Cloud computing giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) has its biggest event of the year next week, with AWS re:Invent running online-only and free of charge for the first time, starting November 30 and closing December 18.
This year the event will not be spread across various hotels on the Las Vegas strip, but rather across a three-week period online. This brings its own logistical challenges.
The event will kick off with a “Late Night with AWS” session on Monday night, followed by CEO Andy Jassy’s typical three hour keynote on Tuesday, December 1. This will be followed by the Thursday partner keynote.
Meanwhile, CTO Werner Vogels will give his technical keynote during the third week, on Tuesday, December 15. The other keynotes will focus on technical areas like machine learning and infrastructure.
Aside from the keynotes there are various “leadership” sessions, breakouts, lounges, and “ask the expert” sessions across 50 content tracks and multiple language options. Except for the Late Night sessions there will be no content on Mondays or Fridays.
It’s safe to expect Jassy and his senior leadership team to continue its recent efforts to make AWS more accessible to business decision makers, while keeping its core developer audience excited and engaged.
“AWS has missed a direct line of communication to the C-suite, not just IT leaders or the developer community, but a business conversation," Nick McQuire, vice president for enterprise research at CCS Insight told InfoWorld. "How does AWS help a senior leader of a business react, respond, or transform? This is the time for AWS to be doing that, as technology and business have never been so entwined."
McQuire sees this manifesting around a set of announcements focused on specific industries, such as telecoms, media, and industry. AWS announced a major deal with Verizon at last year’s re:Invent but will look to maintain momentum as 5G networks start to come online.
This industry-specific work will span the whole portfolio at AWS but specifically its efforts around the edge and hybrid cloud, where Outposts and Local Zones could see some updates as they see momentum across those key industries.
We also wouldn’t be surprised to see more vertical-specific machine learning products, like the anti-fraud detection for financial services and various medical applications which were announced last year.
AWS product announcements
In terms of major product announcements, AWS is expected to bolster its multi-cloud management toolset, enabling customers to manage their workloads on rival clouds, as well as those with AWS and on-premises. An October report from The Information proposes that such a product is due to be announced at re:Invent. AWS did not deny the validity of the claims when asked by InfoWorld.
AWS has long tried to convince the market that enterprises should shift all of their workloads to the public cloud—ideally theirs—but has since enabled more hybrid cloud options to run cloud-like workloads in on-premises or private clouds. Now it could be set to soften its stance further in face of market pressures.
Whatever is announced should help AWS compete with products like Google Cloud’s Anthos multi-cloud management platform, or Microsoft’s Azure Arc, or IBM’s suite of options via its newly acquired Red Hat assets.
In an interesting piece of timing, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian recently published a blog post expounding the values of an “open cloud approach”—one that “ensures operational and technical consistency across public clouds or private data centres and effective management of infrastructure, applications, and data across the organisation.”
McQuire at CCS Insight is less convinced, however. “I am not sure if multi-cloud will necessarily be the headline,” he said.
Instead, he expects AWS to build on its hybrid cloud options like AWS Outposts and Local Zones, as well as continuing to build out its managed container and Kubernetes services. That is “unless they can showcase a capability which clearly exceeds the competition,” he added.
Attendees should also expect announcements around the Amazon’s work with custom silicon, building on last year’s announcement of an extended partnership with Arm to design the Graviton2 and a new EC2 Inf1 instance that features AWS’s own Inferentia chips, which are optimised for machine learning workloads and now run most of the company’s Alexa workloads.
AWS expert lounges and learning
AWS re:Invent will be particularly difficult to navigate this year, even without having to keep track of the shuttle schedule. The session catalog is difficult to parse and there is no clear agenda to follow.
For those worried about missing out on all that networking they normally get to do, AWS is setting up plenty of virtual lounges. These lounges will also have AWS technical experts on hand to break down technical presentations and answer questions.
It wouldn’t be AWS re:Invent without some training and certifications, with AWS running its usual range of “Jams” and “GameDays” for hands-on learning.