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Taming the Cloud: Mastering AWS for Retail Businesses

Taming the Cloud: Mastering AWS for Retail Businesses

Cloud technology, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), offers enormous potential for retailers, helping reduce costs by enabling them to pay for only the computing resources they use, rather than investing in expensive hardware and software. Cloud solutions can also improve scalability and flexibility, allowing retailers to quickly adjust to changing market conditions and customer demands. But for organizations wanting to achieve real mastery and tame the cloud, there are other crucial aspects to consider.

Choosing products and services aligned with your organization’s offering and ambitions is the first stage of cloud adoption. However, after the initial excitement of cloud possibilities wears off, the conversation quickly shifts to more granular questions about cost, economies of scale, security, organizational structure, buy-in and engagement. Getting maximum value out of cloud solutions, achieving cloud mastery and taming the cloud starts with understanding these concepts.

Utilizing Economies of Scale

Cloud presents a smorgasbord of possibilities, enabling organizations to deploy services fast and frequently. Yet there’s a balance to be struck between a release frequency that keeps innovation bubbling and the high cost of maintaining a fast pace for releases.

That’s why a significant number of organizations have made the decision to reel in release frequency, allowing extra time and space to measure the success of each release and baseline costs. It may sound somewhat counterintuitive to consider slowing things down, since organizations often choose the cloud because they want to operate in a swift, agile way.

"And this is what we similarly experience within our consumer products goods and retail client base, whilst ensuring that they apply the adequate balance of the release velocity and individual client’s capability to adapt."

Ben Bach, Vice President CPG & Retail DACH (EPAM)

But taking the foot off the development gas just a little isn’t the same as returning to a ponderous release schedule. With cloud, releases can be much quicker than they once were, but that doesn’t mean they should move faster than an organization’s ability to understand performance, revenue and profit. A steady, predictable rate of releases can also help organizations access preferential rates with AWS.

Controlling Costs

Cloud services operate in tiers, and the cost depends on the number of products and services in an organization’s package, as well as usage levels, storage requirements and expected volume of I/O requests. Controlling usage costs requires two key elements:

Cost Allocation & Tagging

How do you know which parts of the cloud bill belong to whom? Only when you understand where costs are incurred can you understand which parts of the cloud spend are essential — and possibly worth expanding — and which parts can be trimmed.

Data is key. More specifically, having a strategy to provide metadata against billing information is essential, and that is achieved through tagging. By tagging a resource, businesses can easily track where it belongs. Infrastructure-as-code tools can automate deployments and ensure tags are standardized so nothing gets missed.

Cost Impact Education

Staying in control of costs is a discipline. In part, that discipline is enabled by visibility. It’s vital that key stakeholders have a clear view of costs in real time, and there are tools within the marketplace to provide that information.

But it’s not just the financial centers of your business that require financial discipline. For instance, engineers and developers will often spin up and build services as test pieces or proofs of concept. These are important moments of creativity, and it’s often through such freedom that organizations develop the products and services of the future. Because of that, development of “what if” moments is often firewalled from the more prosaic matter of “costs.” It’s no small wonder, then, that the bottom line tends to not be at the forefront of engineers’ minds. However, with a dashboard view of costs — together with cost education about the impact of decisions on the company's bottom line — developers can learn to operate from the same financial baseline as everyone else.

Managing Data Security

Data security is at the forefront of any organization’s goals when building cloud capability, yet many enterprise clients are surprised by the fact that security costs are often far lower than anticipated. That’s because after developing and implementing reliable cost tagging, tracking and visibility tools that are a part of every well-architected platform, those same tools and techniques can be used for account security purposes. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Trusted Advisor help businesses establish stringent account security and align with best practices and compliance standards. Implementing these measures can preemptively minimize security risks and positively affect project scoping and pricing because the tools that help monitor and assess the environment are also enabling security, operational best practices and regulatory compliance, too.

Avoiding Duplication of Effort

Duplication occurs for many reasons, including when cloud developers use different naming conventions or security policies than other teams. The larger the organization (and the more siloed its development teams), the greater the risk that efforts will be duplicated.   

One solution is to define several AWS-based services as modules within your infrastructure code platform and disseminate them throughout your cloud engineering community. These modules then become the default for engineers to use when building specific system components and can be maintained and controlled in line with corporate security and regulatory policies.

Creating Engagement

Transitioning to a cloud architecture requires aligning people and fostering buy-in throughout the organization. These processes harmonize seamlessly with AWS thanks to a comprehensive range of training and certification programs that empowers employees to confidently embrace cloud technologies:

  • The Well-Architected Framework facilitates architectural reviews, encouraging collaboration and a sense of ownership among teams
  • AWS Organizations provides centralized management while accommodating different teams’ needs, promoting engagement
  • Establishing a Cloud Center of Excellence bridges technical and business aspects, ensuring alignment with objectives
  • AWS Trusted Advisor and cost management involve both technical and financial teams, showcasing cloud benefits tangibly

Additionally, AWS supports a gradual approach to implementation, allowing for a step-by-step transition that builds confidence and alignment. The FinOps Foundation's Maturity Model, for example, is developed with agile principles and a “crawl, walk, run” approach to various pillars. At each stage of each pillar, the framework provides different expectations in terms of business capability. Applying this approach to retail organizations could give retailers the freedom to start small and progress predictably.

Taming the Cloud

By utilizing AWS, companies have a direct path to achieving cloud mastery and deriving business value. Comprehensive cloud services enable organizations to build efficient and scalable solutions that translate into tangible value, and continuous learning through the AWS Training and Certification program ensures teams stay updated with the latest cloud technologies. Additionally, cost optimization tools, like AWS Cost Explorer and Trusted Advisor, empower businesses to lower costs while maximizing returns. With other tools to support crucial features like rapid deployment, workload optimization and managed services, AWS might offer the ideal solutions for your business needs. 


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