Article

AWS re:Invent 2020: Key takeaways from re:Invent service announcements

Senthil Ravindran,

 EVP - Global Head of Cloud Transformation

Published: December 8, 2020

AWS Service Announcements are often an indicator of where the cloud industry is headed. They set the tone and sometimes stretch the imagination (remember Amazon Braket?). This article is an attempt to put the announcements in the perspective of the customers we serve. You can also read my observations on last year’s announcement here to understand how far we’ve come along as an industry.

In this article, I set out to analyze this year’s announcements and what it means to our customers in the background of COVID-19. This means less marveling at the coolness of the technology (which is hard to resist, I admit) and more context on how moving to the cloud can address a few of the problems that have to come to be, courtesy – the extended run we’re giving on-premise technologies.

Firstly, this year’s keynote packed several bold punches and was thoroughly entertaining. The adoption journey narrated by customers made it highly authentic, relatable, and humane.

aws reinvent 2020

Andy’s take on the 8 leadership principles (covered in detail by my esteemed colleague, Jim Francis here was quite illuminating. Equally important was the fact that only 4% of global IT spend is on cloud. This market is only expected to grow, and it is exciting to be part of this movement. One thing that really stood out in Andy’s keynote was the criticality of gaining speed. Speed is very crucial, especially now, during COVID-19, more than ever.  Speed is not about adopting new, cool technologies faster. It is about acquiring critical capabilities to serve customers faster, better, and cost-effectively.

Gartner says 69% of Boards of Directors have accelerated their digital business initiatives following COVID-19 disruption. The results of earlier digital transformation projects are far from impressive. An IDC estimate states nearly 70% of the investments spent on digital transformation doesn’t yield results (a staggering $900 billion out of $1.3 trillion wasted in 2018). How do we pick up speed from here?

Cloud may have an answer. The pandemic has made it clear that cloud computing is the vehicle for digital transformation. It has also shown us why we are better off with a holistic cloud computing strategy rather than adopting a DIY approach for managing the technology landscape. However, businesses are yet to shrug off traditional approaches to digital transformation. We cannot repeat the same methods and expect different results now.

To put things into perspective, a future digital enterprise (hybrid cloud) will look like the illustration below. There are many ways to look at this, but the best one is a simple mental model to visualize services in a customer’s context. If you don’t put the service announcements in the context of the problems that your customers are trying to solve, they are just streams of yearly announcements that will be spoken for a while and forgotten.

aws offerings

Now let’s apply the lens of how these services help us move the needle towards building a hybrid digital enterprise. The article here covers ten key services out of Andy Jassy’s week one announcements with one notable exception (support for macOS).

Seamless digital engagement

Amazon Connect is one of my favorite AWS services, and it is getting only better.

  • Amazon Connect Wisdom – Speaking to a contact center agent equipped with the right information to resolve our query is easier said than done. Information about a product/issue raised might reside across disparate sources like wikis, product pages, internal systems, and 3rd party packages such as Salesforce and Service Now. Amazon Connect Wisdom uses machine learning to search multiple repositories and reduces the time taken to address a customer query.

  • Amazon Connect Voice ID: Almost all of us have gone through the painful experience of having to repeatedly provide information such as our date of birth and mother’s maiden name (which, by the way, is not difficult to identify from Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc.). Voice ID creates a unique digital voiceprint that can be used to identify an individual user.

    With AWS getting better at processing, understanding, and summarizing natural language, it will be opportune to plug Amazon Lex (for conversational UX) with such services and drive a highly automated and intelligent contact center.

  • Amazon Lookout for Vision is an exciting application based on computer vision to inspect the quality at assembly lines for manufacturers. This application could identify dents, scratches, cracks, and other defects against a set of baseline images. 

  • AWS Panorama reminds one of Amazon Go. AWS Panorama gives you the ability to run sophisticated computer vision models on-premises (instead of streaming them to the cloud to analyze) with high precision and low latency. This would have a massive impact on running retail stores, manufacturing assembly lines, supply chain, etc. With the COVID-19 vaccines on their way and life, hopefully, getting back to normal, organizations can use this service for workplace and worker safety.

With Amazon Lookout for Vision and Equipment, and Amazon Panorama, one can imagine a digital twin for the manufacturing sector taking a significant leap forward. Also, add Amazon Monitron that can send alerts based on abnormal equipment behavior to your shopping cart.

Insights 

  • Amazon Quicksight Q provides an impressive toolkit to business users. You can now get quick, accurate insights for business queries such as “What is the average balance growth of customers from Japan and Australia?” This capability has always been a holy grail in business intelligence but gets immensely complex to get the data organized, build domain models, map them to the entities in the underlying data structure, etc. It will be exciting to test drive this in action.

Efficient data processing

  • Babelfish for Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL – How about porting a code running in SQL server and migrating it to AWS with little or no changes to the code? Everyone goes through this pain during the migration of DBs into AWS. I believe that this service is a step in the right direction and will only get better. A faster and less painful migration experience means customers enjoy the benefits of moving to the cloud sooner.

  • Amazon Redshift AQUA: If you are thinking of moving to a RedShift-based Cloud DWH, RedShift AQUA (Advanced Query Accelerator) will definitely catch your attention with a promise of 10X faster performances than other Cloud DWHs. If you have a large DWH with petabytes of data, AQUA can be very handy.

Highly automated and stable SDLC

  • DevOps Guru: Building and operating complex cloud-native applications is not for everyone. Cloud-native applications have demonstrated how organizations can build applications that can scale in and out. With this agility comes the nightmare of running these applications without failure and, when things go wrong, it isn’t easy to trace and identify and get things right. Using ML models, DevOps guru can identify anomalies based on standard operating patterns and provide prescribed diagnostics with the root cause, the context of the issue, and even possible means to address the issue. Wow!

Scalable business functions 

There are several announcements in this area. And indeed, these are not for the technologically uninitiated. The one that caught my attention is:

  • Amazon ECR (Elastic Container Registry) Public and Amazon ECR Public Gallery take reuse of containerization to the next level. Now anyone (with or without an AWS ID) can publish a public container image into a highly available, public container registry. Great for producers and consumers. I would crudely put this as a digital marketplace for containers—worth watching how this evolves.

Secure and resilient infrastructure:

  • There are several announcements in the infrastructure area, including support, and the one that was announced on November 30th deserves mention - support for macOS. Millions of Apple developers would be glad to see that they can focus on creating apps rather than being bothered about securing the hardware, keeping it updated with patches, etc. Also, having macOS provisioned as an EC2 resource means the ability to leverage the rich ecosystem of services from the AWS stable (network, storage, queue management, etc.) as well. A very interesting space to watch.

 

Parting notes: Those of us fortunate enough to have attended re:Invent in person during the past years missed the buzz and opportunity to compare notes with colleagues and discussions over long dinners. I cannot help but reminisce the busy week in Las Vegas last year. I urge everyone to stay safe and wish a happy holiday season. Let’s hope that the next re:Invent will be an in-person event full of vibrance!

 

Senthil Ravindran

 EVP - Global Head of Cloud Transformation

Senthilkumar Ravindran is Executive Vice President and Global Head of xLabs at Virtusa Corp. He brings close to 20 years of unparalleled experience in Architecture Design, Business Consulting, Delivery Management and Solutions Sales. After working with Top Tier BFSI clients, Senthil has acquired a deep understanding of fintech disruptors and accelerators from both technological and business model standpoints.

A veteran in the fintech space, Senthil has started his career in the consultant role at TATA Consultancy Services before moving on to Polaris Consulting. Throughout his career, Senthil was elbows-deep in several strategic initiatives. He was instrumental in building the sales capacity planning project using non-Linear optimization techniques. He led the research and development of critical solutions for credit and market risk and regulation in investment banking and he took active part in the strategic transformation programme, bridging a key gap in cash management modernization for a leading UK bank.

As xLabs’ global leader, Senthil is setting new standards for banking system transformation via cutting edge Digital Technologies such as Blockchain, Cloud, Analytics, Mobile and Social. His focus is on re-imagining Banking and assisting clients in solving pressing business and technological problems. His motivation comes from the unshakable belief that positive and substantial business disruption happens when new technologies blend flawlessly with the right Digital Transformation approach.

Senthil has an avid interest in cryptocurrencies and disruptive technologies.

He holds an Engineer’s Degree, Electrical & Electronics from the Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy in India.

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