Blue Prism + AWS: Ask Us Anything

By Melanie Giuliani posted 12-13-2021 16:00

  

We were delighted to be joined by Blue Prism product experts Rob Coates and Bill Gauthier for our very first LIVE Community AMA session covering the newly announced strategic partnership between Blue Prism and AWS.

We had some truly great questions around the strategic partnership come in via social media and live on the call. Please see below for the Q&A transcript and video recording of the full session, which was held on December 7, 2021.


Q: What AWS services are able to be integrated with the Blue Prism offering on AWS?


A: So the services that come out of the box on our AWS Marketplace listing are AWS Textract, Comprehend, and Rekognition. So that's document understanding, natural language, and image analysis. We have, however, loaded up over a hundred connectors to the AWS services on our Digital Exchange. And many of those can be downloaded and imported into the Blue Prism studio with just a couple clicks.

We also have recently partnered with Nime to integrate with their native AWS photo three integration. And with that, you can gain access to the 175 generally available services through that communication.

Q: How are customers scaling their digital workers on AWS?


A: So when we talk about scaling, there's a couple different things. If you're talking about scaling processes and doing the different work on AWS, what we've recently announced and gone live with is the Blue Prism Process Intelligence Tool, which is a great way to take your processing and task mining and see what's really going on with your processes. So that you can optimize them as well as build a case to automate them. And then while capturing those details, you can import that directly into the Blue Prism Studio and speed up the time of delivery there.

If we talk about more of the scaling of infrastructure, the operation of the digital workforce on AWS comes with a lot of different preferences by customers. One of the perks of AWS operations is the on-demand nature of many of their services. So you may have some that are running, some that are stopped, anything like that and we can really classify the operation of digital workers into a different pool of hot, warm, and cold. So your hot digital workers are... They're ready to work. They are started, the services are running, everything's ready to go, they're registered. And you may have your full pool of workers that are running 24/7 as well as any additional workers that could be placed in a worker pool and take over any work, if there were a failure with some of the main digital workers.

Then your warm pool would be ones that are used in production, but maybe in a stop state. This would be any time that your workload isn't utilizing the full amount of licenses you have. If your Saturday and Sunday are pretty light, you may not need to have all 100 digital workers up and running. And this can save on some of your infrastructure costs. The orchestration of these service can be done with a on and off schedule through AWS. It can be done by a trigger of a AWS monitored service, something like CloudWatch or the actual orchestration can be done in the Blue Prism workflow. So you can look at things like your QSLAs or run them on a more demand operation. The startup of these servers really just takes two to three minutes and they're up and running ready to go. So it's very quick and easy to scale your workforce that way.

Then your third option would be a cold category, which is deployed as an image or a scripted install over a AWS template. And this takes a little bit longer. This is more of like a 10 to 15 minutes. So it's not as on demand as some of the warm operations are. And you know, this again is handled by the scheduled start and stop an Auto Scaling group monitoring services or the Blue Prism orchestration itself. And again, customer preference really comes down to it. And a lot of customers will have various pools of these digital workers running in these different states. And it's all depending on what their flavor of choice is and what eases the management of those resources.

Q: Is this a new SaaS offering on AWS?


A: So today we have the ability to self-manager licenses through the Bring-Your-Own-License offering on the AWS marketplace, as well as the ability to buy some licenses through the, a AWS marketplace. What we tease during our strategic partnership at Nashville with AWS is that we will have a on demand consumption based licensing model, to be available on the AWS marketplace next year in 2022.

Q: How can I try Blue Prism on AWS?


A: The easiest way would be to register on the Blue Prism portal and request an evaluation license. Once you're registered and set up with that, you get access to all the training modules and the product documentation to help you get installed and get up and running. If you take that license and go over to the AWS marketplace and use our Bring-Your-Own-License option. That cuts down all the installation. You're ready to get up and running and start designing your automations very rapidly.

Q: Blue Prism has a lot of capabilities towards citizen development while AWS has services like SageMaker, which you have to know languages like Python to use them. With this partnership through connectors, et cetera, can the AWS services be utilized while maintaining the citizen development characteristic?


A: So I don't know if you've seen and I haven't got a chance to test it out, but AWS released a more low code SageMaker offering. I believe it's called SageMaker Canvas or something, that may be an option if that's something you want to do. But the majority of the way we use something like SageMaker would be that your data science team may develop all the models and then Blue Prism's able to operationalize that model. We could look at something like fraud detection. If we take the transaction, use the connector that we have on the digital exchange to invoke that endpoint and, ask if this specific transaction is fraud. When we get the response back, yes, this is fraud or no, it's not. Then we can route that transaction to decide how we want handle it. If it's fraud, we may flag it up the chain, have somebody look at it for human review. Otherwise, proceed as normal and continue on with the automation.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using virtual machines versus physical computers to run Blue Prism automations with AWS?


A: That is a lot of the value proposition of Cloud, right? This availability to have your images running on AWS makes it more resilient. You could start a new one up if something failed. There's a level of automatic recovery that's available there as well. If you're talking physical computers under your desk, there's a lot of movement in the IT realm to get away from that space. We're meeting the customer where they want to be, which is on AWS.

Q: How often do the digital exchange assets for AWS get updated, is there a way to find out?


A: The assets are updated per instance, so something comes up, they may release a new service, we would publish it then. If there's a new version of the API, we would go in and update it. If there's a customer request or an issue found in any of the connectors, we would go back and update that. The way that you would be notified of an update would be to, when you go to download it from the digital exchange, it gives you an option to subscribe and then you're added to the list. Anything that gets updated, new version of all that will get notified by email.

Q: Can we have robots running on Azure cloud or can we run both BP server and BP clients on cloud?


A: The answer would be yes, you could have a hybrid deployment if you had certain applications in Azure and you wanted to run the bots over there or you could have it all contained on AWS. You could also as long as all the networking is in place and you're able to communicate between the runtime resources and the app server. It could be Azure, it could be on GCP, it could be located, co-located on AWS or even on premise.

Q: What is recommended to be used for DB, RDS, SQL on EC2 or Aurora?


A: Aurora today does not support Microsoft SQL server, I don't believe so that one's out and you're left with RDS or SQL on that EC2. Then that comes down to the choice of the customer, really. RDS lets AWS take over some of that configuration management and security. Lets you take some of the work off of your database administrator. Some customers may prefer the full control to let their database administrators handle the full operating system and software stack so, that they're handling the backups, the replication, the clustering and it depends on the customer's choice. If they want hands off approach, they may use the managed service. If they want to get real granular and have full control, it would be a sequel farm running on EC2s.

Q: How do I get started, I'm on premise, what do I need to consider before moving to the cloud?


A: The considerations of moving to the cloud are similar to an evaluation of your existing architecture. You have to think about what applications are installed that you're automating against and be able to replicate that in the cloud so, that there may be something where you need to take your thin client installed on the server. You have to make sure that application can traverse to VPN. The biggest thing that I recommend is, planning. You need to have a full plan end to end before you start just throwing things up there. You have to do the migration planning. What processes you're going to start with, are you going to start with brand new processes and just load them up there or you're going to pick two or three of your minor processes and start and test them out.

Then you have to build the platform, everything has to be secured. Build your VPN, join it to the domain, get everything tested there and then actually start migrating your processes. You'll do a development, usually put them in the QA and go into production. You may have two environments running next to each other and a blue-green deployment, so some will be running on AWS, some will be running on premise until you get everything shifted over. All that has to be planned out from the beginning or else you can end up halfway through and not know which direction you really want to take.

Now let me add in there, the good news is we are working with AWS on a migration assessment package. That'll be funded by AWS through credits. They also have migration assessment tools and other go to market plans and funding to help support customers who are looking to do that. There's plenty of resources available to help, if you're looking to do that and all you need to do is get ahold of us here at Blue Prism and we can help you get that process started or get ahold of your AWS rep and they can help you as well.

Yeah, in that case, we would make sure you're asking all the right questions. Make sure you've thought about everything you need to think about. Help you pick out the strategy of what timelines you want, which processes to move over and get you all planned out.

Q: Is moving to the cloud going to impact my existing applications to Blue Prism?


A: The answer could be yes, anytime you're entering a new environment, things could change. If your target applications are web based applications, not a lot of concern there, it's going to be the same thing, the process should run the same in the cloud. If you're looking at some of the homegrown or legacy applications that may need to traverse that VPN tunnel. You'll have to build that connection between the Blue Prism network and any external network, so that whether it's through a VPN tunnel, VPC peering or a AWS direct connect, those applications have to be able to communicate with what's installed in the server. It's worth noting that those target applications that are traverse in that tunnel, they need to have the proper bandwidth and latency to make themselves work. You can have problems with the applications themselves as you move it into a cloud-based environment. It's just something that needs to be tested and planned out before you run in production with that too.

Yeah, good to keep that in mind as people are moving forward onto the cloud.

It's worth noting that if you've built your applications with best or automation with best practices, with something like the intelligent weight stage, a lot of the small issues and latency there should be acceptable to the automation in the cloud.

Q: Why choose AWS as a cloud provider?


A: As most of you have hopefully seen or heard, we have just signed a strategic collaboration agreement with AWS. It's a very big a deal for us, for any ISV. In fact, we just found out at AWS re:Invent, we were one of only 26 ISVs out of whatever this 19,000 or whatever the number is now, that is entered into an SCA with them in the last year. They only did 20 of them last year, so it is a very special recognition for lack of a better term of the opportunity to do a lot of joint work together. In addition to that, as many folks have seen we're already starting to deploy a lot of solutions, both like service assist and our own solutions. We even have some partners like Invoke who started to create some solutions, the-

Have some partners like Invoke who've started to create some solutions that are going to sit on top of AWS in this ecosystem as well. We're partnering very closely with the intelligent automation solutions group there solutions team to help drive a lot of these solutions that customers, that their customers have been asking for, that our customers have been asking for. So you'll start to see a lot more pointed solutions then of course, as we indicated earlier in 2022, we'll have an on demand product available, which will be really the first of its kind in many ways, and that's just going to help customers further and it down the line to be able to accelerate these solutions. So hopefully that, that gives enough [inaudible 00:16:46] to do that. And then of course from an engineering perspective, we will be leading a lot of our efforts with AWS as we develop products. So, we'll continue to support our customers wherever they are always, but in terms of prioritization and focus clearly with this announcement, we're doubling down a lot on our work with AWS.

Q: What limitations have companies seen with using AWS and ended up having to purchase additional technology?


A: Maybe we can clarify that a little bit more. What specific technology would that be referring to? A lot of times, if their customer is just starting out with AWS, they may lean on a managed service provider to really help them deploy and make everything's built right in AWS. As far as limitations, I can't think of anything specific that you would have to go to a different technology for if you're talking about pure AIML, some of some, there may be some limitations in what they're producing there and maybe a different partner produces a little bit better results depending on the specific use case. But we can expand on that further if there's any clarification.

Yeah, and like all things, right? There's some things that are going to work better in a customer's partners environment than others. So depending on what they're doing, how they're running. Occasionally the AWS load balancer, for example, can be a little bit sticky, but there's a dozen other products that would easily serve. So the customers is looking to deploy there, it might be a decision that they want to make going into it, for example, but that's the only one that really sticks up off of the top of my head. And there are ways of making that work as well. 

Q:  Does AWS have data centers in the middle east? And what are the plans to expand?


A: AWS does have a region in middle east. I believe it's Bahrain or something like that. And that region does have two or three data centers associated with it. I saw an announcement, I don't know if it was at Reinvent or prior to that, where they planned to have a region at UAE coming in 2022. So I don't know if there are any expansions further than that, but you'll have two regions of operations to reduce any cross region latency there.

Yeah, I think I did see it was three data centers down there. So, for now.

Q: Do you have any success stories of using Blue Prism on AWS?


A: So we have a couple public facing customer success stories, one being Cisco who's processing inbound customer orders from digital facts using Blue Prism along with AWS extract. So they extract the printed and handwritten data within those forms. And they've processed over 6 million transactions in that time and returned over a quarter million, eight hours back to the business. Then there's Morton salt. Who's running on AWS with a partner solution for sales order processing. That's from Invoke using their Aria platform, which is also currently available on the AWS marketplace. That solution provides sales order processing with a fully out of the box SAP integration. And I believe they're doing somewhere north of a hundred thousand sales orders annually. All of which would've been done by hand before.

We have many, many, many customers, as you can imagine that are deployed there, not as many case studies as we have, but we are actively working on of those. We do have a large telco that is also working with service assist and seeing tremendous results. Unfortunately, not publicly disclosable, but I know their call times have come down from seven minutes, a call to two minutes, a call. So you can imagine what that does to the ROI and on that investment. So, and that was with a significant downturn in the number of reps as well. So those numbers are, are even more impressive when you consider the total context. So yeah, a lot of customers having tremendous success using the cloud especially when they marry it up with some of these solutions and with the cloud technologies that AWS and others bring to the table.

Q: Can we get one to one support from Blue Prism during the transition from on premise to cloud?


A: So the migration assessment package that we're working on basically would give you about two weeks of paid work with Blue Prism professional services or a partner, depending on of course how popular this gets. But, but yeah, there'll be an need to work with Blue Prism professional service folks. And of course, we'll work closely with the AWS account teams, as we always do whenever they're mutually involved, we've done this with a couple customers and with a lot of success. So just really helping engage with AWS at the beginning of the process to know what we're trying to do from a deployment guide perspective with the Blue Prism environment, getting it into AWS.

But as Rob has mentioned, we've done in a lot of deployment scenarios in including BYOL and others that enable customers to quickly get up and running. The other piece of wanted to add in quickly too, while we're talking about this is the great opportunity to leverage your, your EVP dollars, your enterprise discount program spend that you already have on AWS. So, because we do have an offer in marketplace, when you want to go buy your digital workers, we do have an ability to work with you and sell those to you through private offer and get those to you with your discounted pricing.

Q: Rob and Bill, do you guys have anything you'd like to add any anecdotes around Blue Prism and AWS?


A: Yeah, I'll take a quick opportunity to say thank you to our customers here for joining us today. And just let everybody know how excited we are about this AWS partnership. If that hasn't come through yet, it really is a tremendous opportunity to bring the two big players in this space, both AWS, really owning cloud and Blue Prism having invented and created RPA as it were. So, to be able to bring us together and to have these phenomenal solutions that we're working on and a list as long as you can imagine of use cases that customers are requesting around AIML. That will be enabling with this intelligent automation partnership. There's an intelligent automation report that AWS has just put out, that you'll be able to get off of our website.

And you'll see some promotion coming around that. And from AWS itself, I think that's going to be hosted in or posted into LinkedIn. So you'll see some information sharing coming out about that, but that's a great place to get started as well to learn and understand more about what we're doing together and about how Blue Prism works and plays with AWS. So, yeah, with that in mind, I've been on this journey for three years, I started the partnership with AWS. So I'm extremely thrilled to see it, get to this point and just very happy to be able to help our customers, meet them where they're going as it were. 

Q: Rob, you mentioned that the idea would be for your data scientist team to build an AWS and Blue Prism to connect those endpoints. Does that mean the expectation doesn't include for RPA developers to necessarily learn ML and NLP?


A: I wouldn't say the expectation of a RPA developer would be to learn the ins and outs of programming machine learning NLP. A lot of, I'll be careful, but a lot of the AWS services come with pre-train models for NLP or OCR, and all you're really doing is consuming those. I would place the knowledge of how to consume those services within the RPA developer, but beyond that, it's up to the customer and the roles that they've identified for that developer position. And are they going to extend into the ML world or are they going to do the programming of certain other automations? That's all really up to what your ambition is and what your customers expect or your employers expectations are. I do think that the RPA developer is in a very good position to branch out and learn more technologies as they experience and integrate with certain technologies and may want to dive more into those. So, that's really up to your preference on how far you want to go.

Q: We are using Blue Prism with locally installed Office 365 application. Can we continue using local applications if we use Blue Prism via AWS, or do we need to use them via the cloud?


A: So if you didn't want to extend any of those applications into the cloud, I believe there are licensing issues from Microsoft to AWS using O365. You can use some of the alternative options. If you were doing something like Google Sheets, which is available, you could use that, or if you had a hybrid model where some of the digital workers were deployed on premise, you could continue using those without any license concerns. And that one digital worker could be doing all of the interaction with office products there. There's a variety of different options and that's something that we could expand upon and find the right solution for if you want to reach out to us.

Q: Are there Blue Prism reference architectures available?


A: Yes, we do have a reference architectures available for AWS. I'm pretty sure you can find that on our community page, certainly in Showpad and it can be requested as well. We do have an AWS page on blueprism.com. So you should be able to find links there. And if you do find the industry report, I know we have links on that page to all that information as well.

Webcast Replay

Please see below for the full recording of the event.

AWS Ask Us Anything Community Webinar

Thank you all for the questions, and to our experts for giving up their time to answer them. If you have any further questions on the topic - please post on our Blue Prism Product Community where community members will be ready to help you answer your queries.

Many thanks.


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