Amazon Beefs up AWS for the Hybrid World

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By: Mary Jander

Tens of thousands of cloud developers, engineers, administrators, and architects converged on Las Vegas this week for the re:Invent 2019 conference hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS). The weeklong event features an impressive lineup of hands-on sessions, talks, and after-hours shenanigans. And for many observers, it’s a chance to see just how AWS plans to retain its lead in an increasingly crowded market.

For three hours on Tuesday morning, AWS CEO Andy Jassy paced the stage in his Ferragamos, delivering an extended keynote speech geared to showing that AWS won't take a back seat as customers adopt a hybrid cloud approach.

The message: AWS will support the trend toward multi-cloud adoption, along with emerging services, such as managed services based on software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN).

Outposts of Progress

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Key to AWS's support of the hybrid cloud trend is a new offering called Outposts, which brings AWS capabilities -- rack hardware, storage, APIs, and all -- onto the customer premises. The result is an edge compute solution for customers who require low-latency, easily configurable applications in house, such as medical or manufacturing enterprises.

In a prepared statement, AWS clarifies the strategy: "[C]ustomers want to be able to run AWS compute and storage on-premises, and also easily and seamlessly integrate these on-premises workloads with the rest of their applications in the AWS cloud."

Early adopters of Outposts include Dynatrace, FanDuel, the Government of Monaco, Morningstar, and Philips Healthcare, says AWS.

Joined at the Edge

Hybrid clouds are attracting other firms to integrate their wares with AWS at the network edge. Aviatrix and Versa Networks, for instance, picked re:Invent 2019 to announce new integrations that extend SD-WAN connectivity inside the AWS cloud.

Aviatrix unveiled its Aviatrix CloudWAN, a new service that lets customers orchestrate their Cisco branch office routers within an AWS console via integration with the AWS Transit Gateway Network Manager.

The benefit of this new integration, Aviatrix says, is that its controller is aware of the AWS environment and can use AWS to configure routers to optimize application performance within AWS.

The announcement expands Aviatrix's existing integration with AWS and builds on the vendor's strategy of overlaying public cloud environments, including Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, with network and security software that are orchestrated via an Aviatrix controller.

SD-WAN vendor Versa Networks announced its support for Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Ingress Routing. Simply put, hybrid cloud customers now can use AWS to automatically connect, in secure fashion, AWS ingress traffic through Versa's network and security appliances. This will allow customers to optimize their security and application performance with applications in the AWS cloud. The result, says Versa, will be a carrier-grade SD-WAN connection to multiple hybrid clouds.

The show of support from SD-WAN vendors is key to AWS staying competitive. While the company still owns about 40% of the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service market, growth rates are slowing as the market settles down from early deployments. Critics also have cited aggressive “lock-in” pricing as another factor in dropping numbers. And as Google, Microsoft, IBM, and other rivals continue to ramp up their cloud service rosters, it’s getting tough to be everything to every customer. Lately, there has been a lot of chatter among IT and network managers that they want more portability between clouds, and they see that SD-WAN and possibly multi-cloud networking might be a solution to this.

Still, AWS is going to try mightily to dominate its customers’ cloud service menus, as evidenced in this week's announcements.

New ARM, Container Offerings

During his hours-long presentation, CEO Jassy announced a dizzying array of products, enhancements, and services -- with no letup in energy.

There are ARM-based Graviton2 processors designed to make AWS cloud instances (or specific groupings of virtual capacities) perform significantly better than x86-based instances. The processors aren’t yet available, but AWS is running general-purpose previews for existing AWS customers.

Also new is a series of container-based upgrades that include the running of Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) on AWS Fargate, a cloud-native provisioning service. This allows developers to deploy containers without servers or other infrastructure, reducing costs. AWS says it also improves security by devoting a specific kernel to each task.

Also featured were an Amazon Managed Apache Cassandra Service, a serverless database offering for developers that drew heightened applause. Then there are enhancements and add-ons to SageMaker, AWS’s machine learning suite; tools to support a general enterprise move from Windows to Linux; analytics and machine-learning services that support the growth of “data lakes” that replace the old-fashioned IT “silos”; storage and database enhancements; and services to identify expendable — and costly — lines of code in cloud applications.

The Beat Goes On

Jassy’s keynote set the tone of re:Invent 2019: flashy, funny, and punctuated by musical interludes played by the live re:Invent 2019 band. We were treated to covers of Billy Joel’s “I’m Moving Out” (followed by a slide of an IBM mainframe and an Oracle database box dumped curbside outside a house) and Dave Matthews’ “Too Much.”

At one point, Jassy invited Goldman Sachs CEO and former record producer David Solomon, aka DJ D-Sol, to share his experiences with AWS -- and prove the case for putting AWS first.

Solomon noted that his company uses other cloud services, but favors AWS, which has enabled the financial giant to move toward cloud-based “transaction banking,” a system that lets large companies conduct banking procedures without funds clearing, approvals, and other procedures that cause delays. The new service should roll out in 2020.

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