Amazon Web Services gets serious about big data analytics with bevy of new services

The tech titan's cloud arm, Amazon Web Services, is beefing up its suite of streaming data and analytics services.


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LAS VEGAS---Those nifty Dash grocery refill buttons are just the beginning of Amazon's plan to dominate a burgeoning cloud-based, data-driven connected world.

The tech titan's cloud arm, Amazon Web Services, is beefing up its suite of streaming data and analytics services, preparing its digital pipelines to serve as a backbone in the Internet of Things landscape.

"This cloud and AWS movement are about giving developers freedom and control over their own destiny," said AWS chief Andy Jassy at the opening keynote of re:Invent, Amazon's annual cloud developer conference, on Wednesday. "This is why people are so passionate about the cloud. This is why the cloud is growing so quickly."

But the business opportunity is also clearly fueling growth as well. Jassy noted AWS has already achieved a $7.3 billion run rate. Furthermore, Amazon finally began to break out AWS results on its quarterly earnings reports this spring, proving its one of the biggest cash cows in the Amazon empire.

Although it frequently boasts about high-profile customers such as Netflix and Nike, Amazon appeared more eager than usual to highlight its client roster, trotting out execs from Major League Baseball, Capital One and General Electric as well as up-and-coming digital payments processor Stripe.

Jassy acknowledged not all enterprise customers have the resources to make cloud investments like these businesses have, but he later countered how numerous tech startups have been built on the cloud from day one.

Based on Amazon's bevy of new services unveiled on Wednesday, monetizing data could prove to be the catalyst (or gateway) for those businesses still on the brink.

Teeming on the surface is Amazon QuickSight, a cloud-powered business intelligence service taking data stored in AWS (i.e. in Amazon's MapReduce open source framework, the RedShift data warehouse or even third-party sources made by Salesforce.com and Oracle) and moves it over to the query engine for visualizations in as fast as 60 seconds.

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Users can capture graphs and stories to be shared with either internal employees or external partners. Jassy boasted touted it will be offered at a "tenth of the cost" when compared to similar offerings on the market.

Launching with two pricing offerings (standard and enterprise), QuickSight is now available in preview mode for a select group of users, eventually rolling out to the AWS US East (Northern Virginia) region, followed by US West (Oregon) and Europe (Ireland). A full worldwide launch is scheduled for 2016.

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But visualizing data is really just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with streaming data, which Jassy posited is growing everywhere from the home to the workplace to "oil fields."

Building off Kinesis (now known as Kinesis Streams), the first AWS stab at big data processing introduced on the re:Invent stage two years ago, Amazon brought out the Kinesis Firehouse, a service for loading streaming data from a web or mobile app through an API call to AWS.

Available starting today, users can then immediately query and load data to Hadoop clusters. Data can be encrypted on the way in and decrypted as the app needs to use that data -- so long as the key is stored securely.

For moving larger amounts of data (on average 10 terabytes or more) to the cloud, AWS is actually looking to hardware rather than the cloud by reworking its AWS Import/Export service into a new product dubbed Snowball.

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Promising no storage or upgrades required, Snowball comes in the form of a rugged box described to be light enough for a person to carry. Customers can request one or more Snowball appliances from the AWS Management Console for moving up to a petabyte of data per week, either on a one-time or recurring basis, also supporting running multiple boxes in parallel.

Among other new compliance resources checking up on cloud resources, Amazon previewed Inspector, a reporting service analyzing performance and behavior in scanning for security and compliance issues on an application-by-application basis.

Amazon is also growing its database portfolio with a sixth MySQL-compatible option for MariaDB as well as through the new AWS Migration Service for migrating database services to AWS, continuously replicating data from a source of any size while tracking progress in real-time.

Although Jassy didn't name any competitors outright, the offerings to position Amazon in greater competition with Oracle especially, hinted at through some of the customer quotes and comparative figures on screen during the presentation.

"I think our marketing team needs work on redaction," Jassy quipped.

Reports started surfacing earlier this week speculating on what AWS would unveil on Wednesday morning, long expected to be centered around reaping more financial rewards from analytics and developing more assets for the Internet of Things movement as a whole.

Neither of these two developments would be all that surprising at a base level. Given the slew of relevant options already trotted out by competitors such as IBM and SAP (among many others) over the course of 2015, it would be more surprising if Amazon missed the boat entirely.

Several software companies -- certainly smaller than AWS yet still prominent in enterprise tech -- jumped out of the gates early on Tuesday before Amazon made its big reveal. Among them were analytics software makers Splunk, New Relic and Tableau, among others. Amazon also announced a new multi-year alliance with Accenture -- the Accenture AWS Business Group -- for migrating and setting up new apps in the cloud.

The Seattle-headquartered corporation hinted at its agenda on Tuesday when announcing new technical and customer support partners -- a number of which specialize in delivering IoT platforms, analytics, infrastructures, operating systems and other professional services.

New partners for DevOps are already available to customers but providers for migration and IoT won't be ready for a few months at least.

Images via Amazon Web Services

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