re:Invent 2016 Recap


Amazon’s Web Services held their fifth re:Invent conference in 2016. Though I’ve been working with AWS since 2009, this was my first time at this conference. It has grown tremendously over the years and now spans two venues on the Las Vegas strip. While there was no official report of attendance, rumors have it there were over 32,000 people this year, which is almost double that of last year. I was impressed. 

The conference was packed with 5 days of breakout sessions, training, onsite certification testing, lab’s, a mini-con, hackathons, and security jams. There was no shortage of things to do! My day typically started around 8am and my last session let out at 6:30pm. Since the attendance was so large, Amazon launched the session catalog and just a few weeks later offered the ability to reserve your seat for all sessions. If you didn’t register for a session, they had walk-up lines but you had to wait until one or two minutes after the session started to be allowed in.  The majority of the sessions I attended had people in the lines. The sessions were well thought out, insightful and provided a good balance of information and technical content.

In terms of scale, here is an eye-opening comparison. Amazon deployed enough servers daily in 2015 to support the entire Amazon ecommerce site as it existed in 2005. At that time, Amazon was a 8.49 billion dollar enterprise. In other words, AWS adds the capacity equivalent of a FORTUNE 500 enterprise daily. The logistics of being able to accomplish this are truly stunning. AWS is now operating at a $13 billion run rate and has 55% year over year growth. There are currently 14 AWS Regions with 4 new ones announced for 2017, including Montreal, London, Paris, and Nigxia. AWS also revealed that they control all connectivity between their regions with redundant 100Gbps links, and in many cases, multi-100Gbps links.

There were three keynotes during the conference. On day two, the keynote was exclusively for partners so I am unable to provide more details at this time. On day 3, the first keynote for the general public was with Andy Jassy, CEO for AWS. Day 3 brought Pat Gelsinger as a surprise guest, who took the stage with Andy and had a sit-down Q&A session about the partnership. Andy ended the keynote by having a semi-truck with a Snowmobile container drive onto the main conference floor. The keynote on day 4 was done by AWS’s CTO Werner Vogels. Werner had the job of introducing the majority of the new products and services from AWS.

This year was packed with more than 24 new major and minor announcements. The theme for this conference was transformations. Werner was wearing an Optimus Prime t-shirt while on stage. He talked about how AWS was created to transform the way Amazon could make things simpler overall and easier to scale, thereby solving problems internally and for their customers. He also pointed out that the customer is always in control of the resources they are using. AWS tries to protect the customer foremost by listening closely to them and acting rapidly to resolve problems. The serverless trend could be seen everywhere with Lambda and will soon be in everything with the new AWS Greengrass, IoT for the masses. I’m excited about this one.

Now on to the announcements. 

Artificial Intelligence
  • Amazon Lex: A service for building conversational interfaces using voice and text
  • Amazon Rekognition: A service that makes it easy to add image analysis to your applications
  • Amazon Polly: A service that turns text into lifelike speech
  • Amazon Athena: An interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using SQL
  • Amazon QuickSight: Business analytics for everyone
Application Services
  • AWS Step Functions: A new, fully managed service that makes it easy to coordinate the components of distributed applications and microservices using visual workflows 
Desktop & App Streaming
  • Amazon AppStream 2.0: Stream desktop apps securely from the AWS cloud directly to users on the device of their choice, and eliminate the need to rewrite them for the cloud 
  • VMWare on AWS Cloud: Although this wasn’t a new announcement at re:Invent, it was significant. Andy Jassy and Pat Gelsinger had a Q&A Session during the Keynote focused on what the partnership means to both companies. You’ll be able to vMotion your applications to AWS and use advanced features like VMWare’s NSX. This is all in beta and an official release date has not been set but I’m told Q2-2017 looks promising
  • Amazon EC2 F1: A new compute instance based on FPGA’s for programmable hardware for application acceleration
  • Amazon EC2 Systems Manager: Automate important management tasks such as collecting system inventory, applying OS patches, automating image creation, and configuring OS and applications at scale
  • Amazon Lightsail: an easy way to launch and manage a virtual private server with AWS
  • AWS Batch: Allows you to begin processing large-scale batch jobs with ease
  • Amazon EC2 Instances: New instances include F1, T2, R4, I3, and C5, also currently in preview is Elastic GPU’s which allow you to connect GPU’s to your EC2 instances like you would a EBS volume
  • AWS Lambda: Lambda was everywhere this year leading the serverless conversation
  • This allows you to run code without provisioning or managing servers, and it now supports C#
Console Tools
  • Blox: A new collection of open source software that enables customers to build custom schedulers and integrate third-party schedulers on top of ECS. Check out the project at
Developer Tools
  • AWS CodeBuild: Build and test code; pay by the minute
  • AWS X-Ray: Analyze and debug your applications. Looks like this may give NewRelic, Appdynamics, and Dynatrace some more competition. It’s in preview right now so let’s see how fast it matures.
  • AWS Greengrass: A software that lets you run local compute, messaging and data caching for connected devices and has Lambda built in! Canonical will be supporting it so I’m assuming we’ll be able to run this on our RPI’s
Management Tools
  • Chef Automate: As AWS has done with their other services like EC2, and RDS they’ve created a managed service for Chef Automate, allowing you to focus on what you do best and not have to worry about patching and upgrading
  • Amazon Pinpoint: Run targeted push campaigns and improve user engagement in mobile apps
Networking & CDN
  • Lambda@Edge: We all know that Content Delivery Networks improve response times and improve customer experience. Now AWS allows you to Deliver richer content for web apps at low latency, by running Lambda functions on their CloudFront
  • Amazon Shield: A managed DDoS protection service that safeguards your web applications using Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), Amazon CloudFront, and Amazon Route 53
Storage & Content

This is by no means a complete list of all the announcements for more details please visit the re:Invent 2016 site for a detailed list.

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