Cloud tech aiding startup boom in SE Asia, says AWS

By Melvin G. Calimag

The revolutionary model introduced by cloud computing is proving to be a boon to the startup community in Southeast Asia, according to the regional head of cloud purveyor AWS (Amazon Web Services).

Nick Walton, managing director for Asean at AWS, speaking at AWS Summit in Singapore

Nick Walton, managing director for Asean at AWS, said at the recent AWS Summit in Singapore that more technology startups are taking advantage of the low-cost and scalable model offered by cloud computing.

Among the regional startups which were at the conference were Indonesian startup “unicorn” Traveloka and Singapore-based integrated security services company Certis. Fintech startup Coins.ph was also cited by AWS as one of its successful customers from the Philippines.

Walton noted that while cloud computing has been around for some time, its business model is still very much applicable in this part of the world.

“The value proposition offered by cloud computing is still very compelling. In fact, it’s only now that companies – most of them startups – are realizing the benefits of having to treat their infrastructure budget from capex (capital expenditure) to opex (operating expenditure),” he said.

The AWS official said the cloud has made startups bolder in taking risks when it comes to business. “If you try to experiment and fail, you can readily move to the next project because you’re not stuck to any physical infrastructure. The main advantage of cloud is that it removes the barrier of having to put up a huge capital outlay just to start your business. Today, you can just your credit card and just consume what you need,” he pointed out.

Walton stressed that AWS has built a huge headstart in the cloud space, noting that its cloud service was first offered way back in 2006 when the company was launched. “We therefore have the most mature technologies for the cloud,” he said.

Since then, the executive said AWS has broadened its portfolio with more than 165 various types of capabilities now being offered to companies regardless of size.

Walton disclosed that 95% of its technology roadmap is driven by feedback from customers. “We listen very hard to what our customers tell us and then develop solutions on how to address their concerns and help them capitalize on the business opportunities that exist,” he shared.

“For example, we heard from our clients that it was hard for them to get commercial-grade database. And so with that feedback, we used our expertise in cloud to come up with a service called Aurora, an enterprise-grade mySQL-compliant database that is just one-tenth of the cost of its commercial counterparts. This is one of the best-selling services that AWS has ever released because our customers are saying that they do not want to be locked in draconian software arrangements from legacy database providers,” he said.

Walton revealed it was also through customer feedback that pushed AWS to introduce new tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence to allow companies to get insights from vast volumes of data.

However, cloud computing services remains to be the company’s bread and butter, especially in Southeast Asia where there the startup scene is expanding rapidly.

“In the Philippines, we have Coins.PH as one of our great success stories. We’ve worked with them and they’ve done a good job of helping overseas Filipino workers send their remittances to the Philippines,” Walton said.

In terms of sectors, Walton cited healthcare and agriculture as areas where cloud can be helpful across Southeast Asia because of the huge population in the region.

“Various startups are currently developing apps that are immensely beneficial to people working on these sectors. But these startups need reliable and secure technology tools to perform their work and become successful. We can provide those requirements,” he said.

During the Singapore summit, AWS also held its “Hackdays 2019 Grand Finale: Hack For Good” where a Philippine team, SymbIoT, competed as one of the finalists. Their solution, GluCOmeter, is the first-of-its-kind digital blood measurement tool.

Also at the event, AWS previewed its DeepRacer League (DRL) in Southeast Asia, which is reputedly the first global autonomous racing league that is open to everyone.

A DeepRacer tournament was staged where attendees competed in a race with their 1/18th scale AWS DeepRacer car driven by a reinforcement learning model built in Amazon SageMaker. The top scorer qualified for the DeepRacer League Cup to be held at re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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