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Themes from the 2019 Geekwire Cloud Tech Summit

By Lily Bowdler on July 1, 2019


As you probably know, Igneous is based out of Seattle. We have two of the world’s three biggest public cloud providers headquartered in our backyard, and world-famous tech journal Geekwire (also in our backyard) hosted its third annual Cloud Tech Summit in early June. Cloud Tech Summit is a single-day event in Bellevue that gives local engineers and business leaders the chance to connect with each other, share ideas and advice about cloud transformation, and listen to presentations.

This year, Geekwire covered their own event pretty thoroughly: slideshows, speaker bios, and summaries of the major talks and panels can be found here.

Since all this is available, I thought I’d take the chance to talk about a couple of themes that myself, our Seattle Account Executive Ari Iventosch, and our Product Manager Andy Ferris came across when we attended. 


First Theme: Focus on Your Strengths

Preeti Rathi, Partner at Ignition Partners, said that deep industry knowledge is a major asset to Seattle’s tech ecosystem. From Starbucks to healthcare, many local startups have reached success by leading digital transformations within their industry. Current offerings from all three major cloud providers continue to make this easier and easier.

B.J. Moore, CIO at Providence St. Joseph Healthcare, agreed: “I can’t attract a ton of the best talent for network and compute! I’m a health care place!” As he talked about his department’s “Cloud Transformation 2.0”, however, it was clear that he doesn’t see this as a liability. Rather, it makes his decisions easier when it comes to deciding what to build in-house vs. what to outsource to public cloud. He said that his team has leaned into their reliance on Microsoft Azure over the past year, and says that focusing on making systems work for Providence St. Joseph rather than reinventing the wheel has led to great satisfaction among the team. In addition, he cited the cost savings that come with public cloud as a great opportunity to reinvest in innovation.


Second Theme: There’s More Data Than Ever

As Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec, VP and General Manager of Amazon S3, reminded us, data is growing. With the global datasphere in the tens of zettabytes, the natural next step is to ask, “Where is this data coming from?” and “What are we going to do with it?” 

She cited two sources of data growth in answer to the first question: machines and Southeast Asia. According to Tomsen, high-tech data sources - from John Deere tractors to human genome sequencing workflows to self-driving cars - are creating massive amounts of data in the United States and Europe, enabled by extremely cheap cloud storage options. In addition, she predicts that as the global economy grows, geographies that are currently contributing relatively small amounts to the datasphere will begin to produce exponentially more data as they become more developed.

Massive data growth was treated as a given by most of the other presenters at the Summit. Tomsen’s second question, then, “What are we going to do with it?”, became the question of the day. Of course, Amazon S3, along with other cloud providers, would be happy to answer this question for literally anyone with data--so for many IT departments, it’s a matter of when and how. 

For JR Jasperson, CTO of Twilio SendGrid, figuring out what to do with massive amounts of data is a big part of his day-to-day life. Twilio SendGrid sends up to 50 billion emails per day--to roughly half of all internet users in the world. “Email systems and software are based on legacy notions of infrastructure,” Jasperson said, explaining that they are currently in the midst of a multiyear journey from self-managed colos to public cloud. By starting early and moving to public cloud one workflow, one application at a time, his company has already gained not only scalability, but also fault tolerance and durability for their critical applications. 

Thom McCann, Sr Manager, and Gopala Gaddipati, Principal Architect at T-Mobile, took us through the lessons they learned from T-Mobile’s cloud adoption and migration journey. So, yes--they have already moved to public cloud. How? Very carefully. First of all, they paid attention to their metadata. Cloud usage creates loads of data about itself, and if an IT department is well-organized, they can make sure that what’s being provisioned is actually being used, explain every line item in their monthly cloud provider bills, and ultimately spend less money than they were before--even during a migration. They routinely do showback and chargeback to different business units, in order to “spend smart” organization-wide. Finally, they have left room for flexibility in a couple of key ways: they allow users to self-serve, rather than requiring them to go through the “cloud team” like they had originally; and they are open to leaving workloads on-prem or using an alternative public cloud provider if their defaults (Azure and AWS) aren’t meeting the needs of a certain workload.


Third Theme: Strengths + Data = Innovation

The last thing that I noticed this year compared to cloud events in years prior was that it feels like people are finally shifting focus from how the latest cloud innovation works, to what real world problems the latest advancements can solve. The building and selling of cloud platforms has obviously been huge for the Seattle area, and the VC panel emphasized that it has helped Seattle to build an ecosystem of money and talent. However, as this talent and capital is reinvested in the tech scene, new developments are unlocked across all industries, including healthcare, business efficiency, biotechnology. Modern companies will leverage the cost, convenience, scalability, and reliability of public cloud to drive digital transformations. 

Until recently, the public cloud was something that primarily tech companies leveraged effectively, but most other companies were only evaluating. Now, any organization seeking growth and advancement in their industry has to have a strategy that uses and relies on the cloud, whether it’s for storage, compute, IoT, customer engagement, or even HR. The advantages of the cloud compared to traditional on-prem technologies are now far too great to ignore.

Now that you're on top of industry trends for cloud tech, here is some recommended reading for industry trends in Unstructured Data Management!

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Lily Bowdler

Written by Lily Bowdler

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