AWS Launches Raft of New Cloud Features at re:Invent

At last week's re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services (AWS) executives threw down the gauntlet at Microsoft, Oracle and others that are looking to challenge its cloud dominance.

AWS announced a barrage of new deliverables covering a wide gamut of services throughout the conference, which featured over five hours of keynotes and was attended by 30,000 customers and partners. Many of the new offerings, which ranged from added instance types to services aimed at addressing the next wave of IT, are poised to define the coming generation of AWS cloud services.

Highlights from re:Invent include:

  • The launch of a starter kit for developers to spin up virtual private servers called Lightsail
  • A code-free visualization workflow tool called AWS Step Functions
  • A wider range of compute options, including GPUs for all instance types and new field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for gaming and high-performance computing
  • A new batch processing service
  • Management and automation capabilities, including a new service called X-Ray
  • Extended open source contributions
  • Tools to advance its push into AI, machine learning, Internet of Things and edge locations
  • A new security service aimed at protecting against distributed denial of service attacks

For its partners, AWS also introduced new competencies, programs for public sector firms and technical specialists, and a more targeted partner directory.

A key theme during the conference was the topic of customer trust in the public cloud as a way to transform the way they deliver IT. Executives from big-name AWS customers like Capital One Bank, McDonald's, Netflix and FINRA were on-hand to explain how they are broadening their use of AWS.

Netflix, which streams 150 million hours of programming each day and has 86 million customers, remains the poster child of companies that have transitioned to the cloud from on-premises datacenters. Netflix began its migration to the AWS public cloud in 2008 and only just reached its final phases this year.

"We unplugged our last datacenter," Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt told re:Invent attendees.

Still, the customers touted by AWS are the exceptions rather than the rule, said Chris Wegmann, managing director at Accenture, which last week extended its 1-year-old partnership with AWS. Accenture's AWS Business Group now has 2,000 IT pros that have 500 AWS certifications and are working with several large enterprises, such as Avalon, Hess, Mediaset and Talen Energy.

Wegmann said Accenture believes that cloud migrations, especially to AWS, will become more prevalent in the coming years, though concerns will still linger.

"We are seeing customers that are still hesitant," he said. "They're still trying to figure out whether or not it's the right thing for them, or whether or not they are going to try to have cloud independence. We are seeing them try to go slow and hit some roadblocks and they lose momentum. When you lose momentum, it doesn't go very well." Often those organizations "can't get out of their own way," Wegmann added.

In contrast, organizations that are successful in making the transition take disciplined approaches but stick with their plans. "The companies that are being successful are maintaining that momentum," Wegmann said. "They are not wavering on their decisions and they make realistic decisions, while not trying to end world hunger."

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.