How AWS Continues to Re:Invent the Cloud

eWEEK DATA POINTS: AWS was firing on all cylinders at re:invent 2018, announcing new and enhanced capabilities that expand the boundaries of both public and private cloud deployment.

AWS re:invent 2018

In the cloud industry, one thing has been fairly certain in recent years and that is the fact that Amazon Web Services will continue to announce new features and capabilities for its cloud platform at a rapid pace.

The busiest event by far for AWS is its annual AWS re:Invent conference, which is often the place where an overwhelming number of new features and services are announced—and the 2018 conference was no exception. The 2018 event ran Nov. 26-30 in Las Vegas, spanning six hotels.

At the 2017 event, AWS had a strong focus on machine learning technologies, which carried through to the 2018 edition of re:Invent. AWS, however, is not a one-trick pony and was firing on all cylinders this year, announcing new container, developer, private cloud, networking, storage and developer features across its ever expanding, vast portfolio of capabilities.

In this eWEEK Data Points article, we look at the major areas of innovation and new services announced by AWS at the 2018 re:Invent conference.

Data Point No. 1: AWS Is Expanding Compute Options

At its core, AWS provide elastic compute services on demand, and it’s a service that continues to add new options. Among the new compute options announced at re:Invent 2018:

  • AWS Outposts: Perhaps the single most disruptive new service announced at re:Invent 2018, AWS Outposts brings AWS hardware on-premises, enabling organizations to run cloud instances in their own data centers.  For more information on AWS Outposts, go here.
  • New EC2 Instances: AWS announced a series of new EC2 instances, including P3dn.24xl, which provides up to eight Nvidia V100 GPUs, 32GB GPU memory, fast NVMe storage, 96 Intel Xeon Scalable processors, vCPUs and100G-bps networking.

Data Point No. 2: AWS Wants Developers to Love Its Platform

In a flurry of announcements during his Day 2 keynote address, AWS CTO Werner Vogels unveiled new services that will appeal to developers, making the cloud a more attractive development target. Among the services announced by Vogels are:

  • Amazon Managed Streaming for Kafka: Fully managed and highly available Apache Kafka service.
  • AWS Well-Architected Tool: New tool to help organizations measure and improve architecture using AWS Well-Architected best practices. More information on the Well Architected Tool is available here.
  • Step Functions Service Integration: Enhanced capability enables developers to connect and coordinate AWS services together without writing code.

Data Point No. 3: AWS Is All In for Machine Learning

At re:Invent 2017, AWS introduced its SageMaker artificial intelligence (AI) technology as the cornerstone of its machine learning (ML) efforts, and it's an effort that is continuing to expand. New machine services and features announced at re:Invent 2018 include:

  • Amazon SageMaker Ground Truth: A key challenge with machine learning models is figuring out how to label data. Ground Truth is an effort to make that easier, using a combination of humans and automation to accelerate the data labeling process.
  • Amazon SageMaker RL: A new Reinforcement Learning (RL)-based service that is able train a model without the need for large amounts of training data.
  • Amazon SageMaker Neo: Neo is a deep learning model compiler for specific hardware platforms, enabling improved performance. Neo supports hardware platforms from Nvidia, Intel, Xilinx, Cadence and Arm, and popular frameworks such as TensorFlow, Apache MXNet and PyTorch.
  • AWS Marketplace for Machine Learning: While SageMaker already includes multiple AI/ML models for users, there is a rapidly growing need for more models. The new AWS Marketplace for Machine Learning includes over 150 algorithms and models that can be deployed directly to Amazon SageMaker
  • AWS DeepRacer: In an effort to make ML more fun, DeepRacer enables developers to learn about AI/ML with fully autonomous model race cars.
  • Amazon Textract: Optical character recognition (OCR) software has been around for decades, but it doesn't typically understand the data it is scanning. Amazon Textract uses machine learning to instantly read virtually any type of document to accurately extract text and data without the need for any manual review or custom code.
  • Amazon Personalize: AWS is now offering organizations the opportunity to benefit from the same core technology that powers Amazon.com's real-time recommendation and personalization service.

More information on AWS' new machine learning services is available here.

Data Point No. 4: AWS Is Serious About Cloud Security

Security is always top of mind for organizations moving to the cloud, and it's a concern that AWS takes seriously with an expanding set of services. Among the new security services that AWS announced are:

  • AWS Control Tower: Managing policies across a large number of accounts and deployments is a challenge that AWS Control Tower aims to help solve. According to AWS, Control Tower provides central cloud teams with a single, automated “landing zone” where their teams can provision accounts and workloads according to industry and AWS best practices. For more information on Control Tower go here.
  • AWS Security Hub: With the new AWS Security Hub, organizations can now see their entire AWS security and compliance state in one place. AWS Security Hub collects and aggregates findings from the security services it discovers in a customer’s environment. For more information on Security Hub go here.
  • AWS Firecracker: Firecracker is a new open-source MicroVM (virtual machine) that is already being used to help secure AWS Lambda and Fargate services. More information on Firecracker is available here.

Data Point No. 5: AWS Doesn't Like Oracle Databases

At multiple points throughout the AWS re:Invent keynotes, executives highlighted the cloud giant's cloud database capabilities and took aim at rival Oracle. Beyond competitive shots, AWS also announced a series of new database capabilities, including:

  • Amazon Aurora MySQL Global Database Support: Global Database allows organizations to update an Aurora database in a single AWS Region and automatically replicate it across multiple AWS Regions globally. More information on Aurora is available here.
  • Amazon DynamoDB On-Demand and Transaction Capabilities: Amazon DynamoDB On-Demand removes the need for capacity planning by automatically managing the read/write capacity, and customers only pay-per-request for what they actually use. More information on DynamoDB is available from AWS here.
  • Amazon Timestream: Timestream is a fully managed time series database service for collecting, storing and processing time series data.
  • Amazon QLDB: The Amazon Quantum Ledger Database is a serverless service that provides a cryptographically verifiable ledger that organizations can use to build applications that act as a system of record, where multiple parties are transacting within a centralized, trusted entity. 

Data Point No. 6: Cloud Storage Matters

Running compute services in the cloud is all fine and nice, but without storage, what have you got? AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) is one of the best-known storage services at AWS, but it's not the only one. New services and features announced at re:Invent 2018 include:

  • Amazon S3 Intelligent Tiering: Rather than just leaving data at a default class of access, intelligent tiering automatically moves data buckets to the most cost-effective storage tier for users.
  • Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive: AWS' new low-cost S3 tier is for infrequent-access, long-term data retention and is being positioned as an alternative to tape-based archives.
  • Amazon S3 Batch Operations: Provides automation and bulk storage management capabilities to help organizations deal with the complexity of managing large volumes of object data.
  • Amazon FSx for Windows File Server: The FSx family of storage services provides third-party file system support in the cloud. The Windows File Server flavor provides a Windows-compatible file system with fully managed Windows file servers in the cloud.  
  • Amazon FSx for Lustre: Provides support for the High-Performance Computing (HPC) Lustre file system that can process very large data sets.
  • AWS DataSync: New data transfers help organizations move data between on-premises storage systems and AWS cloud storage.

More information on AWS' cloud storage services is available here.

Data Point No. 7: Serverless Is Big

In 2014, AWS launched Lambda, ushering in a new era of serverless functions. Lambda continues to expand in 2018 with a number of new capabilities, including:

  • Lambda Layers: A way to centrally manage code and data that is shared across multiple functions.
  • Lambda Runtime API: A simple interface to use any programming language, or a specific language version, for developing your functions.
  • Nested Applications Using Serverless Application Repository: The new service enables developers to compose application architectures from reusable building blocks.
  • ALB Support for Lambda: Enables developers to integrate Lambda functions into existing web architectures, with the AWS Application Load Balance (ALB) service.

Summary

Even with all the new and enhanced products and features listed above, AWS has even more up its sleeve for 2019. As AWS CTO Werner Vogels said during his keynote, AWS builds what its customers want. With a head start in the cloud industry already and a rapidly growing service set, AWS is constantly aiming to re:Invent both itself and the cloud.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.