AWS public cloud advocate talks cloud spend, ChatGPT and ESG
In this Q&A, AWS' Mark Schwartz argues that a pure cloud future is inevitable to manage ESG compliance, test cutting edge technologies and weather economic turbulence.
AWS, the dominant cloud hyperscaler in market share, needs to do little in pitching itself to most SMBs about capabilities and use cases.
Among larger and outright massive enterprises, however, IT leaders may require some more convincing to migrate to a cloud-only infrastructure. Enter Mark Schwartz, enterprise strategist at AWS, who is tasked with not only promoting the capabilities of the hyperscaler but also bringing feedback and suggestions back to AWS leadership.
Schwartz, previously CIO for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2010 to 2017, acts as a brand steward and advocate for AWS at public speaking events, conferences and client meetings. But he also strives to be a confidant to CIOs considering public cloud adoption and increasing their presence in AWS.
TechTarget Editorial spoke with Schwartz regarding his thoughts about the continued prevalence of hybrid cloud; environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) concerns for CIOs; and AWS's AI and machine learning (ML) considerations for the enterprise.
Editor's Note: The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Cloud spending remains a concern for enterprises, leading to ideas like 'cloud reparation' or hybrid cloud deployments to control costs from spiraling. What does AWS see as the sales pitch to offset these views?
Mark Schwartz: I think that the economic slowdown has a lot to do with inaccurate assumptions about future growth. We had a few years of pent-up demand from the pandemic being released, and so demand was great. We had easy money, interest rates were low, so companies could invest. Everybody invested in growth. What's happening now is they're realizing they might not get the growth they expected.
The interesting thing about the cloud is the idea of the cloud. If you're using it well, you're aligning your costs with your revenues. You're turning what used to be fixed, up-front costs into variable costs that are aligned with your revenue. If you do that well, then your costs will fluctuate with your revenues.
The great thing about that is you don't have to speculate on what your capacity needs will be in the future, which is what got us into the situation in the first place, right? Unrealistic growth expectations.
In the pandemic, that was demonstrated beautifully with some companies like Airbnb, for example, which obviously had to scale way down quickly. They could do that in the cloud. Other companies needed to scale up because their business was growing in the pandemic, and they could do that in the cloud as well. There's a certain amount of resilience and risk reduction when you're using the cloud appropriately, because you're not as vulnerable to economic cycles.
What's AWS overall plan for addressing ESG goals among its customers? What are early thoughts by the company about how to address the impact on physical infrastructure data centers have in storing data?
Schwartz: ESG is a big part of [customer] goals. I find often in Europe, its environmental sustainability is a big part of their goals. In the U.S., often DEI is a big part of their goals, and sustainability as well.
Mark SchwartzEnterprise strategist, AWS
We give guidance on how customers can architect and design to reduce their carbon footprint in the cloud. They can monitor their carbon footprint using a tool that we provide. If you can reduce your compute intensity, then you're saving money and you're reducing carbon emissions.
In terms of [data] storage? I don't know. We haven't filled up the entire universe with bits of data quite yet. I haven't heard much talk about limiting it. I don't know that we have a position long term on where that goes.
Is anybody getting rid of data? I think, from what I've seen -- for example, security people collect a lot of data, right logging of everything that goes on in networks. They don't really want to lose it because it can still be important, especially for forensics.
What will be AWS's answer to ChatGPT and, by proxy, the AI/ML craze taking place? How will cloud evolutions and changes impact their development?
Schwartz: Is the new thing just a bright shiny thing that's going to disappear tomorrow? Or is it something we should be spending time on? It's a classic CIO problem.
For a while, I've had CIOs asking me about quantum [computing]. I think generative AI/ChatGPT stuff is one of those things CIOs want to know is this something they have to deal with.
I don't hear a lot of ideas from them about where they'd like it to go. It's more, 'Can you help us figure out whether we should be spending time on this? What might its implications be for us?' That kind of thing. I don't want to be the one who's trying to tell you what the future is going to be, because there is so much uncertainty. But on the other hand, we try to get our customers as much information as we can to help them foresee how it might matter to them.
There's good news with the cloud: companies can try them out and experiment with them at low risk and low cost.
Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.