In the education sector, we are seeing customers journeying into the cloud in different ways. You have those that are still at the very stages of adoption, who just want to host their websites, to customers who are migrating off their datacentres completely into AWS.
Recently, Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation signed an MoU with Amazon Internet Services to build cloud skills and literacy for more than 30,000 students across 300-plus engineering and non-engineering colleges in the state. There has been a significant increase in cloud adoption among the state governments in India, says Vincent Quah, regional head-APJ (Education, Healthcare, Non-profits & Research), Amazon Web Services. “Not just in government, we are seeing an accelerated adoption of AWS Cloud services in education and healthcare sectors as well. They are now clearly aware about cloud computing and immense benefits associated with it,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:
Let me ask you about the AWS Cloud services; how do you anticipate growth among educational and research institutions in Asia Pacific region?
We are seeing an accelerated adoption of AWS Cloud services across all segments not just in education, but also in healthcare, not-for-profit, and government. In the education sector, we are seeing customers journeying into the cloud in different ways. You have those that are still at the very stages of adoption, who just want to host their websites, to customers who are migrating off their datacentres completely into AWS.
We actually have the whole range of customers. How you move from this to that really takes different paths. Let me first describe the different phases of possible milestones that the customers can go through during their journey in the cloud. They can start with a public facing website, or they can start to do development and test workloads. Then they can perhaps do a cloud native type of application or new application that they want to develop. Then, they can become more serious, and develop real enterprise type of applications and run it on the cloud. Finally, they can migrate everything into AWS.
Five years ago, everybody just wanted to talk about hosting websites. But today, more and more people are discussing more important critical applications, enterprise-level type of applications hosting it on AWS, as well as developing new applications natively running off the cloud. We are also seeing customers who are migrating off their entire datacentres.
How are the educational institutions using AWS?
Some universities in Japan—Kyushu University and Hiroshima University—are running their entire back-end on AWS. This would mean their student information systems, maybe even their alumni system, customer relationship systems; all these are actually running on AWS. We have Open Universities Australia running the student information system from PeopleSoft on AWS and they have been doing that for a number of years. A university in Singapore is running SAP as well as PeopleSoft application on AWS. This university actually has no datacentre at all. In India, we have big organisations such as Manipal Global running a lot of its back-end enterprise systems on AWS.
How does AWS ensure security of the data for its customers?
In Amazon when we talk about security we have to cover a few things, the first concept that we always talk to the customer about is that security is a shared responsibility, it is not just the responsibility of AWS. Security of the cloud, meaning the physical infrastructure, the operation, the people that go in there, the ones that have access etc, that security is the responsibility of AWS. And, we have very clear operating manuals and procedures of who can get in. But our customers also need to share responsibility because they can decide how they want to secure the entire environment, from operating systems to the network to the encryption of data, etc. There are many different layers of security that they have to put in place.
AWS actually provides all these capabilities to its customers. The other thing about security is that the customer also needs to be aware of who in the environment has access to the AWS infrastructure, and we give them all the tool sets to create very granular access capability through the identity and access module.
Are the cloud demands of educational and research institutes in India somewhat different compared to their counterparts in developed economies?
If you are comparing the type of workloads that an education institution in India does or uses as compared to some of the other countries, whether developing or developed—there are some minor differences. In a developed country like Australia a lot of the universities would use commercial off-the-shelf type of solutions, the PeopleSoft, SAP, the Microsoft type of solutions to run their applications. Indian institutions may not use the same kind of solutions; they may use a locally developed solution or service, but it serves the same function. It may be a different solution set perhaps because of price point, or because they don’t need such a large enterprise type of application.
What are the opportunities that you see in the Indian market?
For the Indian market I think first, it is number of students, well over 200 million students across the entire sub-continent. Secondly it is the number of institutions. I think many people are trying to crack this, but I wouldn’t call it a challenge. The question is how can a service provider address such a wide range of requirements. Perhaps AWS is the right platform to able to serve such needs. It is really about what is the right service that can be developed to serve the customer. We work with local solution providers and they build the solutions that caters to the students, and that cater to the institutions.
Some key technology trends and how AWS is aligned with them to address the requirements of the industry…
Our approach is very straightforward. What we do is we listen to our customers first. In this case, there are actually two sets of customers, the end customer, that is the institution, but we also have the SaaS partners. They are also our customers because they build the services on top of AWS. When they use our services, they might sometimes discover, or they might desire that AWS builds this new capability that’s not currently available in their portfolio.
We take that as an input—as a feedback and if we keep hearing the same requirement from multiple customers, then we know that this is probably a service that we need to build. Now 90% or more than 90% of our roadmap actually comes from feedback like this. The better we are at staying close to our customer, the better we will be in a position to build services or be relevant to them.