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The future of AWS in Ireland

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AWS’s Mark Finlay discusses the company’s journey in Ireland, its future plans and its role in the public sector.

Cloud service provider Amazon Web Services, or AWS, began its journey on Irish soil almost 15 years ago when it launched its first cloud infrastructure region outside the US.

Over the subsequent years, AWS grew its workforce to what is now more than 3,000 direct employees.

But Mark Finlay, AWS’s head of public sector in Ireland, claims the economic impact of the company is even greater.

A recent study by Indecon International Economic Consultants, analysing AWS’s economic impact in Ireland from 2011 to 2020, showed that investment here actually supports a further 4,000 positions at contractors and sub-suppliers and more than 1,700 jobs stemming from these collective activities,” he told Siliconrepublic.com.

‘Cloud computing is proving key to this burgeoning national and global digital transformation’
– MARK FINLAY

The company is growing its base here, announcing plans last summer to hire another 1,000 employees across both AWS and Amazon.

“We are not done growing! That’s for sure,” Finlay added. “The jobs themselves will be created in a range of areas. They include engineer roles in software development, network development, systems development, optical deployment and DevOps.

“We will also be hiring data centre technicians, mechanical and electrical engineers, solutions architects, security specialists and account managers. There will be job opportunities as well in technical management and in senior leadership.”

Outside of job creation, AWS has also bedded down in the education, data centre and renewable energy sectors in Ireland.

Last November, the company launched a free training programme for cloud skills in Ireland, called AWS re/Start, aimed at helping people who are unemployed, underemployed or from underrepresented communities.

Finlay said AWS has also developed partnerships with schools and third-level institutions, creating technology initiatives including AWS GetIT, which helped second-level students to develop their own app ideas.

Commitment to sustainability

While sustainability is on the agenda for many tech giants, it has become particularly important in the area of data centres – something cloud service providers such as AWS are acutely aware of.

Finlay said Amazon is committed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. “As part of this pledge, we have set ambitious goals and we’re on path to power our operations with 100pc renewable energy by 2025.

“That commitment to sustainability applies fully to our operations in Ireland, where we are making significant investments in renewable energy.”

These investments include windfarm projects in Donegal, Cork and, most recently, Galway, which are set to add a total of 229MW to the energy grid each year.

“Once all projects are operational, we will be the largest single corporate buyer of renewable energy in the country. This is helping Ireland to meet its 2030 renewable targets,” Finlay said.

The company will also provide free recycled heat from its data centres to Heatworks, Ireland’s first publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company, which will deliver low-carbon heat to a range of premises in the Tallaght area.

Cloud tech in the public sector

Last week, Siliconrepublic.com examined the cloud sector and, more specifically, how it has accelerated since the beginning of the pandemic.

Finlay said this acceleration has resulted in an even greater expectation that government bodies should be able to operate remotely and at speed.

“Cloud computing is proving key to this burgeoning national and global digital transformation. That’s because the flexibility it provides is fundamental to the responsive and nimble public services that people now expect.

“As the cloud allows for the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the internet, state bodies using it no longer have to worry about managing cumbersome and expensive data centres. Instead, they simply access the digital tools they require on an as-needed basis, meaning they can focus on services and outcomes rather than the hardware underpinning them.”

However, he said one of the most important innovations when it comes to partnering with public bodies is giving them access to “the most cutting-edge of technologies” such as AI and machine learning without a heavy cost investment.

“Take the experience of Transport for New South Wales, an Australian government agency responsible for public transport, for example. It began using AWS machine learning to transition from historically based analytics to a forward-looking model with predictive capability,” he said.

“The power of those cloud services now means that [Transport for New South Wales] is better able to predict passenger numbers across its entire transport network, thereby improving the experience of all who use it.”

Closer to home, AWS partnered with the HSE and Waterford-based NearForm to build and scale the Covid Tracker Ireland app, the tech for which has since been brought to the US.

“Because of the cloud’s elasticity, the Covid Tracker app can seamlessly scale to meet fluctuating demands as pandemic activity changes,” said Finlay.

“I think it’s safe to say that we will see even greater use of cloud technology in the future to improve healthcare and deliver better outcomes for patients.”

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Amazon Web Services outage hits sites and apps such as IMDb and Tinder | Amazon

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Several Amazon services – including its website, Prime Video and applications that use Amazon Web Services (AWS) – went down for thousands of users on Tuesday.

Amazon said the outage was probably due to problems related to application programming interface (API), which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software, Reuters reported.

“We are experiencing API and console issues in the US-East-1 Region,” Amazon said in a report on its service health dashboard, adding that it had identified the cause. By late late afternoon the outage appeared to be partially resolved, with the company saying that it was “working towards full recovery”.

“With the network device issues resolved, we are now working towards recovery of any impaired services,” the company said on the dashboard.

Downdetector showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting problems with Amazon. It tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

The outage was also affecting delivery operations. Amazon’s warehouse operation use AWS and experienced disruptions, spokesperson Richard Rocha told the Washington Post. A Washington state Amazon driver said his facility had been “at a standstill” since Tuesday morning, CNBC reported.

Other services, including Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot were also facing difficulties, according to their social media pages.

Ring said it was aware of the issue and working to resolve it. “A major Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage is currently impacting our iRobot Home App,” iRobot said on its website.

Other websites and apps affected include the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), language learning provider Duolingo and dating site Tinder, according to Downdetector.

The outage also affected presale tickets for Adele’s upcoming performances in Las Vegas. “Due to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage impacting companies globally, all Adele Verified Fan Presales scheduled for today have been moved to tomorrow to ensure a better experience,” Ticketmaster said on Twitter.

In June, websites including the Guardian, Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times were hit by a widespread hour-long outage linked to US-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc, a smaller rival of AWS.

In July, Amazon experienced a disruption in its online stores service, which lasted for nearly two hours and affected more than 38,000 users.

Users have experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months on Amazon, according to the web tool reviewing website ToolTester.



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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

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As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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