Global cloud computing and retail giant Amazon today told customers it had opened an Australian office with dedicated local staff to service the cloud computing market, as speculation continues to swirl that the company will also establish a new local datacentre facility to meet customer demand.
The company’s Asia-Pacific managing director of its Web Services division Shane Owenby and global chief technology officer Werner Vogels (pictured) hit Sydney today for a half-day presentation to a moderate-sized group of customers at the ritzy Sofitel Wentworth hotel in the downtown central business district. A similar event was held in Melbourne earlier in the week.
It has previously been unclear whether Amazon has dedicated staff in Australia. However, Owenby told the crowd that the company had launched a local office to support its growing Web Services (cloud computing) business. Customers had asked Amazon: “Will we see staff in Australia?” said Owenby. “The answer is yes.”
Apart from the lack of local staff, another sticking point for Australian customers looking to adopt Amazon’s services has been the lack of an Australia-based datacentre, with the closest facilities being located in Singapore and on the West Coast of the United States. Amazon’s other main facilities are located in Europe, America’s East Coast and Japan, and it operates a number of other smaller fringe facilities as part of its global content distribution network.
Earlier this week, The Australian newspaper reported that Amazon was canvassing up to three sites in Sydney for a potential new local datacentre to be set up, with a potential unveiling of such a facility by early 2012. However, at the event this afternoon, Amazon executives didn’t deliver any concrete confirmation or denial of the reported plans.
“International expansion is important,” said Owenby, noting Australia was a “key market” for Amazon. “Being a customer-centric organisation, we’ve heard from customers that they want infrastructure in Australia, it’s something that we’re interested in talking to customers about.”
Despite the discussions, Owenby pointed out that a lot of Australian customers were already using Amazon services served from existing datacentres in other regions.
Speaking after Owenby, Vogels — the key drawcard for this afternoon’s seminar — gave the audience a high-level overview of the Amazon Web Services story, as well as outlining the experiences of a handful of small customers using the platform.
For example, he highlighted the experiences of local company Cyclopic Energy, which is using Amazon’s platform to model the physics of wind farms, data prediction company Kaggle and Web 2.0 site RedBubble. All three were drawing on the different strengths of cloud computing as provided by Amazon, Vogels said.
A fourth example was digital services agency Citrus, which constructed the website for the Melbourne Cup. On a daily basis the site received only thousands of hits, Vogels said, but during the Melbourne Cup week it was inundated with millions; meaning it needed backing computing infrastructure which could scale up and down dramatically for that period.
Vogels later displayed slides with the names of a large number of massive global corporations which were using the AWS platform, as well as a slide displaying the names of a number of huge US Government departments and agencies. However, neither slide contained the names of top-tier Australian companies or government agencies, with Amazon’s services believed to mainly be in use by small to medium-sized Australian firms, or for services that were not mission-critical, such as small testing environments.
The event marks one of the first occasions over the past several years where Amazon executives have spoken publicly in Australia with respect to local usage of their growing cloud computing platform. Amazon Web Services is popular amongst Australian startups, who see the storage and hosting platform as a reliable and inexpensive building block to aid them in building new online systems which may be required to scale up dramatically as customer usage expands rapidly.
Amazon’s visit Down Under comes as the trend against global cloud giants building Australia-based datacentres shows some signs of shifting.
Salesforce.com confirmed in mid-May this year that it was confirming the case for when to build a local datacentre, with global CEO Marc Benioff saying a locat datacentre was not a matter of “an if”, but “a when”. SAP partner Oxygen late last month revealed plans to sell a complete software as a service platform locally based on a hosted SAP suite, while Oracle has confirmed plans to sell its CRM on demand product through a Sydney-based datacentre hosted by Harbour MSP.