ExecutiveBiz spoke with four-time Wash100 recipient Teresa Carlson about Amazon Web Services’ current offerings and output from the AWS re:Invent 2017 conference. On topics ranging from innovation in cloud computing to hyperscale in the public sector, here’s what she had to say:
“We’ve seen our government customers use the cloud as a springboard to do everything from detecting cyber threats and storing data for use in tactical warfare, to predicting coastal flooding and easing traffic congestion.”
EM: You attended the AWS re:Invent 2017 conference. What was the atmosphere like? What kinds of technologies did AWS feature/bring to light?
Teresa Carlson: We hosted our sixth AWS re:Invent in November. It’s been exciting to see the evolution of re:Invent over the years. This year, we welcomed more than 40,000 attendees and our public sector breakfast was a standing room-only crowd. Every year, our public sector customers are among the most eager re:Invent attendees. [They’re] always ready to take advantage of the rapid pace of innovation available through the commercial cloud.
To that end, we launched nearly 100 new services at re:Invent, many of which are valuable for our public sector customers. For example, we announced three new features for Amazon Rekognition, which provides AWS customers with highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition from images and videos. We also introduced Alexa for Business. Many of our public sector customers are already using Alexa to empower their organizations, such as Arizona State University’s effort to give students touch-free access to information and services tailored to campus living.
Beyond artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, we also announced services such as Amazon GuardDuty, a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious or unauthorized behavior to help customers protect their AWS accounts and workloads.
And while the cost savings and agility of the hyperscale cloud are certainly creating opportunities for innovation, we’re still only scratching the surface in terms of what’s possible. There’s much more opportunity ahead for the public sector when it comes to [the] cloud.
In your opinion, what role will huge commercial players like Amazon have in government markets going forward?
Our customers in federal, state and local governments tell me they love that AWS provides them with new technologies that help them scale and achieve their missions faster, at a lower cost and with greater efficiency. We’ve seen our government customers use the cloud as a springboard to do everything from detecting cyber threats and storing data for use in tactical warfare, to predicting coastal flooding and easing traffic congestion.
When a government agency selects a commercial cloud service provider, they’re selecting a partner to provide a springboard for good government. Today, the cloud is not just providing agencies with infrastructure solutions, but is [also] laying the groundwork so that the government can tap into true innovation. It provides a connection to some of the most innovative, cloud-focused systems integrators and the most agile startups in Silicon Valley and other hubs of innovation, along with access to the most cutting-edge technology like AI and machine learning. It does all of this while employing best-in-class security.
AWS cloud recently launched “Secret Region” for intel customers. What can you tell our readers about this?
In November, we launched the AWS Secret Region, the first offering that enables the government to leverage the commercial cloud for workloads at the secret U.S. security classification level. Having worked closely with our government customers for a number of years now, we understand that security and compliance are their top priority, and that today, agencies are finding the most value from using the cloud for mission-critical workloads.
While the AWS Secret Region is indeed available to the intelligence community, it’s important to note that it’s also available to non-IC U.S. government customers – those with appropriate secret-level network access can use their own contract vehicles to take advantage of the region.[In addition,] AWS now provides federal government customers the opportunity to use a commercial cloud capability across all four classification levels: unclassified, sensitive, secret and top secret. This is so important because we’re providing customers with the same tools and workflows already available for top secret workloads and making those available to those with secret datasets. As a result, they can collaborate better across agencies, make decisions faster and ultimately better serve the country’s citizens.
To what extent will the potential of cloud fully be realized? What does the future look like?
I believe that the shift in technology and move to the cloud is unlike any other we’ve seen in our lifetime – and the speed of innovation is happening much faster than anyone anticipated.
Cloud truly is the new normal. We’re seeing every industry use the cloud for their complex, innovative and mission-critical needs, and we’re increasingly seeing our public sector customers take advantage of the agility and scale that the cloud provides. Although government agencies are being urged to move to the cloud to benefit from more efficient and flexible network architecture, it is the additional benefits – the agility and scale that I mentioned – they are seeing that are motivating them to migrate more mission-critical workloads. I can tell you that cloud is not just providing government agencies, education institutions and non-profit organizations with infrastructure – it’s laying the groundwork for innovation.
Before joining AWS in 2010, Teresa Carlson served as VP of Microsoft’s government services business. She has also held senior VP positions at Keyfile Corp., later Lexign, and the Polaris Group, a subsidiary of NovaCare Rehabilitation, now owned by Select Medical. For her leadership in expanding federal cloud use, Carlson was inducted into the 2018 Wash 100.
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