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​Xero - Aligning with AWS

​Xero - Aligning with AWS

In support of global expansion plans, Xero general manager of platform architecture and delivery, Mark Rees, explains why vendor alignment is crucial in the cloud.

Akin to changing the engine on a jet while it’s still flying, Xero’s migration to Amazon Web Services (AWS) represents an epic undertaking in the world of cloud.

Featuring the transition of over 700,000 customers, the desire for greater agility and innovation has seen the cloud accounting company align with a platform capable of quenching such thirst.

With offices popping up in the Americas, Asia and Europe - alongside Australia and New Zealand - the independent software vendor (ISV) is illuminating the skies with a new brand of software-as-a-service accounting applications.

After setting the expansion wheels in motion through Rackspace infrastructure, the move to AWS allows Xero to economically scale as it bids to surpass a million customers worldwide.

“When you’re in the business of technological innovation, fast-paced future-thinking comes with the territory,” Xero general manager of platform architecture and delivery, Mark Rees, said.

“As we move over to the AWS platform, and welcome its boundless computing power, we can experiment and iterate on our core product at pace.”

Rees said Xero can now leverage the increased investment AWS has made in platform services to build and deploy software with shorter delivery timeframes.

“By using the on-demand computing power of AWS, we can release new software more rapidly, and experiment with these features in ways that were not possible on our older platform,” he explained.

“Our focus on completing one of the largest data migrations to the AWS platform sets Xero up to deliver fast-paced innovation, leverage machine learning technology, improve margins, increase uptime and security and drive better business outcomes to help small businesses flourish.”

Scalability

Built across AWS data centres in the US, Rees said the migration is designed to allow for customer growth, increased application innovation and a reduction in downtime.

“It’s not enough for Xero to be available within our service level objectives,” he added. “It’s important for us to know that our applications can scale to meet customer demand, even on the busiest days of the month.”

Unsurprisingly for a cloud accounting company, Xero systems are busiest on the 1st and 20th of every month, as well as the days leading up to tax filing deadlines.

“The elasticity available to us within AWS allows us to scale out our servers to meet those times of high user demand, delivering more consistent performance to our customers, even during the busiest times of the day,” Rees added.

“But the most important innovations don’t just speed up our business opportunities - they protect them too.”

As explained by Rees, Xero has implemented a number of new systems on AWS that allow customers to better protect accounts, such as two-step Authentication (2SA) or User Login History.

“Our systems on AWS will now actively identify strange login behaviours, and notify the customer directly,” he added.

“High growth environments have changed the way security needs to be delivered - we need to be able to protect and defend our environment while we move at a blistering pace.

“To protect the financial data of millions of users, we’ve taken the best of enterprise security platforms and merged it with the next generation of platform technology, like AWS, to build our overall security strategy.”

Cloud

During the past 12 months, Xero has shipped more than 1,400 product updates and features, becoming the one of the first accounting platforms to go all-in on the cloud.

“We’ve maintained our innovative edge ever since,” Rees said.

“The move to the AWS platform enables us to continue to deliver game-changing products and features which drive better business outcomes, improve access to capital and boost productivity.

“We’re beginning to see the power of AWS’s investment in services, that allow the increased adoption of new technologies inside Xero with shorter lead times.”

For Rees, it’s an opportunity which has required years of “heavy lifting”, coupled with “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment”, to reach this stage of the company’s transformation.

“We’re not a traditional software licence company,” he said. “We’re using software to rewire the economy and it’s this global framework that’s enabled us to transform how small businesses work.”

As the migration process comes to a close, Rees said Xero is aligning closely with AWS to leverage the power of the cloud platform in the years ahead.

“With the ability to plug-and-play complex big data analytics and machine learning tools, the partnership helps provide greater insights and tools that we can build to empower accountants and bookkeepers around the world,” he added.

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