AWS re:Invent Keynote: 7 Basic Freedoms

Andy Jassy, SVP of AWS, made a ton of new announcements in his keynote speech yesterday at the 4th annual AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. The conference has grown to nearly 20,000 attendees with around 38,000 watching the live streaming event.

AWS’s message this year is that AWS cloud provides freedom and control over your own destiny. Andy talked a lot about  the barriers to delivering in the traditional do-it-yourself (DIY) infrastructure models. He summed it up in 7 categories of freedom.  Here is a quick recap.


  1. Freedom to build unfettered

It is difficult to compete in this day and age if you can’t build fast. AWS provides the ability to provision fast and provides a robust infrastructure platform that developers can build on top of. Jassy then reviewed a long list of services ranging from compute, network and storage services to database as a service, security services, hybrid services, professional services, and more. He also talked about the depth of features of these services which go far beyond what their competitors are currently offering.

2. Freedom to get real value from data

For many years, companies did not keep all of their relevant data because of the cost, complexity, and the lack of ability to process that data in a timely manner. The legacy BI tools are also extremely expensive, require deep, specialized proprietary skills, and are not easy for end users to use. In response to these challenges, AWS has announced a new service called Quicksight.

Quicksight is a fast, easy to use business intelligence as a service solution that has deep integration with the AWS platform for about 1/10th of the cost of traditional BI software. It also can integrate with the industry-leading visualization tools such as Tableau, Qlik and many others.

3. Freedom to get in and out of the cloud quickly

Ingesting data into the cloud can be a challenge. As we entire the era of IoT (Internet of Things), data is being generated in mass quantities in real time from sensors, devices, and various other endpoints.

In response, AWS announced Kinesis Firehose.  Firehose is a service for securely streaming data into AWS. It integrates with the various AWS datastore services, autoscales, and is a managed service which reduces the amount of administration required.

Another issue we often deal with is importing large amounts of data into the cloud. Dealing with large terabyte or petabyte scale data loads in today’s world is a logistics nightmare. First we have to buy a ton of removable storage, run processes that chops up the data and encrypts it, and loads it onto a storage device. Then these devices need to be shipped with services like Fed Ex. From there, somebody at the cloud vendor has to unpack and manually load all of this data. This process is cumbersome, can take many days to weeks, and presents a risk by making it hard to track where the data is while in transit.

In response to this challenge, AWS announced a storage device called Snowball. It has a hardened case that can store 50TB. It also has its own e-ink label and automatically tracks the logistics process. Snowballs can be run in parallel. At $200 per job, it is now inexpensive to move large amounts of data in and out of the cloud. The data within the Snowball is automatically loaded securely on S3 in a fraction of time that was possible in the legacy model.


4. Freedom from bad database relationships

This freedom could almost be  called freedom from Oracle. Many companies are moving away from very expensive commercial database software solutions towards open source database technologies like MySql, PostGres, etc. Migrating to these databases is hard work and producing the same level of performance can be a challenge. Customers want the performance of commercial solutions at the price point of open source solutions.

Last year AWS announced Aurora, a high performance managed database as a service that supports MySQL and Postgres. Jassy announced that they have added support for MariaDB to the list of supported databases.

To enable  more migrations from legacy, expensive commercial database products, AWS just announced the Database Migration Service which allows companies to easily migrate production databases to AWS with minimal downtime. This service allows you to continuously replicate data from the source to a new target in AWS for a database of any size. Progress can be tracked via a user interface. A 1TB database will cost about $3 to migrate from on-prem to the cloud using the same database engine (eg. MySQL to MySQL).

When you want to migrate between different database engines, AWS announced the Schema Conversion Tool.  The tool is free of charge and allows you to transfer data from one database type to another and converts things like stored procedures, triggers, and various other commercial database features to the appropriate feature in the target database.

5. Freedom to Migrate

Many customers now understand the value of the cloud, but getting there is a challenge. Customers need guidance, best practices, and training to assist in their cloud journey. Amazon announced a partnership with Accenture to help enterprises with their cloud initiatives.

6. Freedom to secure your cake and eat it too

As everyone knows, security is one of the biggest barriers to cloud adoption. Amazon already has a robust set of security tools and services and a large number of certifications. Jassy announced the addition of an SEC financial certification called SEC Rule 17a-4(f) which allows companies to backup financial data in AWS’s Glacier Vault Lock.

To beef up the security feature set, AWS announced AWS Config Rules which is a set of additional features on top of last year’s announcement of the new AWS Config service. Config is a managed service that provides visibility into resource utilization, configuration changes,  and configuration history which is an important feature set for passing audits. Now with rules, customers can proactively address policies before becoming out of compliance.

For example, if a policy states that all EC2 instances are required to run within a VPC or all instances should be tagged with metadata, Rules can proactively detect and correct or stop these out of compliance issues.

AWS also announced AWS Inspector which is an audit inspection as a service  capability. Inspector runs automatic assessments  and produces a detailed report with prioritized steps for remediation.

7. Freedom to say yes

Jassy closed his keynote discussing how in large complex organizations it is real easy to say no. Moving to the cloud is hard. Companies are bogged down with legacy technologies. But new companies are entering existing verticals and are building quickly. Companies like AirBnB can come out of nowhere and grab market share quickly because they can build and deploy new features and new business models quickly.

Enterprises must answer the call and figure out how to be more agile to stay in the game. AWS believes that their platform allows enterprises to innovate and build quickly. With the release of every new service, AWS is enabling developers to spend more time working on higher value tasks while AWS handles the complex underlying infrastructure and other IT plumbing tasks.

My Take

This is the 4th re:Invent. I attended the first two live and the last two via streaming. Last year I thought that the number of new services and features was incredible. This year, AWS delivered even more new services and features and some very significant ones. A few areas that stood out for me were the efforts around simplifying migrations. AWS is making it easy for enterprises to move databases and large datasets to the cloud which has been no easy task in the past. Once enterprises get their data in the cloud, the opportunity to innovate increases substantially.

The second area I really liked was in the data analysis area. Quicksight should really challenge traditional BI solutions. I have spent a lifetime dealing with the complexity and high costs of traditional BI tools and welcome Quicksight with open arms. Data analytics is the new gold and any solution that helps us get relevant insights in our customers hands quicker and cheaper gets my vote of approval.

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