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Xero’s AWS superpowers

Posted 4 years ago in Tech by
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The gathering of more than 30,000 cloud professionals in Las Vegas this week is a combination of bedlam and beauty. When we launched Xero nearly 10 years ago we struggled to educate the world about what cloud technology was and why being all-in on it was your ticket to the future.

When Amazon hosted its first cloud-computing conference in 2011 it was as Jay Greene from the Wall Street Journal described it, a curious affair – attended by 6,000 delegates – most of whom were startups looking for cheaper hosting options, rather than having to build and maintain data centers.

Fast-forward to 2016, attendance is in the tens of thousands, and it’s not just startups who are poking around the halls of the massive event. This week we announced the completion of our migration to AWS, with the transition of 59 million records, $1 trillion worth of transactions and thousands of servers. It’s a project that’s taken more than two years to architect and execute. And we’re not alone, major corporations around the world are choosing to re-platform to set themselves up for the next wave of innovation where technology companies can start to plug-and-play the expertise of companies like Amazon, onto their datasets.

It’s making way for the next wave of innovation in the cloud sector. The first ten years saw an explosion of innovation, albeit in the midst of much time and energy spent on people wondering whether cloud would be a viable concept. Today, it’s not a ‘when’ or an ‘if’ conversation. With that energy now being redistributed, imagine how much innovation will now happen in the next ten years.

CEO Andy Jassy explained today that with AWS, it can feel like you have developed “superpowers.” With AWS it gives us capabilities we’ve never had before, it means we as builders can develop almost anything we’ve ever dreamed of. They can spin up thousands of servers in minutes and with AWS innovating at such a fast pace, developers on average wake up with three new significant services each day.

The number one reason companies choose to move to the cloud is the agility and speed they get when they go all-in. Today, AWS CEO Andy unveiled what’s next in the public cloud environment.

Mass machine learning

Amazon has a deep heritage in machine learning. With 1000s of people working on solutions that give you the ability to better understand your customers and business through analytics.

“Customers are anxious to better understand their data better,” Andy said. “That’s the promise of AI and machine learning…We are focused on making it easier for everyday developers, who aren’t machine learning experts, to make it easier to run machine learning.”

With that, Amazon announced its intention to bring machine learning to everyone. Releasing a series of new services including, Amazon Rekognition for image analysis, Amazon Poly for text to speech translation and Amazon Lex for speech recognition. The power of machine learning comes when you pull all these different technologies together. That’s when you start to build category-defining applications. You can read more on those services here.

Scaling cloud economics

Speed and agility aside, the next reason companies like Xero are going all-in on the public cloud is that it provides scale and lowers our cost to serve. Andy told the crowd that the cloud provider is working to fundamentally change the economics of enterprise databases by applying its expertise to the popular opensource PostgreSQL database for its cloud customers. This will again drive material change in the technology industry where traditional SQL, which is licensed, sucks up around 60 to 70% of hosting costs. PostgreSQL will likely be about 10% of those costs.

But it’s not just for big business. Small business benefit from this too.  

“Simple workloads often have simple requirements,” Andy said. “We want every single company, even those in dorm rooms, to have the same access to the breadth of services, the scale of infrastructure as the largest companies in the world.”

That is the mission behind Amazon Lightsail, a simplified quick setup so you can go all-in on the cloud. If you’re a small business, this is an easy way to get into the cloud; it doesn’t cost a lot (starts at $5 a month), and everything is taken care of for you. It takes three steps to launch a VPS: Choose an image, select a size, pick a name and bingo! You have a VPS. (Amazon will launch VM, attach SSD storage, manage IAM, create security groups, setup DNS, create static IP.) It’s VPS made simple and helps the next batch of startups take flight.

With our completed migration to AWS, we’re in a better position to take advantage of native features – we’ve moved into the house, but now we can turn the lights on.

What stands out is there is immense power in the number one. A single, global code base, one line of code, one UI, one version – it enables technology companies to iterate once, roll out updates at scale, innovate rapidly and effectively manage costs.

As we continue to work making accounting magical for advisors and invisible for small business owners, moving our single global code base to the AWS environment enables us to ready ourselves for the next phase of innovation and growth.

Read more about the services is offering in my Medium post.

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