Amazon CTO Werner Vogels: Industry 4.0 requires way more data

Factories are only collecting a small fraction of the data we need to introduce the next industrial revolution -- and other key takeaways from Vogels' re:Invent keynote address.

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With advances in manufacturing driven by smart devices, IoT, automation and data analytics, many have heralded the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution. But we're far from there yet, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said at the re:Invent conference in Las Vegas Thursday. 

"Equipment is too old to produce the data we want to get out of it," Werner said. "Factories need to change significantly if we really want to start creating insights."

As of 2015, Vogels said, the average age of equipment in factories is 22 years old. Many of the existing, critical components in the manufacturing process simply don't create data. 

Industry 4.0, he said, will comprise the more widespread use of predictive maintenance, autonomous transportation, collaborative robots, predictive quality, mass customization and other innovations that tap the power of the cloud to merge digital and physical worlds. 

Currently, however, Vogels said, there is "hardly any manufacturing in that place." 

Vogels held up Amazon's own operations -- such as its highly-automated fulfillment centers and innovations like the Amazon Go store -- as an example of what Industry 4.0 could look like. An overarching theme of Vogels' keynote was that other industries and enterprises can learn from Amazon's own experience in the cloud to modernize their own operations. 

To that end, Vogels announced the Amazon Builders' Library, a collection of detailed articles explaining how Amazon builds and runs its systems. The library is launching with 15 articles, written by senior technical leaders, that fall into one of two categories: Architecture and Software Delivery & Operations. 

"I hope this all helps you build distributed systems at the same scale and with the same reliability as Amazon and AWS," Vogels said. 

Some other highlights from Vogels' keynotes: 

The CTO dove deep into Nitro, Amazon's reinvention of virtualization. The Nitro System abstracts underlying hardware via a light hypervisor. Traditional virtualization is nonolithic, Vogels said, with all hardware components managed by same hypervisor. For Nitro, he explained, Amazon took a microservices-stye approach. 

The current iteration of Nitro, he said, moves networking, storage, management, monitoring and security off the host, making much lighter weight. Meanwhile, he said it is more secure, given there's no need for the host domain, or DomO. 

Vogels called Nitro "a base for innovation," enabling live hardware and hypervisor updates without reboots, VMWare on AWS, bare metal instances and the introduction of Outposts.

Vogels also talked about how organizations are adopting serverless technologies for their cost effectiveness and simple management. 

"We always thought serverless technologies would be first adopted by young technology companies," he said. Instead, "the rapid adoption of serverless is happening in the enterprise." 

Jeff Dowds of Vanguard took the stage to share how the asset management firm is adopting cloud and serverless technologies. 

"From an IT perspective, we're big and we're complicated," he said, with global data centers, thousands of apps, 50,000 endpoints and 5,000 technical staff.

"In our business, downtime is not tolerable," he said. The company first considered building out its own private cloud infrastructure but pivoted to AWS in 2015.