The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digitisation of businesses and “ushered in a new era of technology”, according to Amazon chief technology officer (CTO) Werner Vogels.

Speaking at AWS Summit, moved online because of the health crisis, Vogels outlined how the cloud has allowed companies to adapt to unprecedented circumstances.

“Whether it’s content creators trying to publish data and content, or the engineering teams that are building the streaming services that serve that content, I believe, that if nothing else, these past few months have truly ushered in a new era in technology where we are seeing a fundamental shift in how everyone is viewing not only technology itself, but how to access that technology, as well as how we build the technology,” he said.

Cloud adoption has grown steadily since the late 2000s and Amazon Web Services (AWS) – the cloud provider subsidiary of Amazon – is the current market leader.

Vogels believes that the pandemic has further highlighted the benefits that the cloud offers and will only increase the rate of adoption.

“It is my assertion that in 2020 and beyond, most organisations are going to be transforming into a completely cloud-based environment, where any workers can access any application or service from anywhere at any time,” said the Amazon CTO.

Amazon CTO: Cloud supports pandemic innovation

With many businesses shut down and a sudden shift to mass remote working, the cloud has been pivotal in supporting existing business operations – and also for creating new ones.

“While many aspects of daily life have changed drastically in response to these unprecedented times, companies are taking on challenges to improve processes and make things easier, faster and safer for communities around the world,” said Vogels.

He gave the example of Italian nonprofit app FilaIndiana, which built an app that crowd-sourced supermarket queue waiting times. Five engineering students built the first version in just 30 hours using AWS and within a week of launching it had more than a million users.

Meanwhile telemedicine has seen a huge uptake during the pandemic, allowing patients to meet with clinicians remotely. Swedish healthcare firm KRY has rolled out Care Connect, which runs on top of AWS using Amazon S3, CloudFront, Amazon ECS on AWS Fargate and Amazon Aurora.

These have allowed the provider to replicate the GP experience, scale up, and keep meetings secure, said Vogels.

While some industries have come to a grinding halt, others are experiencing record levels of demand. The media and entertainment industry is one example, with market research firm Nielson reporting that consumers streamed 161.4 billion minutes of video in the week ending 30 March. For the same period in 2019, that figure stood at 69.8 billion minutes of streaming for the same period in 2019.

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Vogels highlighted that many of the streaming platforms, such as Netflix, run on AWS, allowing them to scale up to meet demand spikes.

“You can’t fight gravity”

Despite the huge surge in demand for cloud-based applications, such as Zoom and Slack, during the pandemic, there are still some companies that remain unconvinced by the benefits of the cloud, according to AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

“There’s still a segment of companies who are trying to fight gravity. They argue they can still do the infrastructure less expensively than in the cloud…Often they’re proud of the infrastructure they’ve built, or it’s about the notion of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you can want something not to happen all you want, but you can’t fight gravity. If something is really good for customers and businesses, it’s going to move that way.”


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