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Cloud native: Exclusive interview with API Talent's CEO & NZQA's CIO

By Julia Gabel
Tue 6 Jun 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The cloud is not a fad, it’s here to stay.

This was an underlining theme of the 2017 AWS (Amazon Web Services) Summit in Auckland.

Today, conversations about the cloud have shifted from ‘if we should do it’ to ‘how we should it’, says Lukasz Zawilski, CIO, New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

NZQA is a customer of API Talent, and Zawilski joins Wyn Ackroyd, CEO, API Talent, at the Summit to discuss the shifting cloud market, partnering with AWS and electric cars.

“There seems to be a lot of head burying in the sand. There are a lot of people out there that still don’t get it. The cloud is being adopted by businesses so openly that businesses that aren’t using cloud are starting to put themselves in jeopardy,” says Ackroyd.

Zawilski says that the differences in attitudes towards cloud adoption is particularly evident when comparing the public and private sectors.

“It’s disappointing to see that myself and a few colleagues from Wellington represent that 6% of those interested in the cloud in the public sector (according to statistics quoted at the AWS Summit opening keynote)," Zawilski explains.

"If you look at the private sector, they take up quarters of the pie chart but we (public sector) are the dietitian’s slither. It’s not balanced, the public sector is lagging behind.”

This lag is because government agencies are looking to other to lead the way, continues Zawilski.

“They also want to make sure that it’s sustainable; to make sure it’s not a fad.”

A hot topic during the Auckland AWS Summit opening keynote is the cloud agreement AWS recently signed with the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. Ackroyd says this will give the public sector a chance to increase that statistic of 6% of agencies interested in cloud adoption.

Who is API Talent?

API Talent is a New Zealand company and an AWS Advance Partner. The company delivers consultancy services that aim to help businesses re-architect their applications for the future.

API Talent customers are from a range of industries, including finance, utilities, banks, public sector, media organisations, enterprises and start-ups.

API Talent & NZQA

Zawilski says, “what we do is provide the assurance of qualifications to individuals. And increasingly, we’re doing that electronically. So, people will go overseas and they will assert their qualifications electronically so they will have a PDF or an email to use.”

“One of the challenges was ensuring the document is tamper-proof. If you send a potential employer a PDF of your qualification they can trust it. We pursued the traditional approach – of PDF with a digital signature that is cost prohibitive for what it was.”

To tackle this problem, API Talent implemented a serverless solution at NZQA.

Zawilski explains, “we looked again at the serverless stack and realised we could generate unique signatures on the fly. All we had to do was store the signatures and give people a way to prove that signature is a valid signature and prove the document is a valid document.”

Cloud VS traditional data centers

Ackroyd says, “we don’t have any legacy. Everything that we’ve ever done has been with AWS. The (AWS) infrastructure and services have matured over the three years we’ve been with them, and we’ve grown with AWS. We’re not constrained by location or other vulnerabilities, such as fires or floods, that other data centers may have.”

“If you architect a cloud environment properly, then it’s secure, safe, flexible and scalable; you don’t have worry about paying for something that you’re not using because you can scale down according to demand. Those are some of the key differences that we can bring that traditional data centers can’t. It’s hard for them to mitigate the risks of fires and floods and to scale.”

Why AWS?

Ackroyd says, “AWS is the cloud. They came to market first and they are more feature-rich, mature and secure. For us, it was a short exercise of evaluating cloud alternatives in our early days. After one or two weeks, it was AWS and we are totally focused on them and haven’t looked back since.”

Zawilski concludes, “If you ever have the benefit of getting into a Tesla and driving it, and then getting into another competitor’s electric vehicle and driving that - that for me is the difference."

"If you drive a Tesla, yes, it’s an electric car, but it’s been engineered from the ground up to be an electric vehicle, to be autonomous. No disrespect to other car manufacturers, but what they’ve done is taken what they already knew and plugged in a few bits and pieces.”

“It just feels like it’s an evolutionary product from other vendors, whereas it’s a genuinely native product from AWS.”

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