AWS’ Teresa Carlson: The public market for cloud services has matured, but still needs work

The federal government and nonprofits are gradually getting more comfortable with Internet cloud services, Amazon Web Service’s vice president of global public sector said on Wednesday.

During AWS’s annual symposium this week in Washington — aimed at attracting public sector and nonprofit customers — Carlson said she noticed organizations today using cloud services for more than just basic storage. Some are also using cloud services to help build completely new applications, she said.

“In the early days of talking with a customer, they weren’t sure where to begin. Now they have a vision, they have a plan,” she said.

The symposium drew more executives this year compared to past years, she said — a sign that the people responsible for organizations’ missions are now eager to learn about cloud applications, instead of just developers.

In March, the company secured an authority to operate certain cloud services with the Defense Department. AWS secured FedRAMP certification — a federal security requirement— since May of 2013.

Despite growing cloud adoption, there’s still work to be done, she said.

“We’re far from done,” she said. “There’s still agencies [that] don’t have all [the] steps in place, so we’re still working with agencies and a lot of countries around the world” to help them understand how to acquire cloud services.

To speed adoption, AWS spends plenty of time on Capitol Hill educating lawmakers about the cost-saving potential of cloud services, Carlson said — especially as compared to traditional data storage. The company has been marketing its services not only to federal governments for their internal use, but more recently, to state and local governments that might use Amazon’s cloud services to build applications that would help them connect with citizens, she said.

“We also spend time on compliance and the security regime with compliance officers within those agencies,” Carlson added.

The federal government is also adapting to the culture of cloud computing — especially the rapid process of so-called agile software development, where product improvements are made incrementally.

“I think people are beginning to realize that on AWS you can try and fail fast without it affecting your system in a big way. Try things out in a testing and developing environment before you start deploying completely, and that’s really another benefit of true commercial cloud computing, is their ability to try these architectures out and fail really fast, and cheap, without having it really affect their application that’s up and running.”

(Disclosure: Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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