AWS CEO takes aim at tech ‘old guard’

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Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) CEO Andy Jassy kicked off his company’s ninth annual re:Invent conference this week with an acknowledgement that it had been a “crazy year”.

Jassy laid out the company’s new product announcements during his three-hour virtual keynote, which covered innovations in storage, serverless compute, containers, machine learning, analytics, as well as new capabilities for agents in call centres. Here’s a selection of the product announcements.

He took aim at the “old guard” of Microsoft and Oracle with SQL Server, with the announcement of the next version of its Aurora Serverless, which makes it easier to migrate from SQL Server to Aurora.

He said the majority of relational databases were still on-premises, which were an “unhappy place” for customers because they were expensive and had a large degree of lock-in. He also called out Microsoft for changing licensing terms, as he said it happened last year when it said SQL Server licenses could not be used anywhere but on Azure.

He also announced the launch of Babelfish for its PostgreSQL product, which provides a translation layer between SQL Server apps and Aurora. This means SQL Server apps can be run directly on PostgreSQL with little or no code changes.

Speeding apps to market

Jassy noted that the world is moving to smaller and smaller units of compute, which are embodied in containers, and serverless systems. Containers make it easier and cheaper for developers to package and run apps.

He announced that customers will now be able to run its Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) as well as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) in their own data centres. These will be known as Amazon ECS Anywhere and Amazon EKS Anywhere.

These offerings are for customers who are still running apps on premises while they make the transition to cloud and enable the same management and deployment mechanisms found on AWS.

He also unveiled AWS Proton, which Jassy said is the first fully managed deployment service for container and serverless apps on the market.

It will also be reducing the billing of its AWS Lambda serverless compute platform. Customers had been billed in increments of 100 milliseconds, and this has now been reduced to one millisecond, which should offer substantial savings.

Drowning in data

Jassy said analysts reckon that it now took an hour to create the same amount of data than two decades ago. Moreover, in the next three years, there will be more data created in the prior 30 combined years.

Clearly, he said, the old data stores are not up to the task, which has led it to release a new version of Elastic Block Storage (EBS) which brings 20% better cost per gigabyte, as well as being able to provision IOPS and throughput separately from storage. It also brings better performance and will assist in the running of demanding workloads. Jassy also announced the company’s new storage server architecture in the EBS io2 Block Express volumes, which he said is the first SAN built specifically for the cloud. This gives customers 256 000 IOPS, 4 000 MB/s throughput and 64TB of storage capacity.

He also announced a number of innovations for the contact centre. One is called Amazon Wisdom, and organises content for the call centre agent, such as FAQs and PDFs from local databases as well as third-party repositories, such as Salesforce. It also uses natural language processing to detect the call’s context. It has also rolled out real-time analytics so that managers can detect negative sentiment during a call.

“COVID has been so difficult for so many people. We’ve had so many people pass away, and so many people lose their jobs, so many businesses are struggling,” he said.

He then turned to the systemic racism in the US.

“If you live in the United States, it’s also pretty hard not to be struck by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and realise the sobering thought that we have so far to go in this country in how we treat black people. The reality is that for the last several hundred years, the way we have treated black people in this country is disgraceful, and has to change.”

He says like a lot of companies, it was working on this at Amazon, but the problem would not get solved in a few months.

“It’s going to take several years of us working together, but we need to do it.”

Ahead of the pack

Turning to his company’s growth, he said AWS was now a $46 billion revenue run rate business, and had grown 29% year-on-year. This growth was also accelerating; he said it had taken it about 10 years to grow to a $10 billion business, but only 23 months to grow to $20 billion, 13 months to reach $30 billion, and just 12 months to get to $40 billion.

He also quoted a recent Gartner report in which the company has a 45% market share, which is almost double that of Azure, which itself is double that of Google Cloud.

Jassy also pointed out that the total amount of global IT spend on cloud was at just 4% at the moment, and that cloud was clearly a growth market, borne out by the behaviour of customers during the pandemic.

While every company in the world, including Amazon, has tried to save money this year, many had also rethought their business strategies. This has resulted, he said, in enterprises that had been “dipping their toes in the water” with cloud, had gone “from talking to having a real plan.

“When you look back on the history of the cloud, it will turn that the pandemic accelerated cloud adoption by several years.”

It has also a tumultuous week for the cloud giant, which suffered a prolonged service failure a few days before the conference. While the outage wasn’t mentioned at the conference, the company did issue a comprehensive explanation, and an apology shortly after the incident.

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