AWS pushes its growth agenda in Asia-Pacific with partners, tools and more

May 23 2019
by Agatha Poon


Amazon Web Services (AWS) is clearly trying to solidify its leadership in Asia with a flurry of activities and investment. Following the announcement of a new infrastructure region in Jakarta, Indonesia, slated to come online by the end of 2021/early 2022, the internet heavyweight brought together several thousand interested parties, including consulting and technology partners, telecom operators, equipment vendors, enterprise customers, tech enthusiasts, the media, and analyst communities at its Partner and Global Summits held in Australia, Singapore, India and Korea.

In response to local interest in deep-dive technical workshops, the company also introduced its first-ever tech fest day to showcase its products and services with more than 60 technical sessions. There were real-world examples and best practices presented by enterprise customers, such as the digital transformation journey of Standard Chartered Bank, which has replaced its in-house grid provisioning tools with microservices and is running more than 160 workloads on AWS Cloud. Not surprisingly, the AWS Partner Network (APN) ecosystem has grown rapidly in the region, with regional and local technology firms such as Dynatrace and Sourced Group highlighting their credentials. It was also gratifying to see several startup companies such as Cloud Comrade and Blazeclan gaining recognition in the enterprise market.

The 451 Take

AWS seems to have managed to grow its momentum and step up investment in Asia-Pacific with a broad set of products and services and a robust partner program. The company has complemented these moves with domain-specific training programs to empower local partners, which is a savvy move on its part if AWS is to build a compelling story in the region and take advantage of indigenous knowledge and local relationships. Given that ISVs continue to be a key revenue generator for the company, taking a hands-on approach to app migration and modernization strategy should help the company extend into the region that is made up of hundreds of thousands of ISVs of vastly diverse sizes and functions in both developed and developing Asia.


AWS has based its regional offices in Singapore since 2009, operating across Asia-Pacific with field teams in 14 countries. The company already had thousands of customers using AWS prior to the commercial launch of the Singapore region in 2010. The company continues to build momentum with new product releases, new and additional cloud infrastructure regions (e.g., a new infrastructure region in Jakarta with three availability zones) and a physical presence in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, in addition to the regional headquarters in Singapore. AWS notes that Southeast Asia is growing fast with good momentum in key vertical segments, including banking and finance, agriculture and the health care industry. In 2018, the company saw an inflection point as AWS continued to see enterprises migrating workloads and applications to AWS cloud at scale and the public sector started working with AWS to exploit ML/AI opportunities.

AWS's approach to Asian enterprises and tech startups is centered around global consistency, combining a comprehensive portfolio of products and services with entrepreneurship. This gives it the ability to experiment, listen and iterate using what the company refers to as a 'working backwards from the customer' framework for innovation flywheel. AWS facilitates this through workshops with its customers and partners. Building a FAQ mechanism is an important part of AWS's design process of product innovation and prioritization as well. The company seems to have built out a solid customer base across industrial segments. Globe Telecom, a leading mobile operator in the Philippines, was able to reduce provisioning time from three months to three hours by using the cloud. Singapore Exchange (SGX) is a textbook example of a conventional business organization using managed blockchain services from AWS to transform its business. Hara, a startup in Indonesia, is building a blockchain-based data exchange to connect the supply chain (farmers, banks, distributors) in the agriculture sector.

Perhaps the most intriguing story came from UK-based Standard Chartered Bank, which is present in over 60 markets, celebrating its 100th anniversary in Singapore, Asia and Africa. The company started its cloud journey five years ago, yet still believes this is just the beginning of the journey. In the company's view, elasticity is the key to cost optimization today. As far as its cloud initiative is concerned, Standard Chartered Bank is now running more than 160 workloads on AWS Spot instances, handling a daily average of 250,000 vCPUs. It has already replaced its in-house grid provisioning tools with microservices to enjoy fast provisioning – from hours to minutes. Working with the AWS team, the company has deployed security monitoring with auto-remediation and onboarded the first production application (with customer data) in Q3 2018 via CI/CD pipeline. Aside from accelerating the onboarding process of production workloads, it will 'lift and shift' some of its legacy development workloads to the cloud as it sees fit. Investing in driving cost optimization and enhanced security with auto-remediation is an ongoing effort as well.

Addressing regional demand

At the company level, AWS made great strides toward developing a portfolio of more than 165 products with platforms and tools spanning multiple domains of expertise. The company believes it has both breadth and depth in each of these product areas. Taking database as an example, it has 14 database services covering relational and non-relational systems; it provides databases that are purpose-built (e.g., Amazon Neptune) and supports database migration (e.g., Amazon Aurora). In the context of mobile device adoption, the key piece of AWS's mobile -first strategy is to deploy logic closer to the edge to handle intermittent network connectivity and caching. With that, AWS points to its cross-region replication capability with Amazon Aurora, Amazon DynamoDB, S3, AWS Lambda and Amazon CloudFront.

In Asia-Pacific, AI and AR are proving compelling growth agents, the company says, and businesses in both developed and developing countries are accelerating innovation with a digital-first strategy. In Australia, AWS claims to have the top 10 websites running on its cloud. Workloads running on AWS as an extension to enterprise IT ---running on-premises workloads right alongside AWS – is becoming commonplace. To that end, the company sees good momentum for VMware Cloud on AWS and is working closely with the vendor. Its partnership with SAP is bearing fruit; thousands of customers are running SAP on AWS globally, the company says. SAP on AWS is picking up steam in Asia-Pacific as well. In India, for instance, Tata Global Beverages migrated its ECC landscape for Southeast Asia and Europe, reducing its infrastructure footprint over 40% and realizing a greater than 20% TCO. Some of the customers managing IT operations in a hybrid environment include Trend Micro, Claranet, Fujitsu, AllCloud, Black Mountain and the Discovery Channel. Other AWS products working in tandem with AWS Cloud include AWS Direct Connect, AWS Outposts and AWS Snowball Edge. While it remains early yet to gauge market interest in AWS Outposts, which was introduced in 2018, the company is upbeat about its growth prospects.

Meanwhile, the company sees ample opportunities in a number of emerging economies in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand) where the mobile boom is changing the ways providers interact and support their customers using different mobile platforms, web standards, frameworks and SDKs. Back-end portability, APIs/microservices and infrastructure portability are more important than ever. AWS notes that devices and applications no longer serve a single purpose because users are looking to interact globally, and the idea of creating distributed data stores are well received among Asian businesses.

AWS claims more than 10,000 data lakes using S3 – “ the most popular option by far with cross-region replication, enhanced security, compliance and audit capabilities. Nevertheless, the process of building a data lake and making data accessible for business analytics is no easy task. To remove the complexity, AWS says lake formation is an alternative to moving, storing, cataloging and cleaning data with ML while enforcing security policies across multiple services as well as gaining and managing new insights.

AWS is optimistic about the growth potential in ML/AI and is looking to bring in regional and local experts in IoT and big-data analytics as a substantial value-add to its existing ML (e.g., SageMaker) and AI (e.g., Rekognition and Polly) offerings. The company already has thousands of partners via its APN program and is lining up local and regional partners to address specialist business requirements in this space. Some of its premier-tier consulting partners in Asia include Bespin Global, Datacom, Sourced Group, Blazeclan and FPT Software, in addition to the global SIs such as Accenture, DXC, HCL and TCS. It has also organized internal resources such as the mobile lab for machine learning in Southeast Asia in a manner that spurs innovation in local markets and is driving community efforts with programs like AWS Activate to stake out a leadership role in technology innovation.


APN, with 60% of partners headquartered outside North America, has been instrumental in accelerating the company's growth strategy in both developed and developing Asia. As the partner ecosystem grows at a breakneck pace – “ adding more than 35,000 new APN partners since January 2016, AWS continues to fine-tune its program with an updated tiered structure that comes with associated benefit packages as well as rename the 'Standard' tier to 'Select' as part of the repositioning exercise.

In response to a growing trend in the partner network, particularly in emerging markets such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, by which partners are seeking prescriptive guidance on building a specialized practice, AWS provides a self-help program called Navigate for some 14 service domains, such as migration, database services, blockchain and ML. It has recently added two service practices – “ SAP on AWS and managed services to Navigate. VMware Cloud on AWS and APN Navigate Foundations will come online in Q2 2019. From product strategy and positioning to competitive differentiation, Navigate provides step-by step guidance (e-learning, advanced resources, framework guidance, solution validation, practice differentiation), AWS says. One example is Sydney-based Sourced Group, one of its 22 migration competency partners in Asia-Pacific, which worked with an airline migrating a large Oracle database to AWS cloud. The migration was completed and went into production within six hours while serving a few critical, multi-core systems in an active-active environment. Sourced Group has opened a new office in Singapore, specializing in enterprise workload migration to the cloud with security and compliance in mind.

In the company's view, Navigate serves as an effective medium to build out domain expertise and skills like AI and ML in new geographies. Overall, partners are able to produce multiple case studies to prove their competency in specific areas, and the near-term plan is to double down on its migration competency partner program for Navigate in Southeast Asia, India, and Korea.

Go to market with ISVs

Not surprisingly, AWS's ISV partner ecosystem has grown as rapidly as the company itself. With tens of thousands of ISVs that are built on or integrated with the AWS Cloud and hundreds joining every month, AWS is willing to put skin in the game with dedicated ISV teams, technical resources and go-to-market funding such as sandbox credits and proofs of concept for customers.

In Asia-Pacific, AWS says it has put together several acceleration programs, including AWS SaaS Factory, ISV Accelerate and TechShift Accelerator that help ease the process of migration and/or onboarding. While many of the ISVs in Asia such as Cloud Conformity and Active.ai build apps natively on the cloud, there are ISVs like Malaysia-based Silverlake Group migrating their legacy platforms to AWS.

AWS SaaS Factory seeks to codify best practices for ISVs to build SaaS on AWS. ISV Accelerate, just as its name suggests, is to support ISVs looking to grow beyond their home turf or in the region. AWS says it will work with ISVs to do field training and team up with their field sales for lead generation. TechShift Accelerator is a regional program to address pain points facing ISVs in Asia for application migration. It's a phase-based approach: from migrating to modernizing and SaaS enabling. Resources such as architectural guidance, technical enablement and sandbox credits are available for program participants. By the same token, program participants are required to demonstrate a certain level of maturity in terms of cloud skills, technical competency and accreditations and already have a stable customer base. AWS says more than 100 ISVs in Asia-Pacific have been trained under the TechShift Accelerator scheme so far. Some of these ISVs include Crayon Data, FlowAccount.com and Fortitude.asia.