How Amazon Web Services is luring banks to the cloud

Amazon.com's cloud computing business is pushing aggressively into virtually every market. For proof, look no further than the heavily regulated financial services industry.

Among the more than 32,000 people expected at Amazon Web Services' annual re:Invent conference this week in Las Vegas, several thousand attendees will be from banks and other financial companies, said Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, in an interview with CNBC.

Jassy said the trend started at last year's re:Invent, where Capital One Financial Chief Information Officer Rob Alexander talked publicly about recreating the consumer banking experience in the cloud. On Tuesday, Amazon said that over the next five years, Capital One will migrate "many core business and customer applications to AWS."

Intuit, whose tax and payroll software exposes it to strict regulations, has moved completely to Amazon's cloud. And the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, is headed in that direction.

"Financial services companies have really started deciding to use the cloud in a much more meaningful way," said Jassy. "It really has tipped."

For AWS, which now accounts for 10 percent of Amazon's revenue and all of its operating profit, the broader theme is that cloud has gone mainstream. Government agencies, health-care providers and large industrial companies are speedily moving out of their own data centers and onto machines owned by Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM.

Revenue from public cloud services, including software and infrastructure, is expected to more than double to $195 billion by 2020 from $96.5 billion this year, according to IDC.

AWS launched in 2006 and has a giant head start over its rivals. The Seattle-based company controls 45 percent of the global cloud infrastructure market, according to Synergy Research Group, while Microsoft, Google and IBM have less than 20 percent combined.

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Jassy said that Amazon is working with 2,700 government agencies across the globe. The Central Intelligence Agency, City of Chicago and New York Public Library have all turned to AWS for handling sensitive data and workloads.

Last month, AWS announced a partnership with VMware that could further speed up the process. In the pre-cloud world, VMware's technology was state of the art, virtualizing the data center so that I.T. departments could remotely manage and operate their machines.

VMware became a standard in large enterprises and within the government, and with the Amazon partnership, those customers can operate on AWS without having to physically move their data or retrain employees.

"Public sector customers are excited about it because they have a high-level mandate to move more to public cloud," said Mark Lohmeyer, a vice president in VMware's cloud unit. "But on the ground, if you look at teams tasked to do that, it's actually very challenging for many types of applications."

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger is joining Jassy on stage during the keynote presentation Wednesday morning. They'll disclose a number of clients that are currently testing the joint technology ahead of its public release in mid-2017.

Jassy is confident that AWS can continue nabbing government customers even as Donald Trump assumes the presidency. During the campaign, Trump singled out Amazon as a company that would have "such problems" in his administration, because he claimed it doesn't pay its fair share of taxes and acts as a monopoly.

"Amazon has been around now for about 21 years at this point," Jassy said. "We've had several presidents at the helm during that time. We'll continue to make sure we have the broadest capabilities for our customers to get more done, spending less money and do it much more quickly."

While AWS is the undisputed leader, the cloud infrastructure market is rapidly becoming more competitive, with the largest players investing in sales and engineering and getting hyper-aggressive on pricing.

Microsoft is parlaying its history of working with the world's largest enterprises into a growing business called Azure.

Google Cloud chief Diane Greene speaking on September 29, 2016
Ari Levy | CNBC
Google Cloud chief Diane Greene speaking on September 29, 2016

Google's cloud, meanwhile, is a year into its new existence under the leadership of VMware co-founder Diane Greene, who is touting the search giant's $10 billion capital expense budget and almost two decades developing some of the most complex computing solutions on the planet.

Greene is pitching the notion of a multi-cloud world, one where a company may store its data in one place and turn elsewhere for services like advanced analytics and machine learning. Customers don't want to be locked into a single vendor, she says, and will seek to take advantage of the benefits that a variety of providers can offer.

While Jassy acknowledges there will be more than one winner, he's quick to point out that AWS has a massive lead in terms of scale and the number of services available.

Nor is he buying into Greene's vision. Rather, Jassy sees AWS customers bolstering their investment with Amazon, because developers prefer to stick with a single system and enjoy volume discounts that come with adding capacity.

"Sometimes you hear stories from other providers that benefit their own businesses," Jassy said. "We have a very large number of enterprises and customers running a majority of workloads on AWS. When we look at the decision process as they rigorously go through that analysis, most of them aren't ending up splitting their workloads remotely close to evenly across multiple providers."