re:Invent 2017 - another year of madness

Another year of re:Invent is over. I had to leave on Thursday night, so missed the final big party, but the rest of the week has been absolutely epic in a number of ways.

Pace of innovation

As always, relentless. It’s the thing I love the most about public cloud - the competitive desire and drive to move further up the stack and offer solutions which make your life easier and more effective - allowing you to focus on business value, not "IT".

Of the two keynotes, I enjoyed Andy’s more - but then I’m a sucker for new releases.

Highlights I’d call out are:

1. They stuck it to Oracle, which I always enjoy. When 10,000 people in a room are laughing at your company, it’s time to think differently. The sheer number of clients we have asking about migrations away from Oracle is unbelievable - not because of tech (which is great), but because of the way clients are treated and the high margins being smacked onto them. I honestly think Oracle need to change their culture - right now the only thing stopping more people moving to Aurora is the project complexity/risk of doing so.

On the release side, specifically the introduction of a bare metal service is a retaliatory strike back at Larry and co, and the continued development of Aurora features, plus the new Serverless option will generate more interest there.

2. "Managed K8S" via Fargate and EKS was the biggest expectation, and biggest ask from the tech teams at cloudy towers - and AWS delivered. This will remove a lot of complexity and allow container value to be delivered much faster.

3. Guard Duty. Whilst it’s not the most feature rich offering right now, this will strike a blow to ISV security vendors as AWS will realistically, rapidly and effectively innovate in this space. I would bet against a number of the more trad security vendors doing well in the medium term on this basis.

4. AI! Loads of interesting new services here. AWS needed to strike back against a perception (reality) they were lagging a little in some areas, and they have done so. DeepLens and SageMaker will drive a lot of interesting new proof of concept activities and show what’s really possible in this space. I think Werner also got a lot of people thinking about voice on Thursday, as a huge future driver of interaction. The release of Rekognition Video certainly got people thinking about technology and privacy (basic summary is you no longer have any).

Pictured: Nick Burton, Chief Information & Digital Officer at Belron, came down to our re:Invent booth to pose with his customer portrait

What was missing?

I was expecting more from Pat G and team VMWare, given the dig at Microsoft’s VMWare cloud offering earlier in the week. I’m still not a huge believer in this service, so I’m not exactly sad about missing this, but I was definitely expecting something.

I think some people might have expected some more "big bang" new services, but I don’t think one should underestimate the incremental steps (some of them big!) that have been made.

The opposite of innovation

I spoke with many clients and prospects, and heard a number of woeful tales of big enterprises wanting, and needing, to adopt public cloud at scale - but being held back by two things:

  • Procurement processes designed in a different lifetime. This is a topic in itself, and probably worth of a blog post in the future, but it is hugely frustrating to see innovation being held back by nothing more than red tape adding limited value. Clearly procurement has a major function to play in any business, but some companies seem to be letting the tail wag the dog.
  • "The business" vs. "IT", that seemingly endless conflict of "them" vs. "us". Fundamentally this boils down to communication and effective change management.

Successful cloud implementation remains more about people and culture, than about technology.

Scale and the future

The event was huge. 40,000 people, spread across a number of hotels - making logistics a bit fiddly at times, although many cloudy colleagues noted they’d covered endless kilometers and felt marginally fitter as a result.

Gut feeling is that AWS won’t be able to run many more global conferences like this, and will split into regional conferences in a few years - we’ll see.

Pictured: Raid, Cloud Systems Developer Lead at Cloudreach, gets two competitors ready to race our Data Cars at re:Invent

Heading home

It’s been intense. A combination of jetlag, the odd hangover, smoky casino air, more meat and wine than is perhaps sensible, and a lot of meetings is tough on the constitution. I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend! But I take away a host of memories, lots of new contacts and opportunities, along with experience of our awesome IoT Scalextric offering.

Perhaps more importantly, my only gambling this year was idly inserting $1 into a slot machine and it kindly returning $38 back. In % terms, only Bitcoin can beat that return, 

See you next year folks.

Chris Bunch, Head of Cloudreach Europe


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