Interview: Amazon Web Services Sweden

Eric Morales leads the AWS business development team for startups and gaming companies in the Nordics. Computer Weekly caught up with him at AWS’s Nordic headquarters in Stockholm

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is currently building an infrastructure region in Sweden that will have three availability zones – a collection of datacentres linked together with private fibre.  

It is a huge investment and the fact that AWS decided to put it in Sweden is proof of the country’s status in high-tech globally, says Eric Morales, who heads AWS’s team focused on the startup and gaming sectors.

Morales works in Sweden but is AWS team leader for a number of other European countries, including the other Nordic nations, the Netherlands and Germany.

AWS has invested heavily in its Swedish infrastructure. Its first datacentre there was built in Eskilstuna, where so much earth was dug up to prepare for the new building that there was enough gravel and mud to extend a local ski slope by 30 metres. Two more datacentres have since been built in Västerås and Katrineholm.

Morales, who hails from the US, joined AWS in his home city of Washington DC in 2011. He helps startups make their first technology decisions and connects them with incubators, venture capital firms (VCs) and accelerators.

“We want to be there when they launch a new application or enter a new market,” says Morales.“We also want to help VCs find the best startups to invest in and assist startups so that they can get VCs to invest in them.” To this end, AWS has people on the ground whose main job is to build relationships with the tech ecosystem.

AWS currently operates 18 infrastructure regions with 54 availability zones around the world. For a startup, this means lower costs, because they do not need to invest in new infrastructure when they expand to new markets. 

The AWS region now built in Sweden is likely to attract customers including Swedish government organisations and local enterprises that need to have data stored on Nordic soil. Current Nordic customers will be able to choose whether they want to migrate their applications to Sweden or leave them where they are.

Read more about AWS in Sweden

Today, most Nordic startups run data on AWS infrastructure regions in the US, Dublin or Frankfurt, says Morales.

AWS is also hiring in Sweden and although Morales did not give numbers, Computer Weekly recently counted more than 50 adverts for AWS positions in Stockholm. 

Businesses in the Nordics have welcomed AWS’s expansion of its infrastructure in the region.

Telenor Connexion, whose global headquarters are in Stockholm, is one such company. Telenor provides specialised internet of things (IoT) services for enterprises with large fleets of devices. It is a dedicated IoT unit within the Telenor group – one of the major mobile operators across Scandinavia, central eastern Europe and Asia.

More than a decade ago, Telenor Connexion developed and built a platform for connecting things via SIM cards, with each machine or item getting a SIM. The company was an early pioneer in the industry and today has many customers globally, such as Volvo Cars, Scania, Hitachi and Verisure. Vehicles cannot use Wi-Fi for such services today, but using Telenor’s platform, they can connect to the mobile network while driving.

Telenor links with AWS

Three to four years ago, Telenor began collaborating with AWS and is now developing improved services with AWS as cloud provider. It decided to work with AWS because it is by far the biggest player in global cloud services and Telenor is also a global organisation.

Anders Bresell, head of technology development at Telenor Connexion, said “It is great that AWS is building a new region with three availability zones in Sweden. Not only that, but AWS has many regions all over the world, and many of them have only two availability zones. Advanced AWS services often require three availability zones and, thankfully, in Sweden AWS is providing this.”

Swedish companies and organisations will also get lower latency in comparison with building cloud systems in the established AWS regions across Europe. Low latency means that because of the shorter distance to where the data is stored and processed, users get faster response times even if the data transfer speed is unchanged. Organisations can then offer their customers low-latency services.

This includes the public sector. Swedish government organisations are some of the most digitised in the world, and are often obliged by law to store sensitive data on Swedish soil for security and privacy reasons.

“With the new AWS Stockholm region, many government organisations will be able to launch new projects,” says Bresell. One important area that can benefit from this is healthcare, both in clinics and in people’s homes, where the data is considered very sensitive and additional compliance rules apply.

AWS for gaming

The gaming sector, which is big business in the Nordic region, will also reap the benefits of the local AWS infrastructure. Teemu Mäki-Patola, COO at Helsinki-based Frogmind, says: “An important factor for the gaming industry is the ability to scale up quickly if there is a sudden rise in demand.”

Mäki-Patola said the business model used by AWS, which enables customers to pay per usage, is also important to game developers such as Frogmind, which makes games for mobile phones and uses AWS cloud storage. 

AWS has matured over the years,” he says. “It offers great tools and easily scalable systems. The analytics tool drives what kind of services Frogmind develops for its users.”

AWS’s expansion in Sweden might not be quite finished. There have been rumours on more than one occasion that Amazon harbours plans to launch a sales site and a warehouse in Sweden, but this has not been confirmed by Amazon.

Read more on Cloud computing services

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