Jobs, sustainability and cloud tech: The future of AWS in Ireland

9 Jun 2021

Mark Finlay. Image: Amazon Web Services

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.

Mark Finlay, AWS’s head of public sector in Ireland, said the economic impact of the company is even greater according to a recent report.

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.”

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com