May 132016
 

Being on the public cloud is a competitive advantage believes Xero CEO Rod Drury.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing a lot about cloud computing. One of the themes being pushed by many incumbent IT companies – such as Dell and EMC recently at their Las Vegas conference – is that a hybrid model of computing is developing where certain functions are given to public cloud providers while others are bought back in house.

Rod Drury, the CEO and founder of Xero, has been one of the greatest critics of this ‘hybrid’ model of computing and during an interview with him yesterday I asked him about this view that companies are bring IT services back in house.

“I completely disagree with that,” says Drury. “We’ve been on a two year journey moving from our own hosted environment to AWS. The reason for that is important.”

“We have a trillion dollars worth of transactions for the last twelve months sitting on our servers, the next stage is to apply some of  the Big Data, machine learning and artificial intelligence type services. If you’re sitting there with your own private cloud, you have to invest in those technologies.”

“The benefit of being on the Amazon cloud – and this is part of the big battle between Amazon, Microsoft and Google – is you really have to be on that platform to take advantage of the commodity innovation that is in those platforms.”

“Our understanding is our incumbent competitors are still working on migrating their desktop platforms and their own data centres to cloud and haven’t made that investment where they get access to the next generation of technology.”

“So we think we’ve built a sustainable competitive advantage by being on AWS, we see Salesforce have announced they are getting on AWS, and you really have get in there because of what’s happening.”

That’s a clear view from Rod Drury and one that most ‘cloud native’ businesses will endorse. Despite the risks of vendor lock-in, companies like Xero are choosing the cloud vendors because of the access to tools and services.

For Amazon’s competitors, from the small services to the major providers such as Microsoft Azure and Google, the challenge is going to be developing and offering services that can compete with AWS.

In many respects the cloud computing world is beginning to resemble the desktop marketplace 25 years ago where Microsoft dominated and controlled the sector. Whether Amazon dominating today is in the interests of today’s cloud native companies remains to be seen, certainly though Xero’s Rod Drury seems to be happy about it.

Drury’s point though about innovation as a commodity is important though and key for businesses like his that have to adapt to changing markets quickly. Maybe that increased flexibility is the key tradeoff when dealing with the AWS juggernaut.

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