I got the incredible opportunity to attend the AWS Sydney Summit 2023! There are many learnings, and we had many fun times. Learn about the key takeaways from this fantastic event!

This post will only contain a few of my learnings, as there’s a lot more, and I’ll save these for additional, more practical blog articles.

The partner summit

AWS hosts a summit the day before the Sydney Summit for AWS Partners to network and gets some free training and insights into the latest opportunities available for us to demonstrate our competencies in the field.

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Sustainability is the new 6th Pillar in the AWS Well-Architected Framework and had a big focus during the partner summit.

We heard how another AWS Partner from the Nordics, Knowit, had centered their focus on sustainability and building tools assisting customers in visualising their environmental impact against the applicable United Nations Goals and how AWS can help them progress toward achieving the UN and their own sustainability goals.

The AWS Auckland Region is going to be powered entirely by renewable energy when it launches; that, combined with the growing desire by companies (not just Kiwi, but globally) who are looking for fast and efficient ways to make giant leaps toward their sustainability goals, it’s important we implement tooling so we can measure how AWS is helping our customers.

According to Deloitte, 66% of companies are working to increase their energy efficiency, and 46% require their business partners to meet specific sustainability criteria. However, there is a considerable gap in the market for partners to wrap sustainability into their services.

Sustainability isn’t a tradeoff

One good point raised is that the sustainability pillar isn’t a tradeoff. Many pillars take purposeful work to implement and require continual optimisation to ensure you’re always using the best-practices approach.

The thing about the sustainability pillar, though, is it is automatically achieved by implementing the other five well-architected pillars in your infrastructure and applications.

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Meaningful data is the differentiator

Although this is great, and we can use AWS to achieve meaningful sustainability outcomes for our customers, a key point raised during this summit (and rightfully so) is the need to demonstrate these outcomes.

Luckily, AWS provides us with free tooling to visualise our cloud carbon footprint. The AWS Carbon Footprint Tool provides a way to view our carbon footprint in AWS. However, it could be better.

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This tool is excellent for visualising your high-level cloud carbon footprint, but it’s also important to be aware of what it doesn’t cover:

  • Estimate your carbon footprint per AWS region (it does it by geographical regions),
  • How AWS determines this data isn’t clear,
  • I don’t know of a way to programmatically access and report on this data.

Takeaways for New Zealand

Sustainability is a huge focus for New Zealand; we have many native species and pride ourselves on our beautiful green landscapes.

Sustainability will be a focus at home and around the world. As a result, there is an excellent opportunity for us to develop innovative tooling that we can use in conjunction with AWS-native tooling to provide a single pane of glass for companies to view their entire technology’s carbon footprint.

As sustainability becomes a more significant consideration for customers and investors, we must facilitate their sustainability journey for us and the planet.

SaaSifying your approach to AWS

The software-as-a-service is a model for software delivery and licensing that’s been around for a while. However, despite being around for a time, implementing it can be very complex and even more complex to refactor existing applications (and orient your business) to utilise the SaaS model.

Growing rapidly

More and more companies are seeing the value in SaaS. During this period of economic turbulence, the flexibility and lack of commitment required with SaaS make it a safe option for companies. According to IDC, in a survey of 908 companies, 30.4% reported spending more on SaaS during the pandemic.

In addition, finding skilled technology professionals who can set up and configure sometimes complex vendor software is becoming more difficult.

SaaS provides companies the safety and flexibility to cancel contracts or switch products and reduces their dependence on hard-to-find developers and infrastructure engineers.

In research published by Reply, a consulting and digital services company, the US SaaS market is expected to double by 2025, more than double in Europe, and almost double in the UK.

What about New Zealand?

A team lead I had once told me New Zealand is always a few years behind the US in technology trends, but it always catches on. SaaS is an unstoppable force growing globally and becoming a more prominent company priority.

New Zealand companies are in a prime space to capitalise on this opportunity and prepare for the wave of companies desiring to migrate to applications using a SaaS delivery model.

In turn, AWS Partners in New Zealand have an excellent opportunity to grow and develop skills in the SaaS space, to assist local companies in developing their own SaaS capabilities to take advantage of the upcoming growth.

AWS Tooling

AWS provides us with tools we can use to assist us on our SaaS journey. We can utilise AWS SaaS Factory to help us develop our SaaS capabilities with the help of SaaS Insights Hub, a place to gain knowledge on technologies and inspiration from case studies and posts that can guide us on what patterns or approaches we should choose.

SaaS Factory provides you with best practices and quick-start templates that, alongside SaaS Lens (part of the Well-Architected Framework), can help us ensure we build our product right from the start.

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We also have access to the AWS Marketplace, which lets us list and advertise our own SaaS products, offloading a lot of the heavy lifting such as license agreements, pricing, upgrade and deployment processes, as well as (probably the biggest perk) offering free trials of your product without having to worry how you implement it.

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For those wondering whether the AWS Marketplace can help them and bring them financial results, AWS has published a study on the economic impact of the AWS Marketplace.

The public ANZ Summit

The day after the partner summit, we attended the big event! It was my first-ever conference and was an excellent experience. I got lots of swag, spoke with many vendors and learned from them and the AWS sessions.

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The importance of New Zealand

The opening keynote emphasised the importance of the Auckland Region in New Zealand, and we learned some great facts about this new region.

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  • AWS will invest 7.5 Billion $$ in the new region, approximately the same amount invested in Australia. This is excellent news for us as the Auckland region should reach similar capabilities as Sydney soon.
  • The investment will create around 1,000 external jobs and have an estimated economic impact of NZD 10.8 Billion.
  • AWS has partnered with Mercury Energy to power the new region with 100% renewable energy, making it attractive to customers in the Asia Pacific region who want to increase their sustainability.

Most New Zealand companies migrating to AWS reside in their Sydney region; the Sydney region is mature and is an excellent base while the new Auckland Region matures.

Over time, though, as the new region matures, companies should move their latency-sensitive workloads to the Auckland region, allowing better hybrid-cloud solutions and multi-region resiliency for cloud-only workloads.

Cloud versatility

As someone familiar with Red Hat technologies, one of the first presentations I watched was Suncorp’s experience with the Red Hat Openshift Platform (RHOCP) on AWS and how it enabled them to use a hybrid-cloud model. RHOCP is an excellent platform, but I want to focus on the why, not the how.

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The complexities of multi-cloud

There are no two ways about it, every company today has a plethora of cloud options in front of them, whether it be more specialised, developer-focused platforms like PlanetScale or more traditional enterprise-focused platforms like Oracle Cloud or want to go for the full-featured and mature option, AWS (slight bias), companies are always going to want to choose the best cloud for their workloads.

Similar to how application architectures changed from traditional 3-tier monolithic architectures to more reliable, scalable microservices architectures, application deployments are also evolving.

According to the Hashicorp 2022 State of Cloud Survey, 81% of respondents chose a multi-cloud strategy, but 41% also ranked skills shortages as the top multi-cloud barrier. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy is tricky because it requires staff with expertise across multiple clouds and intricate knowledge needed to aggregate data, build APIs and control planes to manage and operate that cloud with a degree of autonomy and efficiency.

Investigating how organisations are using multi-cloud, a 2021 report by Flexera found that 49% of respondents (back in 2021) are using multi-cloud architectures, with the top 3 being:

  • Apps siloed on different clouds (49%)
  • Data integration between clouds (45%)
  • Workload mobility between clouds (42%)

A considerable number of respondents employ multi-cloud management tools. Although these tools may appear to be the ultimate solution, there is frequently more than meets the eye beneath the surface.

Vendor solutions are improving but not perfect

Many vendors, including HPE, RedHat, and VMWare, provide solutions for running and managing workloads across various clouds using a control plane. This abstraction layer enables you to operate your multi-cloud, including on-premises, through a single interface.

Although these solutions are impressive and serve their purposes well, they can be costly, require significant computing power, and are not always compatible with serverless cloud options. Additionally, they often rely heavily on Kubernetes, which, although versatile, may not always be the optimal choice for every workload.

Some of my friends in the industry have shared horror stories about customers who run all their company’s workloads on a single, massive Kubernetes cluster. This creates a behemoth that is difficult to manage and becomes a nightmare.

However, these solutions can be highly beneficial in some situations by offering customers a seamless way to deploy and expand their workloads across different locations.

It’s essential to consider the purpose and use case of these solutions. However, as many tend to do, we shouldn’t assume they are the ultimate solution to hybrid cloud problems.

The best solution will be one tailored to your individual needs

While working in on-premises environments, I believed vendor solutions answered all our modernisation challenges. However, after transitioning to the cloud, I understood that every workload is distinct and requires a tailored solution.

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Consider what you and your business priorities are to achieve your desired results. For example, a cloud-native serverless solution like AWS Lambda could be advantageous if your business aims to minimise operating costs. However, deploying a sizeable multi-cloud container platform and converting all essential services to containers may enhance resiliency and scalability. Still, it may not necessarily lead to cost reduction if that’s your ultimate goal.

It’s all about the Control Plane

Building the control plane is one of the most challenging yet vital aspects of creating a hybrid cloud solution. While several excellent tools are available, it’s crucial to design a central interface that can manage the entire infrastructure stack according to your preferences.

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Although it may sound technical, this concept highlights the potential to simplify cloud resource management and ensure consistent organisational configurations by implementing a control plane layer. This approach is beneficial for managing multiple clouds. However, it can be difficult to construct and even more challenging to upkeep.

Look out for innovative solutions

As cloud platforms mature, many MSPs are compelled to adopt fully-cloud or hybrid-cloud models. This trend is expected to give rise to user-friendly solutions that enable seamless connectivity between multiple platforms, including on-premises and hyper scaler, through a single point of interaction. Moreover, instead of building solutions from scratch, providers can easily rent a control plane that offers the flexibility to run optimised workloads in the most suitable cloud environment.

Final Notes

I have more insights to share, but I’ll save them for upcoming blog posts where I can put these learnings into practice and show you how to apply them in your work.

This article is already long, so if you’ve stayed this long, thank you for reading.

Have a great day.