Agility will define the winners and the losers: Vodafone

Vodafone Australia has ramped up its new software deployment rate from a handful of releases per year to several each month since making the move into the cloud.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

Local telco, Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), has managed to increase its rate of software project deployments from a few releases per year to a few per week since moving to a cloud platform, according to the company’s head of technology and product architect, Craig Rees.

Rees, who spoke at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) 2014 Summit in Sydney today, told the audience that not only did Vodafone's move to the cloud take the pain out of new software development and deployment, it also meant a sounder sleep for the company's IT team.

"Now we have no more 18-month projects, when we end up delivering features to market that customers no longer need," said Rees in his presentation. "It means that no more of your operations team have to get woken up in the middle of the night to fix a defect and then not turn up to work the next day."

VHA, in partnership with technology developer, DiUS, built up its strategic internal agile development and innovation capability by leveraging the AWS cloud platform. According to Rees, since the move to the cloud, Vodafone has been able to reallocate resources away from deployment and into development and other 'value-adding' activities.

"We felt there was a better way to build software and bring products to market, it's our use of Amazon in these continuous deployments that's allowed us to take those resources that were on operational activities and focus them on services to the customers," said Rees.

With Vodafone now able to deploy new software any time of day in minutes with zero downtime, it has allowed the company to be more agile than it previously was — an edge that is vital in the highly competitive telco industry, according to Rees.

"For Vodafone, we believe the winners in the new game are going to be the ones that can adapt quickly," said Rees. "Agility will define the winners and the losers."

This sentiment was mirrored by Amazon's vice president and chief technology officer, Dr, Werner Vogels, who was the keynote speaker at the summit.

In his speech, Vogels suggested that big enterprises should be taking on the infrastructure agility of small startups if they are to survive in the increasingly competitive global market.

Vogels told the audience that even the largest organisations are now adopting some of the technological techniques more commonly adopted by start-up organisations in their drive to remain competitive.

"For businesses to be competitive, they need to be like startups," said Vogels. "Now, some of the largest banks are making use of this platform, along with many customers in the public as well. It is the same for education and research organisations."

Earlier this year, the Commonwealth Bank launched its financial investment platform, MyWealth, as an independent startup entity within the company to capture the agility and speed of a startup business — in a bid to bypass the corporate cogs.

Vogels highlighted the success of accommodation website and AWS customer, Airbnb, as just one example of a game-changing business with startup roots challenging the world's big accommodation industry brands.

"The big winners these days in traditional categories are no longer the big enterprise names — Airbnb for example. There are 150,000 bookings by people every night who stay in an Airbnb room. I'm sure a lot of world's largest hotel names would like to be doing as well," said Vogels.

"Airbnb told us that even with 50 terabytes of data on AWS, even being at the size they are, they only have five people taking care of their IT infrastructure," he said.

For Vogels, the potential for infrastructure agility, through cloud-based platforms' scalability and flexibility, is becoming ever more vital to the health and competitiveness of large and small businesses.

"Agility is becoming more and more crucial to companies to be able to be more competitive. There is now more consumer choice, so less consumer loyalty. The next generation of products will no longer be sold to the same customers who bought the last generation," he said.

Vogels also outlined how migrating to the cloud can quickly level the playing field for developers, negating the wait-time needed for setting up new servers and infrastructure.

"It's no longer possible for you to take your time developing a new product in the level playing field that cloud computing delivers," he said. "If you acquire your own server to start developing, it can be about 10 or 15 weeks before you've got access to it."

"With AWS, you will be capable, just by the click of a button, of getting additional resources in a matter of minutes. To be able to be competitive, businesses need to move into a world of more experimentation, with quick delivery to customers.

"You no longer have to decide on what hardware you want when you start a new project, you can simply switch between them with the push of a button depending on your instance type needs," he said.

By way of example, National Australia Bank's (NAB) head of digital and online channel services, David Broeren, outlined how NAB made the shift to the cloud

"In 59 minutes we went from an account with AWS to having two datacentres at the ready. The next step was to deploy servers and within two minutes we had 40 servers commissioned," said Broeren.

"Then we put nab.com.au out onto it. Within a minute we deployed all the software onto the servers. We were able to demonstrate nab.com.au running in the cloud, all within a minute or two.

"We're on the right path here with AWS. Amazon is quite a new thing for NAB, but we've been trying to transform for some time. We've been on this journey for five years now, and we're reducing waste and laying the foundations for continuous delivery channels," he said.

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