AWS boss calls for racial justice, slams enterprise rivals, unveils a raft of real and promised services

And we're only on week one of December's re:invent conference


re:Invent Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy opened the rent-a-processor biz's re:Invent conference on Tuesday by touching on cheerful topics like disease and death.

"I just want to acknowledge what an unbelievably crazy last year it's been, in particular the last nine months," Jassy said. "And COVID has been so difficult for so many people. We've had so many people pass away. We'd had so many people lose their jobs. So many businesses are struggling. It's just been really difficult. "

Jassy then segued to racial injustice in the US. "And I think if you live in the United States, it's also pretty hard to not be struck by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and realize the sobering thought that we have so far to go in this country in how we treat black people," he said.

"I think the reality is for the last several hundred years, the way we have treated black people in this country is disgraceful and is something that has to change."

Amazon, he said, is working on this issue, as are other companies, even as he acknowledged this isn't something that can be solved in a few months.

"It's going to take several years of us working together but we need to do it," he said, without providing specifics about how Amazon, not exactly the poster child for progressive policies, will remedy racism in a country where nearly half the voters have shown little interest in that agenda.

Now, back to business

That said, Jassy shifted to the enormous amount of money AWS earns every year from its pay-per-sip IT infrastructure service. AWS, he said, is a business with a $46bn run rate, meaning it generates that much revenue annually based on its Q3 2020 numbers.

And it has grown 29 per cent compared to Q3 2019, an achievement that required incremental growth of $10bn in the last 12 months. Jassy observed that AWS took over a decade from when it first launched to reach $10bn in revenue.

When Oracle co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison speaks at his company's OpenWorld conference and on financial calls, he often impugns the technology of rivals like Amazon and SAP.

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Jassy, who leads a subsidiary of a company that recently celebrated its abandonment of Oracle databases, didn't miss the opportunity to return the shade. He showed two charts of the top ten enterprise IT companies by revenue in 2010 and in 2020. AWS, which didn't rank in 2010, reached the number five in 2020, just above Oracle.

"In 2020 you can see that AWS is now the fifth largest enterprise IT company in the world, ahead of companies like SAP and Oracle," he said, as he went on to highlight the potential for further growth because only 4 per cent of global IT spending is presently cloud-focused.

Pointing out that only 17 per cent of Fortune 500 companies in 1970 and only half those listed in 2000 still rank today, Jassy went on to argue that companies need to "reinvent" themselves periodically to remain vital – the term that by some coincidence AWS brands its annual conference.

Jassy went on to list eight requirements for corporate reinvention, also known in IT-speak as "digital transformation," or in the common tongue as buying into new products and processes. We'll spare you the biz-wisdom so you don't have to puzzle over dictums like "acknowledge that you can't fight gravity," and "don't 'complexify.'" Let's just agree that the only constant is change, that companies need to adapt, and get back to Jassy's competitor-bashing.

Follow the data

Following an interminable series of product announcements, which we'll get to in a moment, Jassy proceeded to celebrate the virtues of the Amazon Relational Database Service. This involved highlighting the shortcomings of more established database makers like Oracle and Microsoft.

"Despite the growth of things like RDS, it's still true that the overwhelming majority of relational databases are live on-premises," he said. "And they live largely with these old guard commercial-grade database providers, named Oracle and Microsoft, with SQL Server."

"And this is an unhappy place for customers," Jassy explained. "We've talked about this for several years. This is why you're seeing so much movement. But it's unhappy because these offerings are expensive, they're proprietary, they have high amounts of lock-in, and those companies have punitive licensing terms where they're willing to audit you and if they find any discrepancy, they extract more money out of you."

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"And these companies also have no qualms about changing the licensing terms midstream on you. Just look at what Microsoft did with SQL Server the last year or two. They basically changed the terms that you can't use your SQL Server licenses anywhere but Microsoft's cloud. Is that good for customers? Hell no."

Enterprise customers, said Jassy, are sick of such practices and have been moving to AWS to escape the abuse. Amazon Aurora, he said, "has at least the same fault tolerance, durability and availability as the commercial grade databases, but one tenth of the cost."

That led to the announcement of Amazon Aurora Serverless v2, available in preview. Jassy said because it scales in precise increments, it can save users up to 90% of costs compared to provisioning Aurora for peak demand. It can also run MySQL now and is expected to support Postgres in the first half of 2021.

"I ask you, how many of these old guard commercial grade database companies would build something like Serverless v2 that's clearly going to take a meaningful amount of revenue away from their core database offering," he said. "I wouldn't hold your breath. I think the answer is none of them. They're just not built that way."

Stick that in your ear

Adding further pressure to competitor revenue, Jassy announced Babelfish for Amazon Aurora Postgres, "which lets you run [Microsoft] SQL Server applications on Postgres Aurora Postgres with little to no code changes."

Babelfish, he explained, fills in a gap in AWS' migration tools for fleeing legacy provider lock-in.

"It creates a tabular data stream, or TDS endpoint for your app to connect to and it understands Microsoft proprietary schemas," Jassy said. "And what it means for you is that now you can use the [AWS] Database Migration Service to move your database data, the schema conversion tool move your schema or convert your schema. And then you can use Babelfish to update your application configuration to point to Aurora Postgres instead of SQL Server, and you get to shed those expensive and constrained SQL Server licenses."

In 2021, the source code for Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL is slated to be released as open source under an Apache v2 license.

A number of other announcements also refer to products and services set to arrive in the future. Habana Gaudi-based EC2 Instances, for training machine learning (ML) models on Intel chips, should arrive in the first half of 2021. AWS Trainium, a new and custom-made ML training chip that supports all major frameworks and the Neuron SDK, is planned in the second half of 2021.

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EC2 C6gn instances, based on Arm-based Graviton2 chips – promising up to 100 Gbps network bandwidth, up to 38 Gbps Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) bandwidth, up to 40 per cent higher packet processing performance, and up to 40 per cent better price/performance compared to x86-based instances – arrive next month.

EC2 G4ad instances based on AMD’s Radeon Pro V520 GPUs and 2nd generation EPYC processors arrive "soon."

Amazon Outposts, which lets customers run workloads on AWS servers on-premises, will introduce two smaller server options in 2021, a 1U (a 1 ¾-inch tall one rack unit server) and a 2U (a 3 ½-inch tall two rack unit server) box. The slenderized servers don't require as much power, network capacity, or space as the 42-rack, 80-inch fixture.

ECS Anywhere and EKS Anywhere, which lets customers run ECS and EKS in their own data centers, are inbound in 2021. In fact, they are said to work on or with "any infrastructure," including rival platforms, such as Azure and Google Cloud.

AWS is also releasing its own Kubernetes distribution for EKS as an open source project, so customers can get ready using AWS-supported code. Plus, there's a new EKS console for monitoring the status of managed Kubernetes clusters.

And here's what you can try now

But it wasn't all vaporware.

EC2 M5zn instances, based on 2nd generation custom Intel Xeon Scalable processors (Cascade Lake), running at up to 4.5 GHz, are available in seven sizes today. R5b instances, which provide up to 60Gbps of EBS bandwidth and 260,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) for network-attached storage on EC2, are also now available.

As we reported previously, EC2 has been bestowed with bare metal-based macOS instances. It also now boasts D3 and D3en dense storage instances.

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AWS Lambda, meanwhile, has changed its basic unit of billing from 100ms to 1ms, a reward for optimized, efficient code.

Lambda functions now support up to 6 vCPUs and 10 GB of memory, a 3x improvement, and customers can package and deploy Lambda functions as container images of up to 10 GB.

Lambda containers must implement the Lambda Runtime API, a task simplified by using Lambda Runtime Interface Clients and open source Lambda Runtime Interface Emulator.

Those looking to deploy such a container image might look for one on the Amazon Elastic Container Registry repository, announced in November and now available.

AWS Proton, a service for automating and managing infrastructure provisioning and code deployments for serverless and container-based applications, has arrived as a public preview, as has io2 Block Express volumes for Amazon Elastic Block Store.

Another type of EBS SSD storage, gp3, is also available today.

The list goes on and on. There's Amazon DevOps Guru, a managed ML-powered application error finding service; Amazon Monitron, a backend for predictive maintenance applications, using sensor data from factory floors; Amazon QuickSight Q, a natural language querying system for the company's QuickSight business intelligence service; Amazon Connect Voice ID, real-time caller authentication for call centers that relies on analyzing voice characteristics; Amazon Lookout for Equipment, an API-based flavored with AI for detecting anomalous equipment behavior; and Lookout for Vision, a service for spotting damaged components during the manufacturing process, among others.

And re:invent is scheduled to go on for three more weeks, with four more keynotes. We'll keep you updated. ®

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