It’s beautiful here in Vegas. It always is.
But headed into my sixth AWS re:Invent, I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced the event was going to be as spectacular as the scenery. Sure 43,000 attendees is impressive — the number grows every year. And yes, Amazon has a reputation for surprising us with announcements of new innovations. But, after working with AWS since 2008 and writing thousands of articles about the cloud giant, as well as those seeking to compete with them, I wasn’t sure anything they would introduce would be showstopping for me.
This is probably what made yesterday’s keynote by Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy that much more astonishing.
Amazon’s values were on display from the start of Jassy’s presentation. To say AWS is simply agile and fast is not looking deeply enough at what makes them a market leader. Instead, it is their continued out-of-the-box thinking. They are pioneers over and over again. And it all starts with looking at the needs of customers for the next 50 years, not just the next five. Jassy’s keynote touched on what I see as a three-step process for success.
3 Steps to AWS Success
When Jassy kicked off the keynote with a sincere video featuring Whirlpool’s CIO, I knew this wasn’t just a brand image tactic; marketing fluff aimed at winning hearts. Jassy actually managed to show that AWS is truly listening to their customers and taking actionable steps to give their customers what they need and want.
(This in stark contrast to Oracle, who Jassy bad-mouthed a bit, for upping their prices last year for customers running on Amazon and other cloud vendors.)
The reason Amazon is winning in this space is for doing precisely the opposite of what Oracle is doing: they don’t bully their customers into doing it their way. AWS unearths the customer’s preferred “way” and gives it to them. This year’s evidence of this is in yesterday’s many announcements, including their new database service, Aurora Serverless, an impressive and disruptive upgrade of the database engine initially released two years ago. Developers can now access an on-demand, serverless relational database without having to provision. In general, though, AWS always has their ear to the ground, so to speak, and understands that platforms as a service layers including K8 and containers are very much in demand. AWS’ robust as-a-service infrastructure also allows them to analyze trends based on customer activity to give customers what they want. And they do.
Speed, Yes, but Planning More
Observers claim that AWS is all about rapid innovation development. But I say it’s not about speed, but about strategic analysis and planning.
A multi-tenant relational database that is distributed, infinitely scalable? You can’t develop this in weeks or months. This is a major and complex issue, and requires a major and complex solution. That means great focus, and very sophisticated and precise planning. You need to plan this years before you build it. It involves an R&D organization or dozens of product owners, developers, and leaders. I assume we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of man hours. I believe AWS understood from the get-go where they needed to be with Aurora and planned all of this two years ago.
Devoted to Being a Market Leader
As already mentioned, I’ve written several times over last year or two about Azure and Google Cloud Platform gaining traction as serious competition to AWS. And, sure, Azure and Google have been making noise. Oracle, too. In fact, at last year’s re:Invent, I (and many other journalists and bloggers) thought that perhaps Amazon should start being concerned about losing their place as the cloud market leader.
At re:Invent 2017, however, Amazon returns as the far-and-away clear cloud giant, the only serious player in the market. AWS is burying the competition: Amazon Transcribe and Amazon Translate, DeepLens (the wireless deep learning video camera), Amazon Rekognition and Comprehend for NLP. All of us in the audience were continuously blown away — you could hear it in people’s reactions. And for good reason: It’s a wealth of riches AWS is offering us in 2017, completely out of the scope of their core competition.
Furthermore, yesterday’s announcement of Amazon SageMaker — their new fully managed end-to-end machine learning service — is a game changer for developers and data professionals, not to mention machine learning experts. Jassy claimed in his presentation of SageMaker that he wants to “remove the barriers” developers currently have in building machine learning applications. With SageMaker, they can quickly build, train, and host machine learning models at scale.
It’s clear, Amazon Web Services is more than just their infrastructure. In fact, they are more than just cloud. What made them the first and best cloud provider are the brilliant minds leading the operation. The behind-the-scenes collective AWS brain drives the industry leader’s innovation by listening closely to their customers (and collecting their data), predicting and planning for what many believe is an unpredictable future. I’m assuming Amazon has lots of new innovation already in the works.
My prediction of the unpredictable future? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that AWS is actually building a disruptive CRM that will go into a competition against the likes of Salesforce.
We’ll see. Looking forward to more announcements today.