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Real world lessons from AWS re:Invent 2015

Bernard Golden | Oct. 21, 2015
Amazon Web Services’ signature conference continues to show how customers both large and small are solving their real IT challenges, which is one of the reasons it’s evolved into a must-attend conference.

The new QuickSight data visualization tool was explicitly announced as aimed at Cognos, although I overheard attendees also mention Tableau as potentially threatened as well. QuickSight is one of the AWS services aimed not at applications or developers, but at end users. In the case of QuickSight, the target user is a business analyst who is typically frustrated at the lengthy process required to get access to data via on-premise proprietary tools (something I’ve heard much about over the years). 

The Amazon Database Migration Service/Schema Conversion Tool might as well have been named “The Oracle/SQLServer Liberation Service,” as it aims to enable users to migrate proprietary database data into a lower-cost AWS service that provides the same stored procedures/triggers functionality. AWS probably expects a warm welcome from users for this service, given the increasingly aggressive license audits Oracle has been performing over the past couple of years. Likewise, the MariaDB RDS service offers MySQL compatibility with an open source code base not under Oracle’s control. 

Finally, AWS took aim at one of the knottiest problems facing users who would like to migrate to AWS: data gravity. Data gravity, a concept promulgated by noted industry luminary Dave McCrory, notes that data, once placed, is extremely difficult to shift due to the difficulty of network transit. That’s certainly an issue today, when organizations often have hundreds of terabytes of data located in their data centers. The new Snowball service providers users with a device (which, to my eye, resembles a picnic coffee urn) on which to place encrypted data from an on-premise location; this device is sent back to AWS via a parcel delivery service, whereupon AWS shoves the data into S3, and Bob’s your uncle. Here is a blog posting by AWS evangelist Jeff Barr that describes the service. Snowball definitely reduces the friction of migrating data into AWS where users can then operate on it with all of the AWS services. 

All of these announcements are terrible news for the incumbent technology industry. While AWS has heretofore primarily hosted greenfield applications, leaving legacy applications to be treated as cash cows by the vendors whose technology is embedded in them, now it’s directing its efforts at a takeaway game. And many users, such as those cited in the previous section, are ready to respond with alacrity. The poor financial results most legacy vendors have released over the past couple of years are likely to begin looking much, much worse. 

3. AWS sets the pace 

AWS is famous for its torrid pace of improvement and innovation and often chooses re:Invent to launch its splashiest new services. Last year it was Lambda, the previous year Kinesis, and the year before that Redshift. This year, in addition to the previously-mentioned QuickSight, Database Migration Service, and Snowball, AWS announced improvements to Kinesis, EC2 Container Service, and numerous DevOps improvements. 


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