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Startup? Global company? How the cloud answers very different tech requirements

By Donovan Jackson, Sat 10 May 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Two companies which occupy quite different positions have both answered their technology requirements by looking to cloud solutions provided by Amazon Web Services.

Decades old Tait Communications is a global company which employs hundreds, while startup Parrot Analytics has a complement of less than ten people.

But both have discovered that the cloud is ideal for their specific business needs.

“If cloud services weren’t available, we’d never have been in a position to start this business,” says Chris Riddell, interviewed by Techday at a summit held by Amazon Web Services in Auckland. The disarmingly fresh-faced youngster looks right out of university - and is one of Parrot’s founders.

The company draws on massive amounts of data to determine, for example, which TV shows are likely to be successful in any given market.

“The really cool thing with accessing Amazon Web Services is that we have a huge amount of agility. Ten years ago, it would have been completely impossible to do analytic services because of the cost to purchase high-power technology infrastructure back then,” Riddell says.

“We use analytics software and data processing, so we need a large number of virtual servers that perform complex and repeatable calculations. A flexible cost basis is important, especially at the initial phases of starting a business like this.

"You simply cannot purchase infrastructure even with [investment] funding, and that is particularly true when you’re developing a Software as a Service offering,” Riddell adds.

Tait Communications, on the other hand, traces its history back to 1969 and today has operations across the Americas, Europe and Australasia.

Global CIO John Emerson told Techday at Amazon’s summit that moving into the cloud was a strategic decision for the organisation.

“IT is a tool necessary for business strategy enablement. You have to be very careful that IT doesn’t dictate things, but instead allows for the flow of business,” he says.

By shifting the preponderance of the company’s technology requirements into Amazon’s cloud, Emerson says the IT department is better able to deliver against business metrics.

“Global IT provisioning can be incredibly expensive if you’re not careful and it quickly becomes complex and expensive. We are not at a size and scale to do that; with [cloud services] we can buy into what we need and expand as required,” he says.

While the bugle blowers for cloud tend to focus on cost reduction as ‘the’ advantage, there is a lot more to it. That’s especially true for a company like Tait.

“It’s not just cost, although that is certainly a part of it. For example, we don’t want to take 6 months to get the technology in place to open a new office; IT has to deliver to the business schedule and not the other way around.”

Instead, he says the flexibility of the cloud means the ability to provision a new office in as little as 30 days. New servers can be up and running in minutes. Data storage capacity grows to meet requirements as they emerge.

The focus of Tait’s IT team has shifted, as a result. Instead dealing with infrastructure issues, it now zeroes in on applications management.

“[Infrastructure] is always up to date with AWS, so I just don’t have to think about it – and the less IT I need to worry about, the more business focus I can have,” Emerson relates.

Such is his experience that Emerson has no hesitation when asked what he would say to companies which aren’t looking seriously at the cloud.

“You need to dip a toe in. There is very little risk and so many benefits that it is actually very hard to comprehend all of them until you try it.”

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