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AWS re:Invent Daily Recap – Wednesday

AWS re:Invent 2016 day 2 is in the books. Attendees took part in AWS and Partner-led technical sessions, bootcamps, and GameDay and had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of Consulting and Technology Partners at reinvent:Central (the Partner & Solutions Expo).

Summit Keynote
Things started off with the re:Invent Keynote by AWS CEO Andy Jassy, and per the usual, he did not disappoint. We learned about the Four Superpowers that AWS gives organizations… Supersonic Speed, X-Ray Vision, Immortality, and Flight. and we heard success stories around this from several major corporations.  Speakers from GE, Motorola, Workday, FINRA and McDonalds joined the Keynote and told their success stories as they relate to AWS and these Four Superpowers.  We also heard from Patrick Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, and Jassy about the new partnership between AWS and VMware.  They discussed the alliance and the strategic and technical benefits that it will provide their customers.  Gelsinger notably quipped: “Your CIOs capital budget for DR should be zero.  DR should entirely be in the cloud.”

New Announcements
The Summit Keynote showcased a number of new and expanded services to the AWS lineup:

  • New C5 EC2 Instance Family:  Next Generation Compute Optimized Instances with Intel Skylake processors
  • New I3 EC2 Instance Family:  Next Generation I/O Intensive Instances
  • New R4 EC2 Instance Family:  Next Generation Memory Optimized Instances
  • New F1 EC2 Instance Family:  Compute instances with a Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs)
  • Updates to the T2 EC2 Instance Family:  Low-Cost Instances with Burstable Performance
    • xlarge with 16GiB (2x more) memory and 2 vCPU
    • 2xlarge with 32GiB Memory (4x more) and 2vCPU
  • Addition of Elastic GPUs to all EC2 instance types
  • PostgreSQL support for RDS Aurora
  • Amazon Athena:  Provides serverless interactive queries for data stored in S3 using Standard SQL
  • Amazon Rekognition:  Image recognition service that enables applications to easily recognize, search, and understand image details
  • Amazon Polly:  Text to speech service with 47 voices and 27 languages
  • Amazon LEX:  Natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition service (It’s what’s inside Alexa.)

Jassy unveiled the four new EC2 instance families – three of which are the la iterations on previous generations – listed above as well as the expansion of the T2 line. and types. The completely new EC2 instance family was the F1 class.  F1 instances offer programmable hardware via an FPGA which allows for writing custom code that executes directly on the FPGA speeding up the processing time for discrete tasks. We also learned that AWS is adding Elastic GPUs as an option (handled much like an EBS volume) that will be available to attach to any EC2 instance to boost graphics processing performance.

Amazon Athena was announced today and should be a welcomed addition for anyone looking to turn their S3 data into a data-warehouse/lake instantaneously without incurring the costs associated with a Redshift cluster, infrastructure, or other data-warehousing platform.  Athena provides serverless interactive queries for data stored in S3 using Standard SQL.  This is a truly awesome new service for building a data-warehouse inexpensively.

Perhaps one of the biggest announcements of the day came as it was announced that AWS will be releasing PostgreSQL support for Aurora.  This will definitely help Aurora continue to reshape the face of how enterprise class databases are deployed in the cloud.  Speaking of Aurora reshaping database deployment in the cloud, Jassy mentioned that since its launch Aurora is the fasting-growing service AWS has ever released with 14k+ migrations to date.

The launch of the Amazon AI platform was another major announcement made yesterday.  Leveraging the IP and tooling they have developed internally, AWS will be releasing three new services under this new AI platform aimed at providing AI services to the masses.  The first is Amazon Rekognition and provides an image detection and recognition engine.  The next is Amazon Polly, which provides a text-to-speech engine (in 47 languages with 24 voices).  The last is Amazon LEX, which is a natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition engine, which operates at the core of the Amazon Alexa platform.  This is just another great example of Amazon providing internal tools and services they have developed and bringing them to a global marketplace due to customer demand.

Some of these new features are in “preview” or “developer” access mode and haven’t been released for general availability yet. You can find more information about all of these services and more, on the AWS APN blog: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/apn/. For a really great detailed breakdown of the Keynote check out our blog post from yesterday: http://2ndwatch.com/blog/8-things-we-learned-from-andy-jassys-2016-reinvent-keynote/

There was a flurry of activity on the re:Invent Central expo floor, and traffic to the 2nd Watch booth was no exception.  New customers were met, partnerships were discussed and all kinds of cloud expertise was disseminated to the masses.

Sessions and Events
The Agenda was chock-full of interesting and useful events, session, and demos in addition to the Keynote Address.  Events like the Alexa Skill Con, Certification Lounge provided an all-day option for honing skills and gaining AWS certification.  Some, like the live demo “Creating an AWS Data Lake on S3,” highlighted the newly-announced AWS services and features.  There were also several physical fun activities over at The Park, like Hangry Humans, Mini golf, Mechanical Bull Riding and a Batting cage for attendees to get outside for some fresh air and remain active.

After hours kicked off with the re:Invent 2016 Pub Crawl featuring a number of great restaurants and pubs. The night was finished off with a bang at the annual 2nd Watch re:Invent After Party.

Come see us today at Booth #825 for your free limited edition t-shirt and a chance to win a Segway!

-Ryan Kennedy, Principal Cloud Automation Architect


8 things We Learned From Andy Jassy’s 2016 re:Invent Keynote

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


AWS re:Invent Daily Recap – Tuesday

AWS kicked off its 2016 re:Invent conference in Las Vegas yesterday. Attendees took part in AWS and Partner-led technical sessions, bootcamps and a GameDay, and had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of Consulting and Technology Partners in the Partner & Solutions Expo.

The conference began with The Global Partner keynote, including an overview and some imonials from a wide range of partners and highlighting how AWS has evolved its business and the business of its customers. Terry Wise, Vice President of Global Alliances, Ecosystem and Channels at AWS, was joined by a number of guests throughout the keynote, including James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer of AWS, Adam Japhet, Head of Technology Services Architecture & Design, as well as many others. A wide gamut of topics were covered from a few technology partners, but the overall AWS sentiment was, “Our customers are doing cool things” and “Partners are doing very innovating things on behalf of their customers.”

Yesterday’s evening activities included an event in which James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer at AWS, gave us a peek into what makes up AWS infrastructure. It was a very enlightening view into the world of highly-scalable, highly-resilient distributed systems and the concerns you have to think about when building the world’s best platform as a service.

Announcements came in droves from the Partner Keynote.

  • AWS Service Delivery Program, which is designed to help you showcase your firm’s proven expertise and customer success in different AWS services (and in which 2nd Watch achieved Partner status for Amazon Aurora, Redshift, CloudFront and DMS).
  • AWS Public Sector Program, which recognizes APN Partners with solutions and experience delivering government, education, and nonprofit customer missions globally.
  • AWS IoT Competency recognizes industry-leading AWS Consulting and Technology Partners that provide proven technology and/or implementation capabilities for a variety of use cases including (though not limited to) intelligent factories, smart cities, energy, automotive, transportation, and healthcare.
  • AWS Financial Services Competency, which helps customers identify and connect with industry-leading Consulting and Technology APN Partners with solutions for banking and payments, capital markets, and insurance (and which 2nd Watch has also earned).
  • AWS Partner Solutions Finder (PSF), a new web-based tool meant to help customers easily filter, find, and connect with APN Partners to meet specific business needs.
  • VMware Cloud on AWS Partner Program that will be launched in 2017. The program will provide support for APN Partners that help customers deploy and operate VMware workloads on AWS.

You can find more information about all of these services on the AWS APN blog. https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/apn/

2nd Watch presented breakout session “Lift and Evolve: Saving Money in the Cloud is Easy, Making Money Takes Help” The expert lineup included:

  • Chris Resch, EVP, Cloud Solutions
  • Christopher Nolan, Director of Product
  • Ryan Kennedy, Principal Automation Architect

In this session we looked at the cloud migration process trusted by hundreds of clients, as well as how to cope with the process and people components that are so important to enable agility, while focusing heavily on the technology. The technology showcased enables management of hundreds of AWS Accounts, hundreds of workloads, thousands of instances, and hundreds of business partners around the globe. The configuration management system has Puppet at the core and relies on over a dozen core and emerging AWS products across accounts, availability zones and regions. This complex and globally-available system ensures workloads in AWS meet corporate policies but also allows for rapid scale of both consumer and enterprise workloads.

Attendees were able to select from a plethora of breakout sessions. I want to highlight a couple of the sessions of the day that I thought were truly spectacular:

The first, hosted by Sony, dealt with breaking the bandwidth barrier in highly-available, low latency applications. They went into detail about the price we pay for network and computational overhead when store state. Dustin Pham and Alexander Filipchik made a good explanation of soft state and their innovative use of sticky sessions on ELBs for use with building indexes in Lucene.

The second was hosted by Riot games. Sean Maloney of Riot gave an excellent overview of their journey to deploying containerized infrastructure using Terraform. Riot really wanted to give total ownership of the application to their developers and was uncompromising in making that happen in a logical, safe and well-architected manner that abides by some of their key tenets.

The turnout at this year’s conference has been absolutely amazing. At last count there were about 33,000 people in attendance, making this the biggest re:Invent yet. It also looks to be the most exciting, and things are just getting started. Check back tomorrow morning for Wednesday’s conference recap.

-Lars Cromley, Sr Product Manager


Win a Custom Segway Mini Pro at AWS re:Invent

Want to leave Vegas a winner? Visit 2nd Watch in booth #825 at AWS re:Invent to pick up your limited-edition t-shirt and enter our social media con for your chance to win a custom Segway Mini Pro. Just post a selfie in your shirt and follow and tag @2ndWatch on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. The best photo will be chosen each day to win!

Plus, try your luck in our money machine booth – many will enter, many will leave richer.


4 Things to Watch for at AWS re:Invent 2016

2nd Watch is always buzzing before AWS re:Invent as we get ready for a great conference full of breakout sessions, boot camps, certifications, keynotes and – you can count on it – some big AWS announcements.  As a Platinum sponsor we are committed to the success of the conference and enjoy having the opportunity to connect with clients and prospective clients.  We are also excited to hear what new services and features AWS will be launching to make the public cloud better, faster and easier to adopt.  Here are the three areas where we expect AWS to make some announcements:

1. Services and Features to Drive Further Enterprise Adoption

Cloud adoption has moved beyond the startups towards Enterprise adoption.  The majority of Fortune 500 companies have adopted the cloud in some form or another with more and more moving to a cloud-first approach.  There is still a very large portion of enterprise workloads that live in datacenters and colocation facilities.  AWS will continue to add services to enable customers to run these workloads in the cloud.  In the past we have seen AWS CloudTrail, AWS Config, and other services that enable governance and security.  We expect this to continue and will be watching out for services that provide the governance and security that Enterprises need.

2. Software Development Life Cycle Services

AWS has released a number of tools that make it easier for developers and operations people to manage the software development and deployment process.  CodeCommit, CodePipeline, and CodeDeploy can be included in CloudFormation templates to enable Infrastructure as Code to include the tools necessary to enable development teams.  This is a trend we expect to continue with AWS doing more in this space.  The API-native services and features of AWS have always made it popular with folks who write code.  We expect this trend to continue and for AWS to further enable developers with new services and tools.

3. Beyond AWS

We were excited to see AWS reach beyond themselves to offer Amazon Linux as a container image.  Previously the tools and services that ran outside of the cloud enabled customers to bring workloads to the cloud.  Those include AWS Application Discovery Service, Amazon Storage Gateway, AWS Snowball, and AWS Database Migration Service.  These services and tools all exist to enable customers to come to the cloud.  Offering their operating system as a Linux Container makes it possible for customers to run container services across clouds, both public and private.  We expect this trend to continue and for AWS to release more services that allow customers to leverage their AWS investment while still enabling previous investments in on-premise infrastructure or other clouds.

4. AWS re:Play Party

The end-of-show party is always a good time, and we encourage you not to miss it.  After a week of talking to peers and digesting a lot of technology, it is fun to let loose, play some video games, and listen to some loud electronic music.  We will not try to make a prediction on the headliner, but it will probably be a big-name in the EDM scene.  We’d love to see Aoki throw a cake at some re:Invent party goers, but we will have to wait until December 1st to find out who is performing along with everyone else.

-Chris Nolan, Director of Products