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AWS Cloud Storage VP talks data growth, price cuts

The market-leading hyperscaler plans more customer cost savings in the future alongside a push for cloud tech education, says AWS Cloud Storage VP Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec.

A member of the top brass at AWS realizes market dominance can only continue if the cloud provider continues to innovate, be cost-effective for users and form partnerships with tech vendors typically considered direct competitors.

The hyperscaler, which primarily competes against Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, controls about a third of the public cloud market and offers hundreds of services across numerous computing industries and disciplines.

AWS' storage portfolio has grown from 95 products and services to 106 following the 2021 AWS re:Invent consumer event. These new products, all released during re:Invent, show AWS' velocity continues to accelerate even after 15 years, said Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec, AWS vice president of block and object storage.

SearchStorage spoke with Tomsen Bukovec about AWS' plans to address customer concerns over price, what products the cloud market leader considers an important investment for the storage division and where the AWS storage portfolio will head in the next few years.

Why the push for managed file systems in the past several years with the FSx line? What made AWS take a second look at cloud file storage services?

Mai-Lan Tomsen BukovecMai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec

Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec: People have a great deal of familiarity with existing file systems. Companies that have made these investments… our goal is to get them up and running in minutes at AWS.

It's just driven by what customers are asking for. Earlier this year we partnered with NetApp for Amazon FSx on NetApp OnTap. That's been incredibly popular. I think you should expect to see more [vendor partnerships].

If we had wanted [file systems] earlier, we would have launched them earlier. We will continue to build and launch new ones as customers ask for them. [I've told customers to] let us know. Let us know what files system you run on premise and we'll look to see how we can bring that in a managed way to the AWS cloud.

What's the major focus for the AWS storage portfolio over the next several years?

Tomsen Bukovec: Between now and 2025, you're going to see a big push for companies all across the world to upskill their employees in cloud capabilities.

One of the things we're doing at AWS to help with this is we're providing as much free training on cloud as we can and different levels of training. In January, we'll be launching a storage certification program that will be free.

The whole goal there is to provide resources to companies that are going on this cloud journey. They have hundreds of thousands of employees that they need to get educated.

Our target [with education] is the storage administrator. The storage administrator has no experience at all with the cloud and is coming from purely on-premise. How can we introduce them to the capabilities [of the cloud] and how can we help them travel that journey with whatever companies they're with?

Second, the amount of enterprise data is going to increase by three times. I think that's conservative. The big trend you're going to see is as that data grows exponentially, companies won't want to delete it. Companies are not going to be sure if they'll need it.

In the new world of predictive analytics and machine learning, you need vast amounts of information… some of the data you have today could actually be quite useful for a machine learning model.

Customers think about their data and they want it to be used by different applications… it's absolutely vital to be agile. The location is going to be flexible. You might have that data in AWS but you're also going to have it locally. The idea of where your cloud data lives is going to continue to evolve.

Originally, our Snowball family was used for data transfer from an on-prem location to an AWS cloud, but more and more we see it used in a different environment. Data is everywhere and making sure you're unpacking the value of that data is going to be important.

How will AWS attempt to stand out from other hyperscalers' products and services?

Tomsen Bukovec: We're not necessarily boxed in by what storage should be.

We ask ourselves, how can we go further? ... We keep on evolving our backup tiers to match the storage cloud and portfolio. Recently we did things like not having an early delete fee, not charging the monitoring fee for small objects. … We took our bulk retrieval tier and made it free of charge.

If you're using our capabilities, you're going to get the benefit of innovation. The thing customers look for us to do is to keep that ferocious pace of innovation going.

Speaking of free tiers, AWS is known for fees and charges among users. What are some ways you'll drive down those costs?

Tomsen Bukovec: Cost reduction is in our DNA. If you look at all the releases we do, a lot of them are around figuring out how to drive down costs and help our customers.

[Customers] are looking at an exponential rate of growth for their data. When we talk to them, they ask, 'how can we manage that?' If data is going to continue growing at that rate, at the pace we have, [our customers] need help with that.

If you can keep on driving down costs so that [customers] can manage that exponential growth, it's as simple as that. We're going to continue to help drive down the cost of storage, the total cost of storage, because customers are seeing [data] growth and they need that data for the future.

The Amazon EBS Snapshots archive dropped the price of our EBS snapshots by 75%. Our ability to keep on doing function and cost improvement means our customers can do more with data as their data grows. It's as simple as that.

It's part of the core competency of AWS. We engineer and optimize and build for specific purpose all the way down to bare metal.

When you're doing that, and you have 15 years of experience on the storage side doing that, you can really engineer a solution when you don't have a trade-off between size, performance, things like that.

You can really drive down the cost and keep that performance, that capability. I think you can do something truly remarkable that can't be done in a data center.

Editor's Note: This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living in the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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