Re:Invent 2017: AWS all about capturing data flows via AI, Alexa, database, IoT cloud services

It's time to stop thinking of Amazon Web Services as an infrastructure company as it moves up the stack and value chain to technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT and Alexa for Business.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The days of Amazon Web Services as an infrastructure provider are over as the company -- and its customers -- are going server less and moving up the stack to be a machine learning, data management and artificial intelligence platform.

At re:Invent, AWS CEO Andy Jassy was pitching his company to data scientists as much as IT pros deploying Internet of things tools and various databases. AWS CTO Werner Vogels was outlining his vision of computing in the future and it all revolved around data.

"The quality of the data you have will be the differentiator," said Vogels. "Data will have a crucial impact on how companies change behavior and build new systems."

Turns out, according to Vogels, that cloud computing was "an egalitarian system that set the stage for data" and "neural networks we can execute in real-time."

If you were merely looking at a collection of new service, the connective tissue at AWS' re:Invent conference in Las Vegas was hard to discern due to the sheer barrage of news. AWS announced media services, a host of customers and more databases, Alexa for Business, IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence choices. And I'm probably omitting a few. In true AWS fashion, the plan was to launch more services in two days than many companies do in a year. What's different going forward is that AWS is focused on managed and micro services so its services are easy to consume and viewed through a data lens.

SEE: Cheat sheet: Alexa for Business (TechRepublic)

But when you connect the dots the primary themes from AWS are the following:

  • Serverless deployments;
  • Artificial intelligence everywhere;
  • Database options all aimed at taking data share from Oracle;
  • Computing at the edge via IoT;
  • Alexa and voice as the interface going forward;
  • And building an architecture and roadmap for how developers want to work in 2020.

In sum, the common theme across every AWS move this week is data as currency and providing a one-click way to manage it.


Here's a quick tour of everything you need to know about AWS this week.

Serverless rules. Was there anything that AWS announced that wasn't available as a managed service? Probably not. AWS is taking its parent company's one-click e-commerce approach and applying it as much as it can to its IT infrastructure. AWS Lambda was a breakthrough when Amazon announced it two re:Invents ago. Today, it's an approach that's used everywhere within AWS. Why is that important? Businesses will start architecting functions and processes instead of server farms. Data architecture will be pondered before the compute and storage necessary to make it happen. Vogels touted AWS' breakneck product roadmap, but did note that "on the side we've been rolling out managed services." By scaling services down, they're easier to consume and implement. And oh by the way that fact probably means you'll spend more on AWS.

Artificial intelligence everywhere. It was hard to find an AWS new service this week that didn't touch machine learning or artificial intelligence in some way. AWS is relentless with adding services and launch of Amazon Transcribe, Amazon Translate, Amazon Comprehend, and Amazon Rekognition Video all will serve as a back-end to Alexa. By putting its AI and machine learning services in easier to consume packages, AWS is making sure that it doesn't lose mind share against IBM, Google and Microsoft. On the machine learning front, AWS launched Sagemaker to ease adoption.

Database options proliferate. Tony Baer recapped all the database moving parts from AWS and there was a bit of something for everyone. The headliner from AWS was Neptune, which automatically without downtime or performance degradation. Neptune is highly available and durable, automatically replicating data across multiple AZs and continuously backing up data to Amazon S3. Other highlights scale-out announcements for Amazon's Aurora SQL and DynamoDB NoSQL platform.

AWS accelerates its IoT pace. Referring to "IoT" one of the more legitimate "buzzwords" in the industry, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy on Wednesday introduced a series of new Internet of Things services, including a new operating system for devices that run on microcontroller units (MCUs).

Along with the new OS, called Amazon FreeRTOS, AWS announced a service called IoT one-click to easily create Lambda triggers, AWS IoT Device Management, AWS IoT Device Defender, AWS IoT Analytics, as well as AWS Greengrass ML Inference. The takeaway here is that AWS is seeing real IoT deployments and is looking to package services in an easier-to-consume way. "Of all the buzzwords of choice... that we've been working on at AWS, IoT might be delivering the fastest in terms of the actual number of companies doing real work there," said Jassy.

Alexa for Business is a bet that the primary interaction between humans and digital systems will be voice. "Interfaces have been dictated by machinery and its capabilities, but its not how we want to communicate. Interfaces won't be machine driven, but human centric. There's a shift going on to voice first. We're here talking. This is not a Slack channel. I'm talking to you. You're hear to listen to someone talk and it's a natural interface," said Vogels. Alexa will also be a bet that AWS can use its cloud and AI engines in the background to make voice recognition smarter. AWS put a nice enterprise exclamation point on the year of Alexa everywhere.

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Innovation and building for the future is the selling point. Vogels outlined what he sees as the future of computing for the next few years and revolves around voice, AI, machine learning and encryption as well as developers taking a central role in all of those moving parts. He also outlined how systems will need to break down into micro components and services. The subtext here is that AWS will continue to roll out services to adapt to whatever architecture and technology shifts occur.

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