to our customers and work arm-in-arm to make this transition and be successful.