We had the opportunity to attend the Berlin edition of the Amazon AWS event series called AWSSummit that is taking place around the world these months. I was interested in the Berlin location to get an impression both on customer interest and readiness for cloud, as well as AWS efforts to get the traditionally skeptical German IT audience to embrace cloud. The event was held at the CityCube location and attended by 2000+ attendees (the first event in Berlin by AWS in comparison, was a small 150 attendee affair only 5 years back, in 2010). 
Always tough to collect the Top3 takeaways from an event like this – but here is my best attempt:

Germany and the cloud – warming up? – Germany is an interesting market for IT services, given it is one of the largest economies on the planet. But despite German consumers adopting cloud based services in equal fashion than in other places, German IT has been traditionally skeptical to the point of not adopting public cloud (yet). The NSA / Prism / Snowden affair certainly did not help here, and just recent additional rumors of the CIA spying on more levels of the German government than ‘just’ the chancellor did not help either. In other parts of the world, the consumerization of IT has been the main drivers to explain why cloud adoption has happened quickly in corporate IT, too. Not in Germany, and the main reasons why are in my view existing IT investments, the y levels that allow to keep investing into the ‘old but known and proven’ ways, the high sensitivity to data privacy and protection and finally the sometimes health, sometimes dangerous German stubbornness with ‘not invented here’ incarnation. These German attitudes have largely lead cloud providers to build German data centers, in order to overcome at least the data residency, data privacy and NSA / Patriot Act access fears and concerns. Amazon’s Frankfurt region is available since fall 2014 (read more here) and it is no surprise that Amazon shared at the summit that it is the vendor’s fastest growing region. It is obvious by now that you need to be ‘in it to win it’ in regards of the German public cloud market, so the move by Amazon was a well-timed one. But now it needs to drive utilization to the Frankfurt region – so the AWS Summit in Berlin was a key event for the vendor.

Amazon AWS Sponsors Summit Berlin
Sponsors of AWS Summit Berlin
Showcases to the front – As usual in these situations, where vendors need to attract prospects to a new innovative way of doing IT, showcases are key. Their goal is to show that other enterprises (in this case German enterprises) are using the innovation (in this case AWS) successfully. The Berlin location catered uniquely to the local Berlin startup scene, Amazon was aware that the location and timing of the event were not the best to attract corporations to the event, but the turnout was nonetheless good. And Amazon did well at picking only Germany based showcase customers and managed to cover a wide variety of industries and use cases. The marquee showcase was Audi, which shared that it is building its driver / passenger applications “Audi on demand” (more here) with the help of AWS Cloud. Not the business critical application for a car manufacturer, but a pretty strategic one as these application are expected to work 24x7 and consumers perceive them as an extension of the brand, so they need to be of high quality. Next was German online retailer Zalando, giving a good insight in regards of talent required and organizational changes necessary to be successful in the public cloud. To a certain point Zalando is to AWS Germany what Netflix is to AWS in the US: A competitor deciding to run on AWS Cloud, and as such a powerful reference, an aspect that AWS could have made clearer in Berlin (compared to e.g. Netflix on stage at re:Invent in Las Vegas 2013). Next was a startup Tado, the German version of what the US knows as Nest, that uses AWS Cloud to model BigData and Analytics to better regulate thermostats in a smart way. And finally the Frankfurt Staedelmusem, as a public sector / non profit reference, shared how it is moving visitor education applications and its overall inventory to AWS Cloud. 

amazon aws cto Werner Vogels Summit Berling organge sneakers
CTO Werner Vogels (with organge sneakers!)
Security, Security, did we mention Security? – Vendors need to convince a skeptical audience that you are serious about security. And AWS made it pretty clear, re-iterating many times that ‘security is job #1’ – starting with CTO Vogels and then with a dedicated security track hosted by AWS CISO Schmidt. AWS did a very good job convincing the audience on the advanced nature and sincerity of its efforts. The audience seemed to be unaware of the Key Management capabilities announced back at re:Invent 2014 in Las Vegas, so that was a major take away for many security minded attendees. In my close to a dozen ‘before and after’ polls with attendees, it was clear that AWS has been able to discern the most immediate data security and privacy concerns. Most attendees went from the typical German ‘schaun mer mal’ (let’s have a look) to ‘muessen wir mal anschauen’ (we need to take a look now), which for any connoisseur of the German mindset means a significant change in attitude. Being able to achieve that in one day gives credit to both AWS product capabilities and presenters, who took a humble, informed and competent approach to the presentations.
CTO Werner Vorgels with the main message - The Cloud is Secure!
CTO Werner Vorgels with the main message - The Cloud is Secure!


A good event for AWS in one of the most attractive (and skeptical) public cloud markets out there. Certainly a watershed moment that the public cloud has not only arrived physically in Germany with the opening of the AWS region last fall, but its imporance is growing in the mindset of German IT decision makers. And that is traditionally a slow moving process, with all the pros and cons, but once it is going in the right way, it will go that way for a long time.

On the concern side, AWS needs to show more direct use cases, and show more of the platform nature of AWS cloud. German enterprises think standards and platforms, and are getting more and more eager to standardize on platforms for use cases, the most prominent in Germany being IoT. All German reservation in regards of public cloud security and privacy are thrown literally overboard when it comes to IoT, as it is clear that the sheer magnitude of application requirements can only be addressed in the public cloud. Quite a turnaround in attitude when the use case changes, the challenge for AWS is that German decision makers keep hearing about ‘ready to use’ platforms from the competition, and the traditional toolbox approach of AWS is perceived as a longer learning curve that also bears some assembly risk. But that is nothing AWS cannot address in the future, but It requires a slightly different go to market the vendor has so far not shown.

Overall a good event for AWS in Germany, that is clearly in the market for the long run and is doing the basic ground work around public cloud adoption by addressing the fundamental concerns enterprises have with public cloud. AWS is doing and has done the same in all markets where it operates, it just takes a little longer to convince German IT decision makers, but this event was a key step forward in that effort. The good news for AWS is that their German prospects traditionally value the pioneering work of early innovators, even though they do not buy as quickly as e.g. their US based counterparts, but reward them later, as they want ultimately want to be associated with early innovators. So hang in there AWS, the Germans will come, more with IoT than anything else, but once there, they will do it with the famous German Gruendlichkeit (= thoroughness).