GE and Capital One endorse AWS at re:Invent

AWS emphasizes enterprise penetration at re:Invent. Companies considering the cloud for IaaS and PaaS should place Amazon on their short list.
Written by Chris Kanaracus, Contributor

Amazon Web Services' opening keynote at re:Invent 2015 started in a familiar fashion, with SVP Andy Jassy providing an overview of AWS's rapidly expanding slew of services along with arguments why companies are moving, and should move, to its cloud.

While Jassy's remarks were persuasive, the voice of the customer remains king--and AWS managed to convince no less than the CIOs of Capital One and General Electric to share their stories onstage.

General Electric is using AWS as part of its transformation into a digital enterprise, said CIO Jim Fowler. By 2020, GE plans to generate $15 billion in revenue in software, according to Fowler.

All-In on AWS

In the meantime, GE is aggressively moving its IT environments to the cloud with AWS.

The journey began with a whopping 9,000 applications, 300 ERP systems "and too many physical data centers to talk about," Fowler said.

In recent times GE has hired more than 2,000 technical employees and invested $1 billion in a software center of excellence.

"We're taking a build-versus-buy mentality for things that matter," he said. "The things we're going to choose to buy is where we don't differentiate. "I'm not going to sell another aircraft engine because I run a global data center operation really well. That's AWS's differentiator in the environment."

All of those 9,000 workloads will move to AWS over the next three years, and GE's data center footprint will shrink from 34 locations to just four. Those will "only hold what we value most secretly," Fowler said.

"AWS is our trusted partner who's going to run our company for the next 140 years," he added. "For us this is no longer an experiment, this is no longer a test. ... It's inevitable."

Betting the Bank on AWS

Meanwhile, many people know Capital One as a major credit card provider and top 10 bank, but "few of us know we're also a founder-led, 20-year old tech company," CIO Rob Alexander said. "Digital is truly the new bank branch. We really need to be great at building amazing digital experiences for our customers if we're going to win where banking is going."

Customers prefer mobile apps twice as much as websites, and the trend to mobile "is moving away fast," he added.

Capital One is investing massively in hiring new engineering talent, and takes an open-source first approach to technology, according to Alexander.

AWS has become an increasingly more important part of its overall IT strategy. Capital One started with dev and test operations on AWS but today, "we can deploy some of our most critical workloads on Amazon." It has thousands of developers working with AWS, and is using or testing nearly every new service.

Leveraging AWS, Capital One is shrinking its data center footprint. It will be down to three by the end of 2018, compared to eight in 2014.

Alexander closed with a couple other key rationales for choosing AWS. For one, it "enables us to operate even more securely in the public cloud than our own data centers," he said.

AWS is also a great draw for the technical talent Capital One needs to attract: "The principal reason I'm standing here today is we have thousands of roles we need to fill."

The Bottom Line

Alexander and Fowler's appearances and endorsements of AWS are telling indicators of its penetration with and trust among enterprise customers.

"What better, bigger industrial company can you ask for to go onstage than GE?," says Constellation Research VP and principal analyst Holger Mueller. "Two years ago they had to get a CIO from Australia. Nothing against Australia but this year they've got GE. It's really impressive to have them onstage doing this."

Overall, companies considering the cloud for IaaS and PaaS should place Amazon on their short list, although public-sector organizations may require an alternative, such as IBM, due to security requirements.

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