Reflecting on re:Invent 2016

Reflecting on re:Invent 2016

Posted by Robert Koury


Dec 13, 2016



Featuring a host of relevant and compelling programming, enlightening keynotes and the seemingly effortless accommodation of over 32,000 attendees, AWS re:Invent 2016 was, in a word: terrific.

I attended re:Invent to better understand – and share information with our customers about – the AWS future vision around two key points: (1) simplification of analytics offerings and (2) upcoming innovations for cloud adoption.  Here’s just some of what I learned:


Analytics, Simplified

A sizable portion of re:Invent was dedicated to a vision that I know will resonate with many of our customers: a simpler and more automated process for analytics.  Traditionally complicated, with many decisions around tools and vendors, the analytics journey is one that Amazon is committed to accelerating.

Simplified integrations between datasets, elegant and cost-effective visualization tools, and enhancements to existing tools such as EMR and Redshift were all prevalent topics at re:Invent.  While a substantial number of articles around this host of new developments and products has already been released, I wanted to highlight a few key technologies that will surely resonate with what we’re seeing in the market through our customers:

  • Athena Athena is a new server-less query service that makes it easy to analyze large amounts of data stored in Amazon S3, using Standard SQL.  Just point Athena at data stored in S3, identify your fields and run your queries.  These queries are parallelized behind the scenes and spread out across hundreds of cores, and the results are delivered in seconds.  That means no building, no managing, no tuning – and you only pay for the queries that you run.
  • Glue – As Amazon CTO Werner Vogels explained at re:Invent, we spend about 80% of our time in analytics simply getting data into a form that we can use.  That leaves just 20% of our time free for the actual analysis.  Enter, Glue: a fully managed data catalog and ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) service. Glue allows developers to build a comprehensive data structure on AWS, with an eye to simplifying processing and, in turn, freeing up resources to conduct the analysis.
  • QuicksightQuicksight provides user-friendly visualization for business analytics at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions.  Quick and easy to implement, you can simply log in, identify your data source, and let the SPICE (Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory Calculation Engine) flow behind the scenes to provide beautiful data visualizations.


The All-Access Cloud

Effective use of the cloud has become a business necessity, but many organizations are still only just beginning their journey.  At re:Invent, I spoke with several companies that are still determining where their cloud path will start.  For the organizations that are at the cloud trailhead, here are a few developments to note:

  • Lightsail – With everything you need to jumpstart your project (i.e., a virtual machine, SSD-based storage, data transfer, DNS management, and a static IP – all for a low, predictable price), Lightsail is designed to be the easiest way to launch and manage a virtual private server with AWS.
  • SMS – The long-awaited Server Migration Service (SMS) is an agentless service simplifying and speeding up the transition of on-premises workloads to AWS. Simplify large-scale migrations by automating, scheduling, and tracking incremental replications of live server volumes.
  • Snowball Edge and Snowmobile – Allowing up to a 100TB data transfer device with onboard storage and compute, Snowball Edge moves a considerable amount of data into and out of AWS.  It can be used as a temporary storage tier for large local data sets, or to support independent local workloads in remote locations.  Snowmobile is a large-data transfer service that can quickly, securely, and cost-effectively move up to 100PB of data to AWS.  Moving video libraries, image repositories, or even a conducting a complete data center migration are now more manageable and affordable than ever before.


So, what do we make of re:Invent 2016?

  • That analytics is no longer just for big organizations with vast resources. With all the new technologies available, analytics is achievable for the masses, and the learning curve will continue to compress.
  • That adopting cloud is getting significantly easier. Organizations who are just beginning their cloud journey can jump on board without fear.

We here at Vertical Trail could not be more excited to work with our customers, to help them gain the most value from these new and evolving technologies.



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