As the week turns towards Friday, the first week of AWS re:Invent 2020 is done. Now it is the time to do some reflection back on the first few days of this three-week event.
Virtual experience - slam dunk or something else?
First, it is probably worth addressing the elephant in the room. As the global situation has set the tone for all of the events for being converted to virtual, re:Invent is no exception. And this goes so far beyond the events; most of us working in the IT industry have had to reshape our daily routines to the current normal, working from home and limiting in-person interaction.
For an event that has mostly been about interaction, this has definitely been a challenge. There has been a huge burden on making a full transformation from 50 000 persons live event to 500 000 persons online experience. People are clearly missing interaction, and new ways to boost that interaction has been tried out in different ways, through individuals, communities and organisers alike.
One thing that was especially worrysome beforehand was that there was not a great track record, not by AWS or not by anyone, creating great online experiences with interaction. Especially the AWS virtual summits in the spring did not get too many positive comments about the platform choices or scalability thereof. For the key parts, I think that the experience with reinvent has been fine and it is clear that attention has been put to making sure that the network bandwidth is there.
Does the video production sometimes feel a bit too surgical with the applause played from the tape? Sure it does. But has the experience otherwise been well rehearsed and execution well performed. Yes, it has.
The preparation and planning can be seen also in the breakout sessions. The style and design of the sessions are always the same, production value is high. But at the end of the day, the quality and success boil down to two fundamentals: the content and the speaker. Good content is good content, and good speaker is a good speaker, regardless if that is on a stage in a room or a pre-recorded video. And that shows here as well, maybe even more ruthlessly, than in live setting. Recording of a session is very unforgiving.
Has this been a better experience than your "normal" re:invent? Probably not. But re:invent as live experience has never been without it's flaws either.
Could the live experience be better? Certainly, there is a list of things that could have been better. Is it preventing anything right now? I think this is very well produced event so far with minor glitches, like almost unusable search function in the content catalog. For some unknown reason, there seems to be a better search engine on the event site, but you can't navigate to that. You can find it here: https://virtual.awsevents.com/esearch/search
Additionally, there is an unofficial session search engine here: https://cloudpegboard.com/reinvent2020.html
As an attendee perspective from EMEA timezones, the situation is somewhat challenging as now you do your usual routines through the day and watch sessions in the night. In Las Vegas, you were at least boxed out from your regular duties and able to concentrate on the events and sessions only. Now for many people, the event becomes a sideshow.
After the conclusion of the first week, what did we learn?
One big, continuous theme - maybe a bit surprisingly in the midst of all serverless and machine learning hype - is the hybrid cloud story. That can be seen in the first two keynotes, both from addressing the customers and also the partner community. But thinking this more closely, pushing this message makes quite a lot of sense. We hear in Andy's keynote that currently on 4% of the global IT expenditure is on cloud. One of the most important factors to increase that from AWS point of view - and for that matter, any hyperscaler - is to accelerate cloud adoption by enabling migrations. Andy is predicting that most of the remaining workloads will be in the cloud in the next 10-20 years.
This theme and angle are supported by an upcoming consulting partner competency and a reminder of a program. The upcoming Mainframe migration competency addresses that 70% of Fortune 500 companies still run mission critical workloads on mainframes. The competency is geared to help customers identify consulting partners able to help them move from mainframes to AWS. The Migration Acceleration Program for SAP partners launched earlier this year was promoted as an encouragement for customers to move SAP workloads to AWS.
Andy kicked off the week in his keynote with hefty 27 announcements. The full writeup of that keynote is here:
Andy laid out the mindset with the question of "What does it take to reinvent?". Andy offered eight prerequisites and opened his thinking with examples and expansion of the headlines. Andy's list of 8 prerequisites is:
- Leadership will to invent and reinvent. Andy's examples of innovative and disruptive companies were AirBnb, Peleton and Stripe. Andy stressed the need to be maniacal, relentless, and tenacious - the need to press for data and truth. Andy's very strong remark: "You can't fight gravity, and you have to have the courage to pick up and change."
- Acknowledge that you can't fight gravity. Andy made a comparison of Amazon to eBay - Amazon was intent on owning stock from the angle of securing customer service. Amazon realised that in order to offer a broader selection and price points, they needed to build a marketplace and invite in third-party sellers.
- A talent that's hungry to invent. Andy shared his observation that new talent is often more willing to rip up and rebuild. The main driver for this bias is that the existing talent is possibly reluctant to tear down what they built themselves.
- Solve real customer problems. Andy was sharing angles on how some actors tend to focus on either competitors' moves or internal product development. Andy stressed the need to focus on customers, invent on behalf of customers and deliver value - instead of building stuff because it is cool.
- Speed. Andy stressed that speed is a necessity, a mindset and a decision. Andy encouraged participants to push back against claims of fast being too risky. Speed is a choice, make it, set up a culture that has urgency and wants to experiment. Speed does not happen with a switch but must be built and practised systematically. Now is the time to increase speed.
- Don't Complexify. Complex solutions effectively mean making efforts in managing technologies while also making big transformations and shifts. Andy's recommendation is to choose a partner, get momentum, get success & results, add complexity later.
- Use the platform with the most capabilities & broadest set of tools. Andy stressed that as with golf, you could use one club throughout the course. While it might be entertaining or amusing, it rarely (never) would deliver the best results. AWS has the broadest set of tools and capabilities.
- Pull it all together with aggressive top-down goals. Andy shared again the GE experience from setting very aggressive migration goals for the organisation. Aggressive goals set the team in motion, forced new solutions and ways of working to emerge and distilled a sense of energy and urgency. Avoid just dipping a toe into the water.
One thing that everyone should contemplate if this is true for them what Andy pointed out "Don't be afraid to cannibalise your business yourself where it's necessary". If you are not willing to do that, someone is willing to do that on your behalf, and then it is not going to be on your terms and your chosen schedule. There are for sure still a lot of IT suppliers out there, who are acting in protectionistic ways and not always the customer's interest at heart.
The keynote also offered really inspiring customer cases, such as a startup Boom building the first new supersonic airplane in many years. We also learned how Carrier uses AWS to manage complex cold chains. Also mentioned in passing was that Moderna used AWS very extensively to help with the Covid-19 vaccine development.
Nordic market and customers may find two new announcements very relevant. AWS Monitron brings easy end to end equipment monitoring, sensors, gateways and machine learning models to provide fuel for predictive maintenance. Amazon Lookout for Equipment provides the anomaly detection for machinery when data is already accessible through existing sensors. These services may at best, accelerate these more traditional IoT applications dramatically.
Head of AWS worldwide alliances and partnerships, Doug Yeum picks up and builds on the same narrative, where Andy started on the first keynote. The main theme to start - quite naturally in partner perspective - is to make a statement, that together we innovate. He continues to emphasise on the eight points that Andy made in the first keynote. It wasn't apparent in the first keynote that these would be a theme, as the list is quite long from a certain perspective, but we will probably see if this echoes through the upcoming keynotes as well.
For companies looking for a competitive edge, it is iterated that speed matters - a lot - currently. And having the sense of urgency. And what AWS is hearing, that number one reason to move to the cloud is the ability to support innovation. That is an interesting takeoff from the earlier years of cloud when it was usually elasticity and cost, which were mentioned as the drivers. So mentality has changed clearly.
There was from Finnish perspective one very interesting logo on the "Strategic Collaborations" list, as you can find KONE logo there. It remains a bit of a secret, what that's about, but maybe we hear more during the week?
There were also few new Partner program announcements, as AWS SaaS Boost program and AWS ISV Partner Path.
AWS placed a strong emphasis on broadening the Marketplace offerings. The most interesting motions were the inclusion of Professional Services for third party software being brought to the Marketplace in addition to AWS consulting solutions. AWS also introduced new ways for software developers to SaaSify their business with AWS SaaS Boost, gain insights with AWS SaaS Factory Insights Hub, define and describe applications with AWS Service Catalog AppRegistry, drive sales with AWS ISV Accelerate and streamline buying with APIs for Private Marketplace. For customers, this will mean a broader choice of ISVs, ability to buy a broader set of services and licences on Marketplace and ability to reduce red tape in purchases. We expect Marketplace to develop in strides with these new announcements.
Cybercom is also recognised here as one of the AWS Premier Partners.
One interesting thing was that few new competency programs for very specific solution areas were announce, one being for the energy sector and one for hotel and hospitality. The number of special competency programs starts to be quite overwhelming and quite specific, niche programs are brought into the fold.
Deep Racer League
Cybercom's Data Scientist Jouni Luoma is the Nordics DeepRacer Winner and Top 8 Finalist of the DeepRacer Championship 2019. This year everything has gone virtual and we eagerly follow and cheer for Jouni's success in the league this year as well.
Jouni has so far managed to drive his way (literally) to TOP32 from initial participants of 10 000.
The two posts covering Jouni's success in the league this year so far are here:
Stay tuned, we'll post more information as it comes available!
Coming up next weeks
We are now only one third through the event, done two keynotes out of five and are at 60 announcements at the time of writing this post. On a steady pace, we would see probably still a hundred or so more announcements throughout the upcoming keynotes and sessions. Next week is particularly interesting, as first time ever, Machine Learning is going to be its own keynote and as we already saw a bunch of ML announcements in the first keynote, the anticipation of upcoming releases is still high.
The Infrastructure keynote is also next week on Thursday, which will probably continue on the paved road of hybrid cloud story.
From keynote perspective, the event is concluded on Tuesday 15 with the keynote of Werner Vogels. Also, at the beginning of Werner's keynote, there will be the Deep Racer finals. Naturally, this is of great interest to us at Cybercom to see how Jouni is going to rank this year, but next week will tell more about that.
Additionally, there is going to be AWS Community Nordics hosting virtual viewing sessions for Werner's keynote, links to local events, for example here:
After the keynote, there is going to be a Community Leader livestream session with Gunnar (AWS), Rolf (Finland), Lezgin (Sweden), Angela (Denmark) and Anders (Norway) discussing the keynote and the whole event. Details of the stream will be announced in the meetup events above.
Key announcements from this week
The continuously updated list of both top announcements and all announcements can be found in the links below:
- Top announcements: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-reinvent-announcements-2020/
- All announcements: https://aws.amazon.com/new/reinvent/
Happy re:inventing - catch you later on next week!