App Development

Amazon re:Invent 2015 Recap

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I can say, based on nearly 2 decades of experience in this business, that there aren’t many technology conferences that can amass 19,000 enthusiastic developers and engineers in one place. It turns out that Amazon’s AWS (“Amazon Web Services”) cloud conference, re:Invent, did just that. Not to mention that I went as a passive attendee and returned excited, motivated, and genuinely eager to conquer the world. The energy at this conference was electric to say the least.

So where did all that energy and excitement come from? After all, we are only talking about the cloud, right? To understand this, we need to take a look at a little history. AWS was officially launched in 2006, but it was originally built to power Amazon’s retail infrastructure. Since initially offering their Simple Queue Service and EC2 publicly, the number of Amazon’s web services have grown immensely. So have the number of organizations that adopted a strategy leveraging AWS to launch and scale their businesses.

While Amazon may not have originally thought about the significance of the cloud, and AWS as an offering (e.g. Jeff Bezos calling it “a fast growing $5 billion business,” and an analyst describing it as “surprisingly more profitable than forecast”), they have reached a tipping point. And it’s clear Amazon is mobilizing to transform the move enterprises make to the cloud by making it faster than ever.

In fact, Amazon leads in enterprise public cloud adoption by a whopping 57%. It’s also good to note, however, that Microsoft’s Azure is right behind them at 12% (up from 6% in 2014). That said, 68% of enterprises run less than 20% of their workload in the cloud. In turn, planning for hybrid-architectures, with some services running in private clouds and others in public clouds, is growing. The opportunity for AWS (and Azure) is bigger than ever. As a result, a big theme of this year’s re:Invent conference was answering the tough questions around how an organization moves decades of data into the cloud efficiently and easily.

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These are some of Amazon’s newly-announced tools designed to help with this problem:

AWS DB Migration Service is a tool that makes database migration easy and secure, and allows your source database to remain fully operational during migrations. In turn, this minimizes downtime for applications that rely on the database. According to the keynote, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to set up and you can transfer databases for around $3 per TB. Of course, this migration tool supports widely available commercial and open source databases. For example, you can easily go from Oracle to Amazon Aurora, or MS SQL Server to MySQL Server using the tool. There are times when companies may be using legacy systems or less-supported databases, and to help with that AWS provides the AWS Schema Conversion Tool. They claim it can do up to 80% of the work on migration, which is very helpful when considering views, stored procedures, and the ilk that we find in these databases. Either way, they want you to move to AWS and they are doing everything they can to make it easy. But what if you have so much data that moving to the cloud through an internet pipeline isn’t an option? This could be for added security, because the transfer will stall your business networks, or simply because it will take too long (e.g. months or years to complete)! Fortunately, Amazon also has a solution for this, and interestingly, through the age-old medium of an appliance.

AWS Snowball is “a petabyte-scale data transport solution that uses secure appliances to transfer large amounts of data into and out of AWS.” Each appliance has 50TB of storage. The data is encrypted, tamper proof, and the shipping label for tracking is built in using E Ink technology. In fact, it’s essentially a Kindle device built into the hardware that can also be used to configure the appliance. Additionally, you can chain these devices together for more capacity, and all for around $200 each. Not to mention, they also showed us a video of one being dropped from 6 feet onto a concrete floor, which was a lot of fun to watch. In addition, updates were made to Amazon’s real-time streaming data tools including:

Amazon Kinesis Firehouse, billed as the “easiest way to load streaming data into AWS,” is designed to provide near real-time analytics using tools already in place. And, in case you want to run standard SQL queries against streaming data, Amazon is bringing us Amazon Kinesis Analytics to do just that.

The storage and retrieval of data are what we can consider table stakes as an organization. And so, the real opportunity is to have the ability to leverage this data to provide insights that help give a business the competitive edge they need to succeed. Here is where Amazon is trying to give that power to folks outside of IT to design and run their own reports. One of the more interesting services Amazon introduced was:

Amazon QuickSight is a “very fast, cloud-powered business intelligence (BI) service that makes it easy to build visualizations, perform ad-hoc analysis, and quickly get business insights from your data.” It seems to be built for business owners, and gives them the ability to traverse an organization’s data without the need to involve their IT department. This, of course, frees up valuable time for IT to focus on infrastructure while giving other folks in a company the ability to do what they need to be more competitive. Some of the interesting technology being applied was the the idea of an “Auto Graph,” which did its best to display the data being drilled into in a graph style that makes most sense. Hence, making it easier to digest and analyze the information being presented.

AWS Mobile Hub marks Amazon’s entry into Mobile as a Backend (“MaaB”) service. By leveraging these services and tools, mobile developers can build apps without having to worry about the backend infrastructure and services needed to power a solution. Instead, they can focus on the features and functionality that truly differentiate your product. And while I think this a great project start up or even an efficient mechanism to prototype with, it’s not really targeted to Enterprise. Regardless, it feels like another way to capture market share by providing platform tools for companies that may become the Enterprises of tomorrow.

But Amazon didn’t stop there. There are other major trends undergoing massive growth that cannot be ignored. First, the Internet of Things (“IoT”). The IoT market is growing at an extraordinary rate and the need for infrastructure to manage the billions of devices entering the marketplace is a huge opportunity. According to IDC, “…the IoT market in manufacturing operations will grow from $42.2 billion in 2013 to $98.8 billion in 2018, a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.6%.” AWS is uniquely positioned to leverage existing services and has entered the market with the introduction of AWS IoT, “a managed cloud platform that lets connected devices easily and securely interact with cloud applications and other devices.” This is interesting because it’s very difficult for enterprise companies to architect and scale infrastructure to support IoT initiatives. It’s better to experiment on an elastic platform that provides everything you need, from client-side SDKs, to authorization and security, standard communication protocols, etc. It is especially appealing to organizations that are using AWS in some fashion.

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These are not all the announcements that came out of the AWS conference, but they are the ones we think are good indicators Amazon is here to stay and AWS is making a stand to power small startups to large enterprises. The move to Cloud, IoT, and Mobile is certainly here and AWS can help. If I was looking to move services to the cloud or power an IoT infrastructure, then AWS would be on the top of my list to consider. Either way, being at re:Invent and the genuine excitement from the developers on hand is nothing to ignore.  

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