At AWS re:Invent, Amazon gets its gun: 'Everything the tech sector does, we can do better'

We recap everything that happened at AWS re:Invent this week with the help of song. Services for AI, blockchain, tools and a lot of hatred for Oracle were revealed.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

AWS CEO Andy Jassy had a house band during his keynote and a more fitting song from them could have been Anything you can do. If you doubted that AWS wanted to be your premier enterprise technology vendor -- not just your cloud stack -- re:Invent 2018 erased them and revealed much broader ambitions.

Jassy didn't mention AWS rivals too much -- aside from Microsoft and Oracle databases -- but the references to the competition weren't all that subtle. In some parts of the AWS re:Invent 2018 barrage of announcements, you could conclude that the cloud provider wanted to be more like IBM. Other places, AWS looked like a machine learning shop. Storage vendors couldn't have been too pleased. And, yes, it's clear AWS wants Oracle dead -- like really dead. And for good measure, AWS outlined services that put it squarely in the AI and analytics sweet spot for enterprises.

And I probably missed a few. Here's a recap of AWS re:Invent 2018 with the help of song.

Anything you can do, I can do better.

I can do anything better than you.

The big theme from AWS was that its never-ending cadence of innovation gives developers (oops make that builders) the right tools to get the job done. Jassy struck a tone of defiance in how he talked about liberating builders from being boxed in by legacy systems and enterprises focused on everything but the customer.

Not shockingly, Jassy noted that AWS was here to help.

"We don't believe in one tool to rule the world. We want you to use the right tool for the right job," said Jassy. He added:

Builders have been constrained by the legacy infrastructure they have had. That is frustrating. Most builders didn't decide to join a business to do the same thing over and over. That is demoralizing. They've trained their builders to not innovate on customer experience.

And Jassy had more than his share of tools to reveal. Amazon launched a bevy of new services as well as services to manage services -- metaservices if you will. AWS aim is to make it easy to manage and scale more use of its services across an enterprise.


The point of AWS' re:Invent conference was to curb the noise from the rest of the cloud field, outline broader enterprise technology ambitions, and definitively state that it was the alpha infrastructure provider on the block and moving up the stack. In the end, AWS is Amazon's most profitable and arguably most important business.

Anything you can be, I can be greater.

Sooner or later I'm greater than you.

While Oracle CTO Larry Ellison is known to talk trash, the anti-Oracle chatter from AWS took the rivalry to another level. AWS was crowing about -- not to mention marketing -- its move off of Oracle. CTO Werner Vogels said moving off of Oracle's data warehouse was the happiest day at AWS.

It's clear that AWS thinks that Oracle is one big reason that builders have been hampered. Not surprisingly, Jassy took aim at transactional databases and noted that they weren't up to snuff.

He also revealed that Amazon has moved off of Oracle databases in its consumer business and has almost completed the migration. Jassy went on to note that Oracle's approach to customers -- audits, license and maintenance increases and architecture -- is like a bad relationship enterprises are trying to escape.

The AWS approach is to offer enough databases to put into the IT toolbox to get anything done and give those enterprises an Oracle out.

Vogels followed up Jassy's database talk by noting that relational databases aren't built for the cloud. Vogels noted that the current database model from the likes of Oracle were built in the 1980s and 1990s. "We managed to move over to Dynamo DEB without losing capabilities," said Vogels.

Vogels outlined how Amazon migrated from Oracle in its retail business and even hosted a session and boot camp with details and video.


Any note you can reach, I can go higher.

With artificial intelligence, AWS laid out its case versus Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. For starters, AWS played the "I can develop my own GPU too" as it launched Inferentia, a dedicated machine learning chip that will compete with Nvidia as well as Google's TPU efforts.

But the meat of Jassy's AI riff revolved around model and framework choice as well as adding Amazon's own knowhow on personalization algorithms.


Meanwhile, Elastic Inference allows AWS customers to add GPU inference acceleration to any Amazon EC2 instance. Perhaps the most interesting move from AWS is that it is using its AI to make its personalization algorithms more consumable by corporations.

And in a sign that AWS is moving up the stack and into areas that will include more analytics and visualization, Jassy also talked up Amazon Forecast, which uses machine learning for time series forecasting. Jassy claimed the service is "providing up to 50 percent more accurate forecasts than what people were doing before at one-tenth the cost of traditional supply chain software."



Anything you can buy, I can buy cheaper.

I can buy anything cheaper than you.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the AWS marathon keynote is that the cloud provider launched AWS Outposts, an effort to sell hardware and software on premises.

Well that AWS move certainly makes the hybrid cloud interesting.

In some ways, AWS, with its partner in crime VMware, is setting the stage for some hyperconverged infrastructure disruption. Meanwhile, AWS is playing the integrated stack game that legacy providers play with native connections to the AWS platform.

Jassy said AWS Outposts provides a way to run AWS infrastructure on premises for a "truly consistent" hybrid experience. "Customers are telling us that they don't want a hybrid experience that attempts to recreate a stunted version of a cloud on-premises, because it's perpetually out of sync with the cloud version and requires a lot of heavy lifting, managing custom hardware, different control planes, different tooling, and manual software updates," Jassy added. "There just isn't a lot of value in that type of on-premises offering and that's why these solutions aren't getting much traction."

The AWS Outposts move is worth noting given that IBM paid $34 billion for Red Hat and wrapped itself in a mantra of being more open without the lock-in.


VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger is more than happy to sell VMware along with AWS wherever the infrastructure resides. "I want customers to use as much VMware as possible," he said. "So we'll of course be favouring the full VMware cloud option . . . but we fully recognise customers want choice," said Gelsinger. When asked by ZDNet what further investment in a VMware-AWS partnership will mean for the broader Dell Technologies company, Gelsinger said Michael Dell is supportive.

For its own services, AWS outlined instances for ARM processors. The move will a) popularize ARM servers in the data center; and b) provide lower compute costs.

Anything you can wear, I can wear better.

In what you wear I'd look better than you.

AWS CEO Jassy said that the cloud giant doesn't have to be first using a new buzzword worthy technology, but needs to make it a service that customers can actually use.

With that backdrop, AWS dove into the blockchain scrum with a managed service. Jassy said:

Even though we have a lot of customers that run blockchain on top of us ... we just hadn't seen that many blockchain examples that couldn't just be solved by a database...The culture inside AWS is that we don't just build things... we understand what problem you want to solve and we then solve it for you.

Jassy revealed that AWS is in fact launching two ledger-related services, both centralised and decentralised, saying his company had a significant number of customers who wanted ledgers with centralised trust, but also transactions with decentralised trust.

Also: AWS goes blockchain: The cloud giant announces two distributed ledger services

Enter Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) and Amazon Managed Blockchain, which allows users to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using both Ethereum or HyperLedger.

The pitch behind the AWS' blockchain services is simple: It's easier to deploy and use.

Also: Executive's guide to implementing blockchain technology | Blockchain and business: Looking beyond the hype | The blockchain explained for non-engineers

Anything you can sing, I can sing sweeter.

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