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AWS re:Invent – the Big Announcements and Implications
AUTHORS: S. Somasegar and Tim Porter

The momentum continues to build and scale in leaps and bounds. That’s the overwhelming observation and feeling at the end of the 5th annual conference that Amazon hosted in Las Vegas last week for AWS (Amazon Web Services).

Here are some of the key take-aways that we think will have the highest industy impact.

Event-driven Functions and Serverless Computing

Serverless has definitely arrived. As expected, there were a number of new capabilities announced around Lambda, including C# language support, AWS Lambda@Edge to create a “CDN for Compute” and AWS Step Functions to coordinate the components of distributed applications using visual workflows through state machines. Beyond this, it was clear that Lambda, and the serverless approach overall, is being broadly woven into the fabric of AWS services.

In the world of event-driven functions, thinking about a standard way for people to publish events that make it easy to consume those events is going to be critical. Whichever platform gets there first will likely see a tremendous amount of traction.

Innovation in Machine and Deep Learning

AWS has had a machine learning service for a while now, and it was interesting to see a whole slew of new machine learning, deep learning and AI suite of services including Amazon Image Rekognition, Amazon Polly (Text to Speech deep learning service) and Amazon Lex (Natural Language Understanding engine inside Alexa that is now available as a service).

While the concrete use cases are still relatively spare, we – like Amazon – believe this functionality will be integrated into the functionality of virtually all applications in the future.

It is also clear that the proprietary data used to train models are what create differentiated and unique intelligent apps. The distinction between commodity and proprietary data is going to be critical as algorithms become more of a commodity.

Enterprise Credibility

In past years, whether it was intended or unintended, the perception was that taking a bet on AWS meant taking a bet on the public cloud. In other words, there was an unintended consequence of AWS as “all in on public cloud or nothing”. With the VMWare partnership, which was announced a couple months ago, but solidified on stage with VMWare’s CEO, Amazon clearly is supporting the hybrid infrastructure that many enterprises will be dealing with for years to come.

Equally noteworthy was the appearance of Aneel Bhusri, CEO of Workday, on stage to announce that Workday was moving to AWS as their primary cloud for production workloads. Clearly no longer just the realm of primarily dev and test, this is perhaps the strongest statement yet that the public cloud – and AWS in particular – is enterprise production capable.

Moving Up a Layer From a Set of Discrete Services to Solution-based Services

One big theme that showed through this year at AWS was the movement from a set of discrete services to complete solutions both for developers and for operators of applications and services. The beauty of this all is that AWS continues to move forward on this path in a way that is highly empowering for developers and operators.

This approach really shone through during Werner Vogels keynote on Day 2. He laid out AWS’ approach for the “modern data architecture” and then announced how the new service AWS Glue (fully managed data catalog and ETL service) covers all the missing pieces in terms of their end-to-end solution for a modern data architecture on AWS.

Eat the Ecosystem

One of the implications of AWS’ continued growth towards complete solutions is that they continue to eat into the domain of their partner ecosystem. This has been an implied theme in years past, but the pace is accelerating.

Some of the examples that drew the biggest notice:

• AWS X-Ray (analyze and debug distributed applications in production) which aims directly at current monitoring companies like New Relic, AppDynamics and Datadog
• AWS Lightsail (virtual private servers made easy) that, at $5/month, will put significant pressure on companies like Digital Ocean and Linode
• Rekognition (image recognition, part of AI suite described above) that provides a service very similar to Clarifai, who had actually been on a slide just a few prior to the service announcement!

No one should be surprised that AWS’ accelerating expansion will step on the toes of partners. An implication, as @benkepes tweeted, is that the best way to partner and extend AWS is to go very deep for a given use case because AWS will eventually provide the most common horizontal scenarios.

Partner Success = AWS Success

Although some of the new services conflicted with partner offerings, the other side of the coin was that AWS continues to embrace partners and is vested in partners’ success. They clearly understand that having their partners be successful ultimately contributes to more success for AWS. Having customers like Salesforce, WorkDay and Twilio take a complete bet on AWS , making the product of a partner like Chef be available as a fully-managed service on AWS, having a partner like Netflix excited to switch off their last datacenter as they are completely on AWS, and having a company like VMWare embrace AWS as their public cloud partner are some of the great examples of how Amazon is systematically working to ensure that their partners remain successful on AWS, all of which accrues more value and consumption of AWS.

Summary

The cloud opportunity is gigantic and there is room for multiple large players to have a meaningful position strength. However, as of today, Amazon is not just the clear leader but continues to stride forward in an amazing way.

First Published by Geekwire.

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