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AWS re:Invent – AI, Oracle & start-up agility

The cloud company raised the bar for its competitors with 14 new products and services.

By James Nunns

Amazon Web Services, no longer the feisty upstart that’s taking on the big tech companies, now an incumbent with a polished conference but enough innovation to impress the most agile of start-ups.

The widely accepted public cloud market leader held its annual showpiece conference in Las Vegas and demonstrated its popularity by stuffing in 32,000 people into the conference centre beneath The Palazzo and Venetian hotels.

Andy Jassy, AWS, CEO took the ropes for the majority of the re:Invent keynote setting the tone early by saying that customers tell him, “With AWS, it can feel like you have been given superpowers.”

Not real superpowers of course, but this was a re-invention of the sales cloud pitch, the reasons why companies should and have moved to the cloud.

Speed, flexibility, agility, cost savings, these are the now well known advantages of the cloud and Jassy put these reasons as why there has been a changing of the guard.

AWS may no longer be referred to as a feisty upstart, it is a proven enterprise company, but it’s still happy to take pops at the “old guard” as Jassy referred to them.

As in 2015, the main butt of the jokes would be Oracle, with several references to the company and other “old guard” companies: “Old guard leaders use to get away with making false claims…customers no idea to see what was real till you buy.”

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The CEO also said that cloud gives ability to see the “hand waving and bombast,” each pop was clearly directed at Oracle as pictures of Larry Ellison, executive Chairman and CTO of Oracle.

A picture of Ellison appeared as Jassy talked about old guard vendors.

A picture of Ellison appeared as Jassy talked about old guard vendors.

This kind of posturing isn’t particularly new but it gives the audience a few chuckles and Oracle can take heart in at least being mentioned while other rivals weren’t referenced at all.

The real take-away from the re:Invent keynote isn’t really the baiting of rivals but the extremely high levels of innovation that continues to come from AWS.

Fourteen new products and services would be announced during the keynote, many of these extensions of existing products, but several new ones were also included. This kind of rapid acceleration is something that is missing from all other conferences which I’ve attended over the past two years.

The impressive thing about AWS is that it is now the scale of a large enterprise but it is still operating as if it were still a start-up.

Among the products came new families of instances; T2, R3 and i3, new services such as Athena, a serverless query services that’s designed to make it easy to quickly analyse data directly in Amazon S3 using standard SQL, and three new artificial intelligence services.

The Oracle font appeared as Jassy spoke of freedom at re:Invent.

The Oracle font appeared as Jassy spoke of freedom at re:Invent.

Jassy said: “A lot of companies don’t realise the heritage that AWS has with machine learning.” So the company has set about changing that with three new services that put it firmly in the AI mix with Google and Microsoft.

First there is Amazon Lex, the technology that powers Amazon Alexa, this is designed to allow developers to build conversational user experiences for web, mobile and connected devices.

Amazon Polly works to transform text into lifelike speech and offers apps the ability to talk with 47 lifelike voices in 24 languages. Amazon Rekognition enables the ability to add image analysis to applications thanks to deep-learning based image and face recognition.

While none of these are particularly brand new to the market, AWS competitors offer some similar services, they cement the acceptance throughout the industry that AI is going to be increasingly important.

AWS did a good job of giving developers what they want and delivering improvements on the core products that made the company what it is today while tapping into the hot ticket topics such as AI.

With more product releases expected tomorrow AWS is setting the bar high for its competitors.

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