AWS re:Invent 2016 - Amazon Cloud has no limits

Dec 23, 2016

 AWS re:Invent - a pilgrimage by 40,000 developers thirsting for knowledge

Amazon Web Services attracted the world's top developers, IT companies and partners at its annual convention in Las Vegas. 

It's incredible, but true: AWS hit it out of the park this year, bringing together over 42,000 people over several days at a single location, the Las Vegas Convention Center.

With an event on this scale, Amazon has joined the exclusive club of IT companies with a sprawling, international community of users built around its offering. This community was AWS's target audience for its annual event. Effectively, the goal was to cement its reputation and to demonstrate that AWS is the unchallenged leader in the Public Cloud.Mission accomplished - almost without breaking a sweat! With dozens of announcements and innovations, each as startling as the next, AWS has sent a signal to all its competitors, and to all Cloud-based technologies, where AWS has become an unchallenged in leader in particular: in addition to its technological mastery of every single cloud layer, it also develops, re-imagines, and ultimately publishes its work in the form of on-demand services for Cloud users.

It's true that, with all these announcements, the AWS Cloud is far from easy to get your head around. That's why we have prepared this short overview, helping you to gain an insight into everything that has recently been said around AWS's latest developments.

Amazon Aurora compatibility with PostgreSQL

Amazon Web Services is engaged in a ferocious battle with traditional, incumbent IT companies. Raining down body blows in the form of innovations, AWS is attempting to win skirmish after skirmish to emerge as supreme leader.

One of the main battlegrounds in this quest is in the field of database management. Indeed, corporate data is often the most important issue where IT problems are concerned. AWS makes companies' lives easier by offering Aurora, which delivers up to five times better performance than MySQL without requiring any modifications to most MySQL applications.

During the Las Vegas conference, Andy Jassy, AWS's CEO, took advantage of the opportunity to take a few jabs at Oracle, particularly by announcing that Aurora will soon be compatible with PostgreSQL, which itself is intimately linked with none other than Oracle.

Andy Jassy also used the opportunity to announce that this Amazon Web Services was the fastest growing in the entire AWS service portfolio. As an example, he cited the 14,000 databases that were migrated to AWS in 2016. War has been declared.

Artificial Intelligence and Amazon

Another major event theme was Alexa, Amazon's own artificial intelligence, which has benefited from several innovations, including Amazon Lex, which allows the development of voice-controlled robots.

Built on Alexa's AI, which itself is based in the Cloud, Lex allows the creation of chatbots that interact with the human voice in an entirely intelligent, fluid way, like a simple conversation. AWS is seeking to increase the adoption of chatbots by extending their use to voice communications. A historically complex problem, voice interactions are often considered to be the most complicated challenges to resolve. Lex makes it simple to benefit from the power of Alexa, Amazon's AI engine.

On the subject of Alexa, AWS took the opportunity to announce that a highly specific partnership programme will shortly be announced. AWS will invest in tools, training, and access to financial markets for partners who wish to offer new Alexa capabilities to their customers.

Lex is even capable of adding images to your conversation by plugging into the metadata of images stored on AWS.

AWS has also made great progress in machine learning with the announcement of Rekognition. This service allows you to identify the nature of a photo's content. Rekognition is capable of describing what it sees in a photo: an animal, a dog, and even the breed of the dog! This service has the potential to become very useful for all companies where data scraping is a core part of their business model. By analyzing millions of images, there will be a multitude of options available to e-commerce players, security specialists, or simply imaging professionals.

New Cloud Computing Options

In the EC2 family, we request Amazon's C, R and I instances. These new generation instances are more powerful and faster, with greater processing power, while retaining their competitive pricing. Nothing new, but a big step up on the part of AWS.

Nevertheless, the EC2 family couldn't miss out on a major announcement! That was achieved with the arrival of the EC2 F1, a brand new instance that will give direct and easy access to custom FPGA hardware on the instance, requiring just a few clicks.

Snowmobile, or Data Migration, 33 tonnes at a time !

Amazon stole the show by bringing an eighteen-wheeler onto the stage. This truck, which appeared in the thick of the action, got a laugh at first, but it revealed AWS's core philosophy: "if you have a problem, no matter how big, relax - we'll take care of it."

Indeed, this smart truck allows data to be migrated physically by taking data from servers at Datacenter A and transporting it securely to Datacenter B. As such, this upgraded and permanently connected truck makes it possible to reduce data transfer times from several months to a few weeks in principle. This service will be available in France once AWS has opened its own data center.On the subject of connected objects, but smaller ones this time, the Snowball Edge appliance will also make it possible to transfer data, but on a smaller scale this time. With a capacity of up to 100TB, Snowball Edge is the perfect piece of kit to transport data quickly and securely. Unlike SnowMobile, this transportation service is already available in France.

Amazon takes IT security very seriously

With the announcement of Amazon Shield, AWS has sent a powerful signal to all its customers: "You're protected with AWS," no matter how big or small your invoice is. In fact, Shield is AWS's new anti-DDoS program. DDoS attacks are a modern plague, because preventing them is so complex — and so is fixing them as, once they are launched against a website, downtime is all but guaranteed.

AWS has announced that all its customers will benefit from a standard layer of security to prevent these attacks. If customers want 24×7 access to Amazon's support services in order to deal with an attack, they must migrate to the advanced (and chargeable) version.

A step closer to full automation with OpsWorks

It will soon be possible to automate some tasks with ease, including the configuration, deployment, and management of AWS servers. With the help of Chef, you'll be able to treat server configurations like code and, therefore, choose what you want to automate: database management, package installation, etc.

Amazon Web Services pampers developers

Two new tools were announced to make developers' lives easier under AWS. The first is CodeBuild, which makes it possible to manage self-contained tests directly in the Cloud and not in an expensive, dedicated test environment which is expensive to implement and difficult to manage. With CodeBuild, developers can test their code in a flexible manner in a consistent environment in order to avoid nasty surprises when the app is deployed in a production environment.

The second tool is X-Ray. As its name suggests, this tool X-rays your Amazon instances in order to understand where bugs and other performance issues may come from. Via a relatively easy-to-use interface, it's possible to specify what you want to analyze, and when, while the tool takes care of the rest.

Amazon Web Services expands its Public Cloud empire

With all these announcements, Amazon Web Services has simply confirmed what we already knew: it's a giant that knows how to innovate and that moves quickly. In fact, despite its size, its growth, and all the problems that they entail, AWS continues to innovate as if the company was still a small tech start-up.

This technical agility and the associated innovation, despite the company's size, also reflects AWS's appeal to its customers: flexible technology that makes heavyweights more agile while giving start-ups confidence in their ability to grow rapidly.

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Aymeric Aitamer

Aymeric Aitamer

CEO & Co-Founder at Artifakt, Aymeric is ex-CTO of the web agency DND and has 10 years of experience in web development.