We see ourselves as an ecosystem that combines best-in-class solutions to deliver the highest value to our customers. A key pillar of our ecosystem is AWS – both as a cloud infrastructure provider and as a strong technology partner at our side.
In this expert interview, our CTO Szilard Toth explains the benefits of our partnership.
Szilard, why is epilot built on a cloud infrastructure? And what are the reasons for choosing AWS as a hosting provider?
One clear advantage of a cloud infrastructure is maximum security – because it is a misconception that data is more secure on your own servers. The major cloud infrastructure providers subject themselves to the highest security standards and, with the latest technologies and the brightest minds, have many more options for responding to attacks than outdated system landscapes. They also boast the highest availability times on the market to ensure absolute reliability. In addition, a decisive reason is the almost unlimited scalability: Even if numerous large utilities manage their entire customer base in epilot, the platform remains fast and secure at all times.
AWS’ cloud infrastructure is world-leading – making AWS the ideal partner to manage our IT infrastructure serverless, autonomously, securely and reliably. Infrastructure management tasks, such as server or cluster provisioning, patching, OS maintenance, and capacity provisioning, can be completely outsourced to AWS. In addition, although AWS is global with 77 availability zones, there is the option to keep the data exclusively in Germany, which is very important for many of our customers.
As a normal software user, you don’t notice the hosting in the background – apart from security and scalability, what are the concrete advantages for our customers?
For our customers, hosting on AWS has the advantage that with epilot we can focus on the continuous expansion of our software and the development of value-adding functions. Access to standardized services from AWS significantly shortens the development time for new functions. Third-party solutions can also be quickly and easily integrated into epilot with AWS. This allows our customers to unify their IT landscape by, for example, connecting billing solutions with epilot to map the entire process from lead generation to invoicing end-to-end.
Can you give examples of epilot services that are based on AWS services?
One example is Amazon SES (Simple Email Service), on which our communication within epilot is based. The service allows users to send emails directly from the process to customers or partners. An individual subdomain can be set in order to unify the brand appearance towards the customer.
Another example is the authentication service with Amazon Cognito, which we recently implemented to make the registration and log-in of epilot users even more secure. Via Amazon Cognito, we can offer multi-factor authentication as well as single sign-on procedures or the integration of social identity providers such as Facebook or Google. Using the customer portal as an example, this would allow customers to simply log in using their Facebook, Amazon, Apple or Google account and there would be no need to create a separate account. In times when users are overloaded with log-ins through various apps and portals, this is an important step towards a better customer experience.
What are the next steps together?
Just like epilot, AWS continues to evolve at a rapid pace of innovation: the number of new features launched per year has increased more than twelvefold since 2012. For us, this means that there are also continuous new opportunities to extend the functionality of epilot with AWS Services. To this end, we are in close exchange with the AWS teams. One topic that will be relevant for us in the future is artificial intelligence. Being able to intelligently answer customer questions in the customer portal with a chatbot, predicting whether a customer is considering canceling their electricity contract based on customer behavior, or even automatically transcribing customer service phone calls are use cases that would enrich our platform. Other opportunities include gamification approaches to increase customer engagement in the customer portal – again, AWS provides services for rapid implementation.
In addition to using AWS services, AWS also serves as a cloud expert to our customers. For many of our customers, especially smaller municipal utilities, epilot is the first step into a modern IT architecture. If they want to bring more components of their architecture to the cloud, AWS can help with cloud migration.