AWS re:Invent 2020 underscores push toward cloud in pandemic

AWS re:Invent 2020 launches with a slew of public cloud news announcements, as well as new motions by the company toward hybrid and multi-cloud scenarios.

AWS kicked off its annual re:Invent conference with a torrent of product announcements and calls for cloud adoption, both fueled and informed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The division of Amazon now has a $46 billion revenue run rate representing a 29% year-over-year growth, and COVID-19 helped push many companies into the cloud, CEO Andy Jassy said during a livestreamed keynote.

"So many of those enterprises have gone from talking to having a real plan," Jassy said. "When you look back at the history of the cloud, it will show that the pandemic accelerated adoption of the cloud by several years."

Yet some of the most notable announcements AWS made underlined how public cloud services must coexist with customers' on-premises environments. EKS Anywhere and ECS Anywhere, set for release next year, will allow customers to use the AWS container management platforms in their own data centers, Jassy said.

The move could be seen as a response to services such as Google Anthos, which provides a stack of software for orchestrating Kubernetes container workloads across multiple clouds -- including AWS -- and on-premises environments, although Jassy didn't mention it.

AWS also previewed two new versions of Outposts, the specialized server racks containing stacks of AWS software that are run on customer sites and managed by AWS. Outposts are available today in large rack configurations, but the new options are only 1 3/4 and 3 1/2 inches tall, respectively. These are a fit for restaurants, retail stores and other locations with cramped spaces and lesser need for a full-blown Outpost, Jassy said.

Andy Jassy, CEO, AWSAndy Jassy

In addition, the company disclosed an expansion of its Local Zones offering. These bring a subset of AWS public data center functionality to major cities for companies that have demanding low-latency requirements but aren't located close to a traditional AWS Region. New Local Zones have been launched in Boston, Houston and Miami, with 12 more cities coming next year.

"AWS is doing a good job of speaking to the broad needs of their customers," said Ed Anderson, a vice president and analyst at Gartner. "What customers want is to apply the strength and power of cloud computing to these more demanding use cases."

Still, AWS is not infallible and continues to work on fine-tuning its architecture. Last week, a major service outage involving its Kinesis data streaming service caused disruptions in many popular websites. Other AWS services depend on Kinesis, exacerbating the problem.

"We will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to improve our availability even further," AWS said in a lengthy post-mortem report on the incident.

Re:Invent news underscores AWS iteration as well as invention

Other re:Invent announcements this week include new compute instance types; AWS Proton, a fully managed service for building and deploying microservices-based applications; a revamped version of the company's QuickSight BI service; and Amazon DevOps Guru, which uses machine learning to spot operational problems in customer systems and offer recommendations on fixes.

Proton is a notable announcement, but like any managed service it is proprietary to AWS, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. Overall, this year's re:Invent "looks like it is much more about incremental [advancements] now than net-new innovation, which shows they have it all," he said.

That maturity is reflected in the company's continued ability to attract large customers such as HSBC. The multinational British bank uses AWS on a global scale, said Dinesh Keswani, group CTO at HSBC, in a re:Invent presentation.

When you look back at the history of the cloud, it will show that the pandemic accelerated adoption of the cloud by several years.
Andy JassyCEO, AWS

HSBC is also a Google Cloud customer and began using public cloud services four years ago, he said. It has developed an API-based platform for open banking, a trend that helps third-party developers create services around consumers' banking information. The platform is architected in such a way that it can be deployed into various AWS regions as a single instance, thereby meeting data residency requirements and other regulations.

"We're seeing higher retention rates because we've got services that connect us to the customer deeper than ever," Keswani said. "We're ready to take the next leap of faith, which is to move our core apps into AWS."

But AWS must also continue catering to the individual developers and consultancies that powered its initial rise.

"I'm in the serverless realm, so this re:Invent I'm looking for lower costs, more features and better service integration," said Ryan Marsh, CEO of The Stack, a digital transformation agency in Houston. To that end, AWS announced that its Lambda service will now feature per-millisecond billing, compared with the previous per-100-millisecond pricing model. "That's great for serverless customers," Marsh said.

AWS expects more than 500,000 registrants for re:Invent, which continues through Dec. 17.

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