AWS Everywhere – re:Invent 2019 roundup, Part 1

December 13 2019
by William Fellows, Jean Atelsek, Owen Rogers, Melanie Posey, Christian Renaud


AWS recently held its eighth annual re:Invent conference. While more than 65,000 attendees (vs 53,000 in 2018) were on hand – CEO Andy Jassy reminded the audience this is primarily an education, developer-driven and networking event. Among the attendees were 451 Research analysts across multiple channel disciplines. Analysts contributing to the roundup reports include Jean Atelsek, Henry Baltazar, Raul Castanon-Martinez, Scott Crawford, William Fellows, Craig Matsumoto, Agatha Poon, Melanie Posey and Owen Rogers.

The 451 Take

We are used to a firehose of announcements at re:Invent and 2019 was no different. Additions at the edge are arguably the most significant in terms of the extension of the AWS ecosystem. AWS Outposts, announced a year ago in order to give customers time to make/adjust plans, is shipping. New and significant portfolio additions are AWS Wavelength and AWS Local Zones. Collectively, they are opening a new front and set of opportunities for AWS at the edge. This is the first time at a re:Invent we can remember that AWS has made such a sustained, direct and specific targeting of competitors. We think it's for two reasons. First, looking in the rear-view mirror, there are now realistic competitors, even if they are a long way behind. Second, and more important, is that the next wave of adoption beyond the early movers and low-hanging fruit of the first 13 years will not happen unless organizations are prepared to get legacy vendors and equipment out of the way. This will take serious leadership conviction and alignment.

Continued battle for the enterprise

AWS began courting the enterprise opportunity a few years ago by bringing SIs, MSPs and other partners into the ecosystem and adding governance, compliance, security and auditing capabilities into the infrastructure and IT/data/applications functionality mix. This year's AWS re:Invent featured several further nods to the importance of the enterprise markets (and the volume of workloads that can't or won't move off-premises). Jassy drew attention to a key issue in enterprises' journey to the cloud -- what to bring along from the on-premises world and what to do with the workloads that remain immovable for the near future. AWS Outposts provides a solution to on-premises inertia, as will AWS Local Zones over time as enterprises bail out their own datacenter facilities. In addition, the recurring themes of 'database freedom' (deliverance from Oracle and Microsoft), 'mainframe liberation' (deliverance from IBM), 'OS liberation' (deliverance from Microsoft) and 'lightweight hypervisors' appear to be designed to reinforce the idea that cloud transformation can take place on enterprises' own terms and at their own pace, as well as establishing AWS as the logical primary cloud provider (as opposed to Azure, presumably). As the battle for enterprise cloud continues. AWS may have a fine line to walk between being the 'build' destination for the cloud-first/cloud-native crowd and being the 'soft landing' destination for enterprise IT and digital transformation.

Edge – Wavelength

The question 'why edge computing?' at this point is not really in debate. The question is 'how edge computing?' AWS Wavelength sees AWS infrastructure deployed along telecom 5G network builds with Verizon, Vodafone, KDDI and SK telecom as its initial (although not exclusive) partners. It provides a new opportunity for its telco partners to tap AWS market leadership to generate new B2B, B2B2C value. Wavelength lets AWS position its infrastructure services ever closer to end users while changing nothing from user experience of the developer. Attracting and servicing developers is an Achilles heel of telcos generally whereas this is where AWS shines. Wavelength enables AWS developers to build applications with enhanced user experiences such as near real-time analytics for instant decision-making, immersive game streaming, and automated robotic systems in manufacturing facilities.

The pitch to developers is compelling in that they can use all the AWS tooling, management console and APIs that they are familiar with. To deploy application to a 5G edge, they can simply extend Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to a Wavelength Zone and then create AWS resources like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) volumes. Ultimately, we think it's going to enable devices to stream content rather than having it resident/processed – think inexpensive mobile phones without expensive on-board chip and material manifests with very low power needs, ePOS and remote sensors. This is where new business models and supply chains will need to be devised. A rare win/win that points the motivation of telcos and cloud players pointed in the same direction after being at odds for years.

Edge – Local Zones

AWS's other twist on edge are AWS Local Zones, which can be deployed in a range of facilities, bringing select AWS services close to a particular geographic area. Local Zones provide a very low latency (single-digit milliseconds) to applications. Operating as an extension of an AWS region (in this case US West, Oregon) the first Local Zone deployed in Los Angeles is designed to support the needs of film makers seeking to render digital images and more generally media and entertainment, electronic design automation, ad-tec and machine learning applications in southern California.

Digital economics

At the 2017 re:Invent analyst summit, we asked AWS leaders how they were going to help customers optimize the huge complexity they were creating; with new instances based on AWS Inferentia and AWS Graviton customer chips launched at this year's event, the range of services and variations is greater than ever. But AWS has made strides in solving this issue, most notably with the launch of Savings Plans, a simpler more automated alternative to Reserved Instances. AWS Compute Optimizer is another gain in this area, a free service providing recommendations on instance size and type, plus the configuration of auto-scaling groups. AWS Fargate, the pay-as-you-go container service, now has a spot instance market for cheaper access to resources.

But a perhaps unexpected area for optimization is licensing, with AWS License Manager allowing controls on licenses to be implemented by administrators to prevent violations, and an End of Life Migration Program for Windows Server aiming to help enterprises move their legacy Windows Server applications to newer versions on AWS, with no code changes. After Microsoft changed its Windows licensing on AWS dedicated hosts a few months ago, we think the migration program is looking to make Windows on AWS more attractive through easier implementation.

Cloud native

AWS's cloud-native launches at re:Invent focused on containers and particularly AWS Fargate, the company's provision-less container platform. Besides extending Fargate to support the Amazon EKS managed Kubernetes service, the company announced Fargate Spot (cut-rate ephemeral instances well-suited to stateless workloads) and Amazon ECS Capacity Providers, which let customers mix on-demand and spot resources in a single ECS cluster depending on the needs of the application. The company stressed freedom of choice: customers can opt to deploy containers on EC2 or with Fargate, to orchestrate with Amazon ECS or EKS, and to purchase using Savings Plans, on-demand or spot pricing. AWS's proprietary App Mesh is the service fabric, based on Envoy, that promises a consistent framework across ECS, EKS and Fargate for dynamically configuring services, fine-grained deployment controls, communications management, and failure visibility and isolation. The company hopes to ride the wave of container (and Kubernetes) momentum and to provide a ladder of options for abstracting away underlying infrastructure at the hypervisor, orchestration and, ultimately, the service level. As one executive put it, the goal is to fill in the management gap between containers and applications by demonstrating the value of the 'less' part of serverless: less cost, less toil and less process overhead.