AWS re:Invent 2019 Recap

by | 13 Dec 2019

AWS Reinvent photo

Last week was AWS’s annual reinvent conference in the putatively beautiful and blissful Las Vegas. Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO, announced plenty of new products and features to excite and alarm the computing and soft-warring world. The conference also highlighted AWS’s leadership in highly resilient software architecture and design with their launch of the AWS Builders’ Library. Let’s run over some of the highlights.

Cloud Descending Back to Earth via New Edge Environments: AWS Local Zones, Outposts, and Wavelength

AWS launched two new environment types this year with AWS Local Zones and Wavelength. Local Zones was spurred by AWS customers requiring ultra-low latency for their compute, notably gaming companies based in L.A., where the first Local ZOne is now generally available. New zones will come online as customer demand in a city necessitates. Wavelength is an AWS environment colocated with telecom infrastructure, providing access to 5G endpoints. The general availability of AWS Outposts, a rack of AWS servers providing AWS on-premise, was also announced, enabling the rollout of Local Zones and Wavelength in fairly short order. AWS Outposts enable companies to test deployments in cloud-like environments without fully committing to the cloud, and give customers like Morningstar and Philips Healthcare ultra-low latency, hyper-local availability zones.

These environments showcase a new battle for the edge. AWS basically won the general compute cloud race, but we now find different telecommunication and networking competitors offering edge environments, with startups the likes of Packet and Vaper IO joining the race. As developers gain access to these new endpoints, along with increased networking capabilities and incredibly low hyper-local latencies, we are sure to see a revolutionary new age of applications and services.

We Have a Size for That: New Compute Instance Types

Amazon launched multiple new instance types including Graviton2 instances and EC2 Inf1 instances. The new Graviton2 boast a whopping 40% price performance improvement. They are based on the ARM architecture, effectively challenging Intel and AMD’s dominance in the chip space, and combined with the Nitro System security chip to support encrypted EBS storage volumes by default. The EC2 Inf1 instances are dedicated Machine Learning training instance types, effectively challenging Nvidia’s domination of the market with their GPUs. AWS promises that these chips provide a significant increase in throughput and price performance relative to Nvidia-powered instance types.

AWS Continues to March into SaaS Markets With New Machine Learning Services

Also announced were multiple ML based services including Code Guru for automated code reviews, Fraud Detector for automated fraud detection, Kendra for search indexing, Transcribe Medical for call transcription in the medical industry and Augmented AI for AI workflows requiring human intervention. You would be hard pressed to find a SaaS market Amazon isn’t capable of stepping into with their army of engineers and data scientists.

The release of the SageMaker IDE and SageMaker Debugger seems to be an attempt by AWS to capture the hearts and minds of data scientists with the promise of streamlining the building, training, debugging, deployment, and monitoring of Machine Learning models. This new IDE bypasses the need for users to understand and deploy a Python or R environment, enables progress reporting for long jobs, promises a simplified and automated debugging process, automates alerts about input data drift, and auto-trains your ML model from CSV data files. In early use, the IDE has proven to come with a steep learning curve and a high deal of complexity of use. The SSO feature, notably, only seems to work with newer AWS accounts. According to VentureBeat , the IDE provides “some features that appear to be just rebrandings of older products and some that solve new, legitimate customer pain points. Even the best new features are incremental improvements on existing products.”

Reducing Cloud Anxiety With New Security-Focused Services

It seems Amazon has heard the cries of its customers as they struggle to manage the complexity of their cloud environment’s security. They announced Amazon detective, Macie , and IAM Access Analyzer to review organizational security lattices and catch any potential privilege or access issues. IAM Access Analyzer helps to solve misconfiguration problems, one of the most common problems with AWS deployments, and can purportedly monitor and evaluate thousands of security policies across a deployment environment in seconds.

Thought Leadership in Designing Resilient Software Systems

Amazon showed some responsibility for their dominance of the cloud with their release of the AWS Builders’ Library. A number of sessions at re:Invent included references to their cell-based architecture approach and explained how AWS achieves high uptime numbers for their most important services.