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My View: Here’s how Amazon Web Services is propelling innovation in the Phoenix metro

Phoenix Business Journal

Hear the name “Amazon” and you might just think of the trucks that bring what you want when you want it.

But invisible to some is the cloud computing arm of the company that is hard at work to help deliver a better today and tomorrow for all Arizonans.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering more than 200 fully featured services from data centers around the world. Millions of customers ranging from startups to the largest enterprises to leading government agencies are using AWS to trim costs, become more agile and innovate faster.

Close to home, AWS already is making a mark while becoming a key member of Arizona’s technology ecosystem.

AWS teamed with Arizona State University to launch the ASU Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) Powered by AWS, an initiative focused on creating smarter communities in the Phoenix metropolitan area using the AWS Cloud to solve pressing community and regional challenges.

The CIC is part of a long-term collaboration between AWS and the university to boost digital experiences for smart-city designers, grow technology alternatives while minimizing costs, stimulate economic and workforce development, and assist the sharing of public-sector solutions within the region.

Since it opened its doors in early 2019 at ASU’s SkySong in Scottsdale, CIC’s mission has been to drive innovation challenges that benefit the area by solving urgent community and regional challenges, using shareable and repeatable technology solutions from idea through prototype.

The center’s staff provides management, process and technical guidance to address issues by using Amazon’s proven “working backwards” process. Also known as the Amazon method, the product development process encourages teams to start at the end by drafting an internal-only press release announcing the final product.

AWS also underpins the Statewide Cyber Readiness Grant Program launched in fall 2022 by the Arizona Department of Homeland Security. A task force selected two software providers hosted on AWS, Tanium and CrowdStrike, to help cities, counties and schools improve their cybersecurity capabilities.

The AWS Marketplace was used to obtain and deploy the security software. The Marketplace facilitates contracting with multiple sellers, helps make the most of software licensing costs and maintains visibility across all accounts, making it easier and more efficient to track and manage software spending.

The grant program was created to improve the cybersecurity efforts of Arizona’s most vulnerable cities, counties, and K-12 school districts. It is backed with $10 million in general fund appropriations.

The program supports local entities by accessing technical assistance and software licenses across five functional areas: advanced endpoint protection, converged endpoint management, multi-factor authentication, security awareness training and web application firewall.

This effort is not an isolated case with an Arizona agency. AWS also has collaborated with the Arizona Commerce Authority to increase access to cloud computing education in schools across the state.

Arizona schools now have the opportunity to implement AWS Academy and AWS Educate programs, integrating cloud computing education into our classrooms. The programs prepare students by providing hands-on experience in the AWS Cloud to gain the skills and knowledge needed for entry-level cloud roles

If you think AWS efforts only directly touch those in the tech world, think again. It also is involved in tackling a challenge affecting residents in Arizona and beyond: climate change.

The Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI) program is helping sustainability experts advance climate change solutions through the use of data. ASDI collaborates with scientific organizations like the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to host important climate data on the AWS Cloud, which has the infrastructure to host very large datasets. Amazon and AWS then make the data available for anyone to access at no cost.

Many important datasets like satellite images and weather forecasts are stored across the globe in large files and complex systems that most people cannot access without specialized computers. That can slow progress toward climate solutions and exclude experts without the resources.

Launched in 2018, ASDI now hosts more than 130 datasets, including solar forecasts, ocean temperatures and climate projections. ASDI also offers cloud grants to help researchers cover the costs of analyzing the data.

Amazon Web Services certainly brings solutions to our doorsteps and to every corner of Arizona.

Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.


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