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New Zealand Trip Report

If there was ever any doubt about the power each of us have, this week proved that one person makes a real difference. I am midway two-week trip to New Zealand and Australia, and writing this post from New Zealand. The person that I’m talking about is Nick Jones let me explain how this evangelism trip came about, and along the way Ill talk a bit about what I found once here.

How the Trip Came About
Amazons own Jeff Barr came up with an idea that has changed the course of evangelismat least here at Amazon Web Services. We have a wiki at that allows community members to request that we come to them, rather than some centralized process where we decide who should hear about Amazon Web Services. And so in this case Nick posted a request that Amazon send a Web Services evangelist down under. I replied to Nick to say sure, but not just for one meeting. Must have been a challenge check out the wiki page for this trip and you’ll see just how dense the schedule is. Nick wasn’t responsible for every meeting; however a large percentage of these meetings in both New Zealand and Australia were due to his efforts.

The Result
Lots of opportunity to meet with the academic/research community (Nick works at the University of Auckland), government agencies, startups, and individual developers on this trip. Its amazing what you learn especially when others set the agenda. I am going to describe just a few highlights, which will shortchange others who reinforced the same point; but given the number of meetings its the only approach possible.

New Zealand is a long way from traditional tech centers, and there is a single undersea cable that serves the country (although a second one is on the way). The result is that Internet access is expensive, with a wholesale cost of $0.03/MB to communicate with North America. So the research community makes use of KAREN, a network that is funded by the NZ government and that eliminates that transit feeas long as the other end has a peering agreement. None of this seems to affect the local startup scene though, as I’ll describe shortly.

Every city seemed to have a take-charge person. In Christchurch there were two: with Robin Harrington taking the lead at the University of Canterbury, and Christopher Sawtell leading the charge for the Linux group. Robin set up a series of sessions with researches and faculty on campus. It’s always exciting to see people think about what these new Web service offerings afford in the way of potential and cost savings. And I was able to learn more about the university and what their needs are. The campus is on a very large piece of land; yet the actual buildings are compact so that there is lots of very lush green space. Kiwis are definitely into “green”–in both the garden and environmental sense.
As mentioned, the other Christchurch leaders were long-time officers of the local Linux user group. They went well out of their way to accommodate my schedule and arrange a meeting on a non-normal night. Then they even invited me out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Great place to eat! We met on the university campus; you know it’s a comp sci department when the name on the lab door says “Crypt 2”.
The Kiwi research community has access to the highest number of supercomputers per capita in the world. These were used for at least part of the rendering of Lord of the Rings, a fact that many techies say thank you for.
Wellington has a vibrant Web community, and seems to be a hotbed of tech startups. The original intent was that I’d present to a few local startups. The event kept growing on its own until Catalyst Consulting stepped in and agreed to host it. Then it got bigger yet, presenting venue challenges… Don Christie from Catalyst posted a blog entry about the meeting, where I presented to a group of well over 100 people (believe that it was closer to 150), in a packed incubation center. Wow, what energy! What the folks in the room didn’t realize was that from the balcony outside the meeting I was able to see the neighborhood where I lived briefly many years ago (in the background of this photo). What a distraction! Another blog post by a different attendee is here.
In Hamilton I met with one of New Zealand’s largest Web design firms. They have all sorts of innovation in their reference list; not least of which was setting themselves up as an Internet registrar. Like so many others, they were enthusiastic and excited about the potential of Web-Scale Computing. At this point I also switched to renting a car–was a combination of destinations in suburban areas and a late-night travel schedule to Auckland. The rental vehicle reminded me that New Zealand uses the other side of the road, and that I should too…

Finally, Auckland is a more traditional business community but still full of tech startups. Had an opportunity to meet with some of them as well. In both Wellington and Auckland I realized how hands-on the government is about promoting their software industry as an export. The folks in NZTE (New Zealand Trade & Export) were impressive–unlike a typical government agency these staff members come from the software industry, and have a very realistic view of the world. There are plenty of success stories in New Zealand’s software industry that don’t involve government agencies, of course; however being promoted as an export industry definitely provides lift.

I finally met Nick on Thursday.

Who wants to be next? Nick and the rest of the New Zealand community set the bar…

— Mike

Modified 2/9/2021 – In an effort to ensure a great experience, expired links in this post have been updated or removed from the original post.
Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr is Chief Evangelist for AWS. He started this blog in 2004 and has been writing posts just about non-stop ever since.