AWS re:Invent 2017 Review

December 29, 2017

Before AWS re:Invent 2017 is too far in the rearview mirror, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had after attending my fourth re:Invent.

To start, there have been multiple blog posts about the size and logistics of this year’s event, so I won’t loiter here. Bottom-line, the success of the AWS platform has caused this conference to become very large.  There is great content to be had but commuting between venues on the Las Vegas strip meant that you either spent a lot of time in transit (walking /shuttle bus) or you missed sessions you would have liked to attend because you stayed in one place (I spent an hour one day on a bus getting from the MGM back to the Venetian(walking was usually faster)).  Between the commuting time and time standing in line, an attendee’s return on investment (Conference fee/time spent in a session) dropped significantly.  AWS has some work to do here to improve this.

With all this in mind, a thought crossed my mind while listening to keynote speakers Andy Jassy (AWS CEO) and Werner Vogels (AWS CTO). Does AWS have an unfair advantage? Amazon’s enormous e-commence engine has pushed the features of the platform forward, and If necessity is the mother of invention, do the other hyperscale clouds have the same backside business push that AWS has? The case could be made that to some extent, they do. But from an e-commerce standpoint, it occurs to me that AWS has an advantage – maybe not unlike Google’s Borg (cluster manager) experience has had in helping Kubernetes to become the leader for managing containers.

With its competitors trying to grab hyperscale market share, there was intentional messaging in the AWS keynotes that I appreciated. I frequently heard things like: “You won’t find this anywhere else,” and “There are no other solutions out there like this.” AWS threw down the gauntlet to its competitors, and while AWS is innovating quickly – in most areas, its competitors are doing well to just match feature parity.

I have been to conferences for the other hyperscale clouds. It was interesting to watch the mind-share grab for which platform is the preference for “builders.” Of course, AWS emphasized that they are the platform for builders. One of its competitor conferences gave away “builder” t-shirts.  Which platform is the best for builders, innovators and entrepreneurs? It might depend on what you are building. With its 130+ services, AWS certainly provides a significant toolbox for innovating.

For the Sungard AS CTO Architect Team, we placed the re:Invent  announcements in one of three categories.  First, there are AWS services that we need to get hands-on experience with as soon as possible, as we think they will help our customers solve business challenges. Second, there are new services and features, but we will wait until we have a need to explore those features more.  And third, there are services where we don’t see the announcement impacting our customers.

In the above categorizing method, there were about 30 announcements of new features/services in the first category. Companies need to be intentional in keeping up with these new features, or have a trusted partner that helps them maximize the use of the platform – or their competitors will pass them up.

Next year, AWS re:Invent will no doubt bring even more learning opportunities and technologies for review. Until then, we all have our work cut out for us to take advantage of the AWS updates we learned about last month.

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