Inside Amazon's Cloud Support

There's more to a successful cloud deployment than a good feature set and reasonable cost.

Perhaps more so than any other company, Amazon has helped to define the new Cloud era of computing.

While Amazon's Web Services (AWS) cloud offerings are tightly associated with specific tech capabilities and increasingly competitive pricing structures, there is another key element in Amazon's cloud portfolio -- support.

Brent Jaye, is VP of AWS Support, a position he came too after first spending years toiling in Amazon's traditional retail sales division. Jaye told Datamation that AWS services a very wide range of customers, including some of the largest enterprises in the world, as well as many small businesses and individual customers. To that end, Amazon offers a number of different support options to meet the specific needs of the various use cases that customers have in place.

Amazon's current support model and services have evolved in recent years.

"When I came here in 2010, the reputation for AWS support wasn't very strong," Jaye admitted.

He noted that he typically heard positive feedback about AWS innovations and product portfolio, but didn't hear the same type of feedback about support.

"What we have really been working on for the last three years is investing considerable time and resources into AWS support," Jaye said.

Support Model

The support system at Amazon is built out from homegrown software development and intellectual property. Jaye commented that his group has 19 patents applications pending for its support software-related innovations.

In total, Amazon now has some 24 software developers that are purely focused on writing great code for customer support applications.

Events

One of the great use cases of cloud deployment is for events. Instead of having network capacity stand idle waiting for an event, with a cloud deployment, an organization can scale a network on demand as needed.

In order to support that use case, Amazon built out an infrastructure event management system where there is a very structured playbook to guide the process.

Basic Support

Among the multiple options for support that Amazon now offers is a free basic support tier that is available to all AWS customers at no additional charge.

Jaye stressed that even the basic support that AWS offers is delivered via Amazon employees and is not out-sourced.

Amazon also has its staff actively monitoring Twitter and social media channels in an effort to help people.

"We have a social media monitoring role where someone scans for concerns and then we try and help," Jaye said. "That is something we do very purposefully."

Trusted Advisor

Going beyond the basics, Amazon has a service called Trusted Advisor that is available on a number of its paid support tiers.

The basic idea behind Trusted Advisor is to offer users advice and options on how best to configure and utilize their cloud deployment.

The Trusted Advisor effort was born out of an event that scarred Jaye early on in his AWS support career.

"I was here in April of 2011 when had that big outage and the most frustrating thing from the support side, while we were in the midst of the outage, there was nothing support could do for customers," Jaye said. "But if we would have backed up the customers prior to the problem and provided some guidance beforehand on best practices, there was actually quite a bit that could have been done."

So instead of following a 'break-fix' model, Trusted Advisor helps to advocate for a more pro-active approach to prevent problems before they occur and to mitigate risk. The Trusted Advisor system is also a valuable tool in that it can recommend to users how they can save money as well.

Amazon is confident in the value of Trusted Advisor because it has measured its effectiveness. Jaye said that over the course of the last 90 days, Trusted Adviosr had provided over 399,000 recommendations that have resulted in over $69 million in annualized savings for customers.

"We're willing to invest in support as a strategic differentiator," Jaye said.

Beyond a basic level of support, Amazon does charge customers for support tiers. Jaye sees that as a good thing.

"Support is the customer's decision and we need to innovate enough such that customers are willing to pay for it," he said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.




Tags: cloud computing, Amazon


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