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Tolga talks tech: Moving up the stack on AWS


Originally published in Feb 2019, at Onica.com/blog

Tolga Talks Tech is a video series in which the Rackspace Technology CTO, Tolga Tarhan, tackles technical topics related to AWS® and cloud computing. In this post, Tolga discusses moving up the stack on AWS with Goran “Kima” Kimovski, SVP of Global Customer Solutions at Onica. For more videos in this series, click here.

We hear a lot about moving up the stack in the cloud. What do we mean by that?

When we first started with cloud consulting for customers, we found that the cloud provider allowed for certain services like quick provisioning of virtual machines, storage, and autoscaling. However, we saw the opportunity to innovate further and integrate the operating system, the applications, and other parts of the stack, and moving up the stack to provide managed services. This enables customers to focus on adding value, solving business problems, and providing business outcomes, instead of worrying about low-level IT challenges like uptime, backup, and restore.

Over the years, AWS has been able to innovate, and we’ve seen lots of new concepts and services such as serverless, managed databases, managed load balancers, and managed API gateways. These tools enabled many customers using the platform to innovate on top of them by focusing on higher-level business functions.

Does this change the build versus buy calculation that companies often make?

We have this conversation with a many customers. A lot of IT-centric organizations feel it’s better to buy a turnkey solution, but they find very quickly that they spend as much money, if not more, integrating that solution with the other systems they have.

With the cloud, the cloud provider fully manages building blocks. It takes time to integrate those services, and because they are fully managed, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculation changes a lot. So when you’re looking at build-versus-buy decisions, you have the opportunity to invest the same amount of time and money to build something valuable—not work around the limitations of the turnkey solution but to take advantage of the right service for the right job and integrating with the rest of the stack.

Customers are sometimes concerned about data being locked into third-party tools. How does that work in this model?

When you buy a turnkey solution, you’re dependent on how the vendor stores the data and what interface it provides you to extract the data. Many companies find themselves fighting to get their data from one system to another.

With the cloud, you have so many different services that provide a native integration, and moving data from one place to another is very easy. Instead of thinking about centralizing your data in one place, you can create replicas and copies of that data and send them to the right service in a format that the service understands because the cloud provides a lot of the integration between those services. Thus, you democratize the ability to leverage and build solutions around the data without locking yourself into one particular format or solution.

Sounds like freedom to manage the data the way you sit, and freedom to build your own differentiating value on top of these systems?

Correct. Amazon is building several innovative services like Amazon Athena®, Amazon RedShift Spectrum®, and several others that allow you to process the data in different ways. For a company to buy the type of software that can do that sort of data processing, they would have to spend millions of dollars to buy a solution that does it all, and they’d still be limited by the functionality. Whereas with the cloud model and managed services, you can use the right service for the right type of processing you need, and you’re not locked into it if a new service launches that provides better value.

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Tolga Tarhan

Combining deep hands-on knowledge of technology with creative solutions to business problems, Tolga has built and led organizations that deliver world-class software products. A software engineer and entrepreneur by trade, he has 16 years of successive experience in executive roles (CTO, CEO) leading organizations that build great products and deliver exceptional services.

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