How Silver Lining Helps Companies Take Advantage of AWS in China

"AWS has always been at the heart of our startup’s strategy."

Mark Kong, Chief Technology Officer at Silver Lining 

Expanding Technological Capabilities Across Borders

As companies grow, many seek to expand to different markets across various regions. In today’s digital-first world, the ways in which companies can reach a global customer base have changed. Building both a physical and digital business presence in a new region, such as China, can be a complex process full of nuances that companies headquartered elsewhere in the world may not be aware of.

Doing business in China is complicated by the country’s rapidly developing regulatory environment, firewall and virtual private networks (VPNs) restrictions, intellectual property laws, and China Data Protection Regulations (CDPR), China’s cybersecurity law that took effect in 2017 and requires critical information infrastructure operators (CIIOs) store personal information and important data collected and generated within the territory of the PRC. For companies getting started in China, learning how to navigate the technical landscape, capabilities, and regulations in China can seem daunting.

Silver Lining’s mission is to become a trusted advisor and long-term partner to Chinese companies and global companies looking to expand into China, and to help them take advantage of AWS in China.

“AWS has always been at the heart of our startup’s strategy,” says Mark Kong, chief technology officer at Silver Lining. “Shortly after AWS China launched in 2014, we began our business with a clear strategy built on enabling customers on AWS. We set a goal to become one of the largest AWS consulting partners in China, a goal that we’ve achieved as we’ve continued to build our business. In 2016, we became an AWS MSP Partner program member, and in 2017, we reached the AWS Partner Network Premier Consulting Partner tier.”

Today, Silver Lining also holds the AWS Migration Competency in China and is an AWS Solution Provider.  

Helping Businesses Traverse the Chinese IT Landscape

As a born-in-the-cloud consulting company, Silver Lining began by focusing on cloud integration and consulting projects. Silver Lining’s role often begins in an advisor capacity, helping customers understand key differences between AWS China and AWS global capabilities while providing continuous education, solutions, and strategies to existing customers using AWS services in China.

The Silver Lining team is at the forefront of building expertise in new AWS services. “We are typically among the first AWS Consulting partners to adopt AWS services and we are constantly developing new tooling while adopting advanced features that AWS is rolling out,” says Kong. “For example, we’ve used AWS Lambda and taken advantage of serverless architecture internally. We’ve gained expertise in this area through our own experimentation and usage. We’re able to educate our customers, particularly their development teams, through our own examples. We can walk through pros and cons of different services and show customers how they can use particular services and build internal competency and expertise.”

As the company identified new ways with which it could evolve and grow its business, it saw great potential in building a cloud managed service practice, both from a revenue perspective and when evaluating areas in which its customer base could benefit from its expertise and continuous evolution on AWS.

“We wanted to achieve greater business growth and stability while being able to provide a wider breadth of services and support to customers beginning their cloud journeys,” says Kong. “Most of our managed services customers begin as customers we engage on a per-project, professional service basis, who are looking for support and guidance as they seek to seamlessly adopt the AWS Cloud in China.” Silver Lining realized that to play a key role in helping customers continuously optimize their AWS environments and take advantage of the company’s expertise and use of AWS tooling, they needed to build an AWS MSP practice.

“Many third-party cloud tools, such as cost optimization software, aren’t available in China yet as they are in other areas of the world. Because of this fact and so we could offer new value added services to our customers as we developed our MSP practice, we built our own cloud management platform from scratch,” says Kong.  

Using Automation and AWS-Native Tooling to Help Companies Focus on Business Growth Strategies

“At the heart of our managed service practice is our software-as-a-service platform, CloudEasy, which is an in-house platform comprised mainly of an e-ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) operation platform and an e-Billing account management platform,” says Kong. “CloudEasy was developed to proactively address customer needs in China and automate some of the crucial tasks that we must be able to address for our customers while we manage and optimize their workloads on AWS. We want to help our customers as they seek to invest more into understanding how they can use AWS to meet business needs.”

Automation is key to Silver Lining’s success with AWS. Through the company’s ‘automate everything’ mentality, which influences its internal development and delivery teams and the services it is able to offer its customers, the company stays agile and small while scaling its business and taking on new clients.

“If we want to be able to sustain our growth and scale our team effectively, we need to be very thoughtful and cautious about how we maintain our productivity,” says Kong. “We rely on our platforms to do a lot of internal automation. For example, we leverage Machine Learning technologies on AWS. We built our own machine learning framework for automatic triggers and responses within customer environments.”

By using machine learning (ML) on AWS, Silver Lining can understand and consistently gain new intelligence to shape its understanding of customers’ environments, enabling the company to proactively and automatically respond to events and changes. “We believe that long-term, ML will become our most important tool to enable automation within our maintenance teams and offerings,” says Kong.

Silver Lining has developed a cloud Center of Excellence (CoE) in which different team members develop specific expertise in distinct focus areas such as ML, data analytics, open source, and solution architecture. The company is focused on fostering strong DevOps practices and a culture of collaboration across its teams, including its customer-focused architecture teams and maintenance teams along with its internally-focused product development team.

A priority for Kong is to focus efforts on building more DevSecOps practices by automating security operations. “Our enterprise customers are very focused on security and compliance, so our priority right now is continuing to build automation into our security operations,” says Kong. “Today, we integrate many AWS security services into our platform. For example, we collect logs using services like AWS CloudWatch Logs and VPC Flow Logs. We also use AWS Config for assessing and auditing AWS resource configuration.”  

Addressing the Full Customer Lifecycle and Marketing Expertise in China

Silver Lining is a four-year-old company, and thanks to its dedicated focus on AWS and its next-generation MSP practice, the company has grown substantially year-over-year. “Last year we grew the business by 400 percent. This year, we’ve grown the business over 300 percent thus far,” says Kong.

“As we’ve grown our MSP practice and developed expertise across use cases on AWS, we’ve developed many best practices we’re able to share internally and with customers,” says Kong. “We’re promoting our expertise and success through more sales and marketing campaigns while also conducting local workshops with customers and AWS. Through these processes, we’ve been able to attract many new customers.”

Another key resource Silver Lining has chosen to use to reach customers, educate technical stakeholders in China, and establish thought leadership in the market is WeChat, a multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app in China that’s one of the world’s largest standalone mobile applications. “We have a WeChat publishing channel through which we do a lot of blogging and we publish technical whitepapers,” says Kong. “The content is open to the public to consume. Our WeChat publication channel enables us to provide current and prospective customers with insights we’ve gained while building interest in the services and support we can provide.”

Kong credits the AWS MSP Partner Program with providing detailed guidance and information regarding what differentiated next-generation MSPs on AWS must be able to offer customers.

“We have a strong technology roadmap we’ve built as we continue to meet the requirements for the AWS MSP program that AWS has outlined through its audit checklist and through its general guidance,” says Kong. For example, currently on the roadmap is a plan to develop in-depth monitoring tooling for the company’s customers’ environments that go beyond the AWS infrastructure level and provide application monitoring as well as workload Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to infrastructure and the customer’s overall business.

“We’re expanding our teams and are gaining great coverage across China,” says Kong. “We are doing many mass migrations and we’re seeing a lot of focus on cloud-native, agile application development as our customers continue to ramp up.” 

Expanding Mary Kay’s Footprint in China

As an iconic cosmetics brand, Mary Kay does business in over 40 markets and has satellite offices globally. Mary Kay is headquartered in the United States, and since 1995, it has built a large business in China. In fact, China is now Mary Kay’s biggest market in the world.

As the company sought to develop its Chinese-based business and digitally transform to compete with new sales channels by developing a robust mobile e-commerce platform capable of high scalability, Mary Kay decided to migrate to and build on the cloud. The company chose to build on AWS for three reasons: the rich functionality of the AWS platform, AWS’ high reliability and scalability, and its automated operations management capabilities. While looking for a partner to help them throughout the full AWS lifecycle, Mary Kay identified Silver Lining as an AWS-focused cloud service provider and MSP with the experience and technology expertise it needed. Mary Kay engaged with Silver Lining to help build an environment on AWS in China with high reliability and business flexibility, cost optimization, and high performance.

With the help of Silver Lining, Mary Kay is taking advantage of a wide range of AWS-native services, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon Simple Notification Service and Simple Queue Service, AWS Config, AWS IoT, AWS Direct Connect, and AWS Lambda.

Mary Kay relies on Silver Lining’s CloudEasy management platform to automate a majority of Mary Kay’s operation and maintenance services while also using tools on AWS to automate alarm triggers as well as process events (such as operation and maintenance events) to conduct billing and log analysis at scale.

Using CloudEasy on AWS, Mary Kay has been able to better visualize its cloud resources and effectively manage and deploy IT resources, optimize cost and budget management processes, and improve IT department efficiency. Mary Kay estimates that its IT operating costs have decreased by as much as 60 percent, thanks to its use of CloudEasy and work with Silver Lining. By using AWS, Mary Kay feels it has a competitive advantage in China given the innovative technology AWS provides in the region and worldwide.  

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About Mary Kay

As an iconic cosmetics brand, Mary Kay does business in over 40 markets and has satellite offices globally. Mary Kay is headquartered in the United States, and since 1995, it has built a large business in China. In fact, China is now Mary Kay’s biggest market in the world.

Challenge

As the company sought to develop its Chinese-based business and digitally transform to compete with new sales channels by developing a robust mobile e-commerce platform capable of high scalability, Mary Kay decided to migrate to and build on the cloud.

Solution

Mary Kay relies on Silver Lining’s CloudEasy management platform to automate a majority of Mary Kay’s operation and maintenance services while also using tools on AWS to automate alarm triggers as well as process events (such as operation and maintenance events) to conduct billing and log analysis at scale.  

Benefit

Using CloudEasy on AWS, Mary Kay has been able to better visualize its cloud resources and effectively manage and deploy IT resources, optimize cost and budget management processes, and improve IT department efficiency. Mary Kay estimates that its IT operating costs have decreased by as much as 60 percent, thanks to its use of CloudEasy and work with Silver Lining.  

About Silver Lining

Silver Lining’s mission is to become a trusted advisor and long-term partner to Chinese companies and global companies looking to expand into China, and to help them take advantage of AWS in China. The company holds the AWS Migration Competency and is an AWS Solution Provider.