AWS touts full service suite, but Asia availability still limited

Amazon Web Services is evangelising itself as a full-service cloud provider, but limited availability in Asia may mean some customers in the region can't deploy several of its offerings.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is touting itself as a full-service cloud provider with offerings for both startups and enterprises, but limited availability in Asia means customers may not be able to access some of its services in this region.

During his keynote at the US cloud vendor's summit Thursday in Singapore, Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels provided a broad overview of the company's offerings, spanning infrastructure services such as storage, networking, and compute, platform services including application and mobile development, security and compliance, business applications, development operations tools, and enterprise services such as cloud migration and virtual desktops.

He also highlighted several product lines as well as recent launches including its cloud database service DynamoDB, ST1 and SC1 storage options for its Elastic Block Store, Database Migration Service, as well as its cloud-connected home appliance, Echo.

Not all AWS services, however, were available or launched in the Asian region, and this could limit accessibility to some customers, especially those with data sovereignty requirements.

Louis Chua, COO and co-founder of Global Health Byte, noted that some of the cloud vendor's offerings had yet to make its way to Singapore. His startup develops apps for the healthcare industry and runs its clinic management system on AWS, which provides doctors access to medical notes from anywhere.

Because of the vertical in which it specialises, Global Health Byte adheres to privacy and security rules stated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which encompasses protected health information (PHI).

"We use AWS to encrypt data in transit and for auditing, backups, and disaster recovery purposes," Chua said, adding that running the cloud platform provided for faster deployment and better cost savings in terms of infrastructure setup. "This translates into opportunities for our clients to scale up their businesses in the most cost-effective way."

He noted that while Vogels had presented "exciting" new features that his startup would be keen to implement, such as the Amazon Machine Learning service for predictive analytics, such services were not available in the AWS Singapore VPC (virtual private cloud) zone.

"[The machine learning service] could potentially improve our predictive capabilities, [but] it would be better if Amazon could provide a timeline for when it would avail these services in the Singapore VPC, rather than just a general overview of its services," Chua said.

AWS' local API gateway, for instance, currently did not support HIPAA, he said, so his startup had to build its own API gateway.

He noted that due to the unique traits of the healthcare industry, which dealt with sensitive data, Global Health Byte preferred to retain PHI in the location that it is generated. The Singapore startup signed a HIPAA business associate addendum agreement with AWS, which current portfolio of HIPAA-supported services in Singapore included DynamoDB, EBS, EC2, Redshift, and Glacier.

"In order for us to meet the requirements of being a HIPAA Business Associate, many of AWS' services are not available due to compliance with the standards-based risk management programme," Chua said. "This would ensure HIPAA-eligible services specifically support the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards under the HIPAA."

While he expressed confidence that AWS would eventually expand its services to this region, he urged the cloud vendor to provide a timeline for when these would be made available.

Incidentally, another customer also urged the cloud vendor to do likewise.

Vogels had shared the stage with several AWS clients, including Standard Chartered Bank, which global chief innovation officer, Anju Patwardhan, said the bank was using the Echo appliance in its trials to improve immersive customer experience. She showed a video demo in which users could process bank transactions and search for bank-related information, among others, using the device's voice recognition capabilities.

Patwardhan quipped, however, that she had to carry the Echo back to Singapore in her luggage after purchasing it in the US, and asked Vogels when AWS would be making the appliance available in this region. Echo was first launched in the US in November 2014.

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