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Re:Thinking the AWS enterprise push on the eve of re:Invent

Businesses are diving head-first into the deep end with AWS. But, as re:Invent 2015 approaches, lack of cloud control still concerns some.

In preparation for re:Invent 2015, Amazon Web Services' annual user conference in Las Vegas next month, I sat down to chat with Kris Bliesner, CTO and co-founder of 2nd Watch, a Seattle-based managed public cloud provider and AWS partner, to get his take on how things have changed in the AWS enterprise realm since last year and what surprises he's seen.

Under the decidedly "not surprising" category: Organizations are getting more aggressive with AWS. "Last year, there was a lot of enterprise buzz, but this year, people are moving their plans forward quite a bit -- accelerating execution," Bliesner said. 

But what is surprising is the degree to which some shops are going to AWS. Some are even throwing caution to the wind and migrating enterprise resource planning (ERP), such as SAP, on to AWS, Bliesner said.

It's not just that AWS doesn't offer instance types large enough to accommodate the massive ERP deployments, or that cloud security doesn't meet everyone's needs. It's that "these are mammoth systems, with spider webs everywhere," Bliesner said. But for somewhat smaller ERP deployments, it makes more sense.

"The footprint of these systems on premises is really hard to manage; they're hard to test, they're hard to upgrade and patch," he said. "There are real physical limits to what you can do in a complex environment."

So, for ERP in particular, the cloud provides the advantage of "infinite infrastructure," or elasticity that allows administrators to simply replicate entire environments, for instance, while performing an upgrade. They can then fail over to that instance once it is complete, avoiding any investments in overflow infrastructure capacity or planned downtime.

"It's not about the money so much, it's about the time," Bliesner said.

Amazon is not your average enterprise software company. They've pushed the do-it-yourself theme really hard. But one day, people wake up and say 'AWS said this was going to be easy, but it's not.'
Kris BliesnerCTO and co-founder of 2nd Watch

That all sounds well and good, but in enterprises' rush to move to AWS, "we've also taken a few steps backward in terms of IT best practices," Bliesner said.

"Years ago, ordering equipment was fairly well governed," he added. "You had long lead times, for sure, but you had standards that were approved by an enterprise architecture team." These days, there are no standards -- and that results in insecure, wrongly sized platforms.

Lots of things go wrong when you go all-in too quickly. Costs are unpredictable and security isn't fully thought out.

"Executives have mandated to go all-in with the cloud, but we haven't done the work upfront to figure out the standards -- which public cloud to use for which workloads," he lamented. In a lot of ways, "it's almost akin to the [VM] sprawl we had back in the day."

Don't expect AWS to do much hand holding, either.

"Amazon is not your average enterprise software company. They've pushed the do-it-yourself theme really hard. But one day, people wake up and say 'AWS said this was going to be easy, but it's not.'"

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