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What a difference a year can make at AWS.  In Andy Jassy’s AWS re:Invent 2015 Keynote address, which lasted just shy of 2 hours, he gave us some pretty stunning financial growth statistics and detailed the seven freedoms AWS provides its customers including; the freedom to build unfettered, to get the real value from your data, to get data into or out of the cloud easily, freedom from bad database relationships, freedom to migrate, freedom to secure your cake and eat it to, and freedom to say yes.

This year, in a presentation that lasted almost two and a half hours, Andy updated us on key corporate and re:Invent statistics, discussed the “4 Superpowers” AWS endows upon their customers and, along the way, introduced many significant new products and features that are sure to change the game moving forward. Here are the key things you can take away from this presentation:

  1. AWS continues its exponential growth and commitment to its customers

The participant headcount at re:Invent this year increased to over 32,000 (up from 19,000 in 2015), Live Stream viewership increased from 38,000 in 2015 to over 50,000 and breakout session increased from 248 to over 400 this year.  In that same time AWS has grown its business from a mere $7B run rate to over $13B and is by far the fas growing large scale technology company in the world. According to Gartner, AWS has several times the compute capacity of the next 14 cloud providers combined.  With their continued investment in new features and technologies it is safe to say this lead will remain well into the future.

  1. IT Professionals Need Even More Compute Options

Agility and speed are two of the main drivers compelling companies to move to the cloud (along with cost savings of course). AWS provides the most comprehensive line of products and deep functionality which enables companies to leverage the cloud to quickly adopt the cloud and speed new products and services to market.  Andy emphasized AWS core strategy of having more than one data center in each region to provide customers the resiliency they require and that they continue to launch new products and add new features to existing products in order to make the cloud even more valuable.

AWS has more compute products than anyone else in the market but that is not stopping them from expanding their offering.  Today AWS announced the following four new EC2 instance families:

  • T2 Family: Low-Cost Instances with Burstable Performance
    • xlarge with 16GiB (2x more) memory and 2 vCPU
    • 2xlarge with 32GiB Memory (4x more) and 2vCPU
  • New R4 Family: Next Generation Memory Optimized Instances
    • 88GiB memory (2x more) DDR4 (2x faster) L3 cache (1.8x larger) and 64 vCPUs (2x more)
  • New I3 Family: Next Generation I/O Intensive Instances
    • 3 million IOPs (9x more) 4.88GiB (2x more) 15 2TB MVMe SSD (2.3x more) and 64 vCPUs (2x more)
  • New C5 Family: Next Generation Compute Optimized Instances with Intel Skylake processors
    • 72 vCPUs (2x more), Skylake processor (2x greater performance), 12Gbps to EBS (3X greater throughput) and 144GiB memory (2.4x more)
  • New F1 family (Developer Preview): Instances with access to a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) which can be utilized to more quickly and efficiently execute code for application specific workloads like seismic data, genomics, and financial analysis to name just a few. With the new F1 instances users can now run custom logic on EC2 bringing custom hardware acceleration to anyone.

In addition to these new compute products AWS announced Elastic GPUs for EC2 in sizes from 1 GiB up to 8 GiBs to allow you to attach and use graphics GPUs with an EC2 instance in the same way as an EBS Volumes.  Another great new compute product announced today was Lightsail, which is in effect a Virtual Private Sever (VPS) made easy.  Lightsail truly revolutionizes VPS by making the deployment a simple three step process for as little as $5 per month.  Simply select your image, select your size, and pick a name and AWS does the rest (Launch VM, Attach SSD Storage, Manage IAM, Create Security Groups, setup DNS and create a Static IP) in the background. Now setting up a VPS is about as simple as it can get.

To quote Andy, “We love Ourselves Some Compute”, and it really shows with these new products.

  1. Companies Need Better Analytics, and AWS Can Deliver

The ability to understand your customers and business grows more critical every day.  AWS has a broad set of products including Amazon EMR, Elasticsearch, Kinesis, Redshift, QuickSite and Machine Learning. To compliment this comprehensive line of products AWS announced the launch of Amazon Athena. Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. This enables companies to query data without having to move data out of S3 or set up any infrastructure. You get fast results and pay only for the queries you run.

Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning are clearly advancing how computers are solving intuitive problems. The challenge with AI and Deep Learning has always been that it takes very skilled team to actually make use of these technologies.   AWS is working to bring the power of AI and Deep Learning to all developers through the release of the Amazon AI Services: Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Polly, and Amazon LEX.

  • Amazon Rekognition is an image recognition service that enables applications to easily recognize, search, and understand image details.
  • Amazon Polly is a new text to speech service with 47 voices and 27 languages.
  • Amazon LEX (It’s what’s inside Alexa) is a natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition service powered by deep learning which enable programmers to build natural conversational interactions in voice and text.
  1. It’s hard for Enterprises to Stay Relevant and Grow

Only 12 of the companies in the first Fortune 500 list are still there today.  To remain relevant and continue growing, enterprises need to be able to quickly capitalize on new technologies.  The ones that do not will most likely face extinction in the future.  Andy highlighted Workday, GE, Motorola, FINRA, and McDonald as companies who have used the cloud to either build or transform their business. Workday is a $1.5B company built from the ground up in the cloud.  GE has moved 9,000 applications to AWS.  Motorola is reinventing themselves as a communications platform using AWS services.  FINRA is a financial market surveillance company using big data analytics and elastic compute at a massive scale to surveil, analyze, and protect financial markets for the SEC.  FINRA chose AWS over traditional data centers not only for the cost savings, tooling, and elastic capabilities they provide but also sited security that is better than traditional private data-centers as being a major factor.  McDonalds POS system with two hundred thousand registers is now running on AWS.  Each of these companies can now bring new products and services to market faster and can easily scale to meet future demands.

  1. Companies Need to Move Away from Customer Hostile Databases

We have all heard or experienced horror stories of old world databases.  With their proprietary designs, lock-in pricing strategies, and punitive licensing agreements these databases have been at best a challenge for many customers. AWS has built a strategy to make open databases easier, more reliable, and faster to use with offerings that include MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and Aurora. Aurora provides the speed and availability of commercial databases with the cost-effectiveness of open source and has become their fas growing service ever (with 14k+ migrations to date).  And as of today Aurora now includes PostgreSQL support. The combination of these products make it much easier to move away from old world databases.

  1. Choosing between On Premise to Cloud is No Longer a Binary Decision

AWS is making it easier to deploy hybrid IT infrastructure.  Six weeks ago they announced a partnership with VMware to enable companies to run the same VMware software on AWS that they run in their data centers. This allows companies to use their existing VMware tools and seamlessly migrate workloads to and from the cloud greatly increasing flexibility while using the tools they are familiar with.

  1. IoT is About to Change in Dramatic Fashion

IoT devices typically have very limited resources on board.  To process information, the data has to be transported back to an on-premise or cloud datacenter.  This increases latency and bandwidth costs while exposing customers to potential connectivity disruptions. To address these issues, AWS announced Greengrass which embeds Lambda compute (and other AWS services) in connective devices to provide local compute, messaging, and data caching.  Soon Greengrass will be available on all Intel and Qualcomm IoT chips as well as Canonical and Annapurnalabs software.

  1. Your Gonna Need a Bigger Truck

Last year AWS launched Snowball a petabyte-scale data transport solution that uses secure appliances to transfer large amounts of data into and out of the AWS cloud. This product has been a huge success and after listening to users, they are expanding the service.  Today AWS announce AWS Snowball Edge providing 100Tb of storage, on-board computing and clustering capabilities, an S3 endpoint and Greengrass inside.

But what about exabyte-scale data?…  Believe it or not, enterprises are now faced with moving exabytes of data from on-premise storage to AWS.  Moving that much data to the cloud using a 10Gbps dedicated connection would take 26 years.  What to do?  Use the newly released AWS Snowmobile!  Snowmobile is a dedicated semi truck tractor trailer (yes they even drove one on stage) for data transfer. This 45 foot long rugged container and truck can be connected via fiber directly to your datacenter to collect your data then transported to AWS for upload 100 petabytes at a time taking an exabyte migration from 26 years down to 6 months.

In Closing…

AWS is not only the clear leader in the cloud space, but they continue to listen to customers and adapt their product portfolio to meet the ever changing needs of the business world.  With up to a thousand new products and features launched each year, you can be sure they will continue to adapt and remain the leader in this space for many decades to come.

-Tim Hill, Product / Program Manager

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