Observations from AWS re:Invent

By David Alles, Dec 06, 2016

Amazon Wants to be Your Everything, Including Your Big Data, BI and Analytics Provider!

My wife and I often joke that Amazon (and Apple) are slowly taking over our lives. As much as we try to diversify our spending, they relentlessly expand their offerings, make things easier and lower the cost of convenience. Resistance is futile (or at least pricey and inconvenient).

Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) 10 years ago with a similar customer-centric, expansion minded approach to information technology. Today, there is no greater force in the technology industry than AWS. AWS will collect over $13B in revenue in 2016, a 55% increase over 2015. It contributes more than 100% of the operating profits of its parent company, as the other business units operate at a loss. Well known for providing the underlying infrastructure for digital native companies like Netflix, Uber and Airbnb, AWS is now heavily targeting the enterprise IT market – specifically Big Data, BI and analytics.

I recently attended the 5th AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas from November 28 to December 2, 2016. The first conference in 2012 had 4,000 attendees. Five years later, I was one of 32,000 attendees. The year’s re:Invent was spread across the Mirage, Encore and Venetian hotels (which includes the Sands Expo Center). This is a technically oriented conference, and training, testing and certification on AWS services is a major component of the activities.  

The emphasis on Big Data, BI and analytics services was everywhere. I attended 26 different sessions and stayed within these domains, but you don’t need to attend the conference to see the strategic value AWS is placing on these areas and the depth and breadth of what they are rolling out. The keynotes by Andy Jassy (CEO of AWS) and Warner Vogels (CTO of AWS) are both available online at the AWS re:Invent website and on YouTube (links provided below).

AWS Big Data, BI and analytics services were the central themes of both keynotes. New or enhanced analytics services include business intelligence (Quicksight), image recognition (Rekognition), text to voice AI (Polly), natural language processing AI (Lex, based on the technology from Alexa), machine learning, and streaming analytics (Kenesis). It should be noted that Microsoft’s Azure and Cortana Artificial Intelligence and Google’s Cloud Platform offer alternatives to many of these AWS services, so expect all out competition on price and capability.

Warner’s keynote specifically talks about the current state of data science where 80% of the effort is typically spent on data preparation and only 20% on actual analytics work. He outlines the AWS vision and framework for reversing this ratio, including the appropriately named AWS Glue, which ties everything together. Warner also emphasizes that there is no longer any strategic value in your technology stack, there is only value in the quality of your data and your expertise in analytics. Some of this of course, is marketing hype but even so, AWS has a relentless focus towards achieving this ambitious goal and significant momentum that lends credence to its eventual reality. AWS is also building a passionate community of believers (see AWS re:Play).

IIA will be covering these developments with its clients, but I would encourage any analytics leader to watch these keynotes and to understand the breadth and depth of what is going to be readily available to any company, on demand, with zero upfront costs. Your near and long term planning should include specific consideration on how your enterprise will either adopt these capabilities or counter them.

There are definitely viable alternatives to AWS, but I believe it is increasingly critical to at least understand where AWS is heading when forming your own enterprise analytics strategy.

Related Resources

Strata + Hadoop World Blog Follow Up

My previous Strata blog discussed the thought leaders conference presenters referenced in their presentations. Based on my AWS re:Invent experience, you can add Eric Ries to the list. A major theme of the conference is innovation and the importance of agility and experimentation in making it happen. Eric’s books Lean Startup and Lean Analytics are gospel with startups and many presenters discussed the need to adopt the lean principles outlined in these books to become lean enterprises.

About the author

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David Alles is a Vice President with the International Institute for Analytics and leads the company’s analytics maturity assessment service line. He brings over two decades of executive, product development and business strategy experience leading teams at rapidly growing technology companies. David has experience at leveraging a wide variety of technologies (Big Data, platform-as-a-service, streaming analytics, IoT) across a number of industries (energy analytics, building automation, SaaS applications, electronic design automation, and manufacturing). David has a BS in Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon University.