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What to expect from AWS re:Invent 2014

Amazon is all set to unveil new services and features at its AWS re:Invent 2014

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Amazon is all set to unveil new services and features at AWS re:Invent 2014. Currently in its third year, re:Invent has become the most anticipated event in the cloud industry. The teams at AWS use it as a forcing function to line up the major features, new services, exclusive partnerships and marquee customer wins. Here is our take on what AWS might announce.

Containers as a service

With Google and Microsoft making their plans clear about Docker and containers, Amazon will not let go of the opportunity to host Linux containers on its cloud. Jeff Barr, Amazon’s chief evangelist, tweeted a few days ago about a possible Docker announcement at re:Invent.

AWS already embraced Docker in the form of Elastic Beanstalk PaaS and through the support in Amazon Linux AMI. But given Docker’s high interest level in the market, that is just scratching the surface. 

Google has gone ahead and announced Google Container Engine (GKE), which is touted to be industry’s first hosted container execution platform. This was not a surprising move as Google is already a heavy consumer of containers that run majority of its web assets. 

Its contribution to the container ecosystem in the form of Kubernetes is well received by the industry. Microsoft, Red Hat, IBM and VMware pledged their support for Kubernetes. 

Microsoft is all set to bring Docker to Windows Server and host a private registry of Docker images on Azure. With so much excitement and opportunity to attract developers, AWS may announce a service that fits somewhere between its IaaS (Amazon EC2) and PaaS (AWS Beanstalk) offerings. Docker delivers the promise of DevOps better than any tool available today. 

By integrating Docker with AWS Beanstalk, AWS OpsWorks and AWS CloudFormation, Amazon customers will be able to perform DevOps tasks more efficiently. It may not be surprising if AWS announces its support for Google’s Kubernetes to build their elastic container-hosting engine.

Amazon has all the building blocks in its portfolio, including a solid compute service (Amazon EC2), its own Linux distribution (Amazon Linux), storage (Amazon S3) and database services (Amazon RDS and Amazon DynamoDB) to create a scalable, elastic container-hosting environment that could be dubbed Amazon Elastic Container Cloud. 

Docker’s CEO Ben Golub is expected to be on stage to announce a strategic partnership between the two.

AWS as the IoT backbone  

Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly picking up steam with traditional networking companies, chip makers and new-generation sensor manufacturers joining the bandwagon. Just how cloud has become the invisible backbone of mobile, IoT’s success depends on the integration with cloud. 

Everyone from IBM to Microsoft to Google is figuring out how they can be a part of the IoT story. Interestingly, these companies are already making a splash with their wearables and smart devices.

Amazon has been quietly working on an IoT strategy to accelerate AWS adoption. By turning AWS cloud into an essential fabric for IoT, the company would become one of the largest repositories of data collected from a variety of sensors. It can leverage this massive database to spot key trends, patterns and possibly a new business model based on IoT. 

No one gets the supply chain management like the way Amazon does

Todd Varland, one of the solution architects at AWS, published a series of blogs on how do develop IoT solutions on Amazon’s cloud. This could be just a hint to a much larger strategy brewing at AWS.

With key data-driven notification services, such as Amazon Kinesis, Amazon Redshift, Amazon DynamoDB, AWS Data Pipeline and Amazon SNS, it already has the core infrastructure to support IoT. 

All Amazon needs to do is build a façade for these services and expose a developer friendly API to ingest the sensor data. It may also potentially build a gateway appliance that can be deployed in shop floors, manufacturing units and hospitals to aggregate the data generated by distributed sensors.

Supply chain management and EDI exchange as a service

No one gets the supply chain management like the way Amazon does. Over the last decade, the core retail wing of Amazon’s business has made every optimisation possible to get the products to their customers in the shortest possible window. 

They also built efficient processes to enable third-party suppliers to sell and ship their products through Amazon. In short, Amazon has the best combination and software tools and processes for managing the supply chain. 

Given the track record and history of Amazon, it may not be surprising to see them offer this as a service to e-commerce developers and startups. This puts Amazon in direct competition with SAP and Oracle, which offer SCM as a part of their enterprise and material resource planning.

Within the realm of SCM is the concept of electronic document exchange. Large enterprises use EDI, RosettaNet, SAP IDoc, XML and flat files to securely exchange documents related to purchase orders, invoices and acknowledgements. 

With most of the enterprise workloads moving to the cloud, the only category that still runs on-premise is email

Transforming, processing, logging and analysing these documents in the cloud provides a new business opportunity for AWS. This will help Amazon gain traction with enterprises by becoming the backbone for electronic data exchange. It will also help solidify its hybrid cloud story with enterprises through enterprise application integration. Microsoft already does this in the form of Azure BizTalk Services

Given the ambitious plan of Amazon, it is moving up in the stack to deliver more than infrastructure and platform services. Amazon Zocalo, Amazon WorkSpaces and the recent AWS Directory Services indicate that Amazon is keen on becoming the one-stop-shop for enterprise IT. We should not be surprised if AWS announces CRM as a service similar to Salesforce.com.

Other possible announcements

With most of the enterprise workloads moving to the cloud, the only category that still runs on-premise is email. Amazon may build a scalable email-hosting service on the cloud that can be a potential replacement for Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino. This service attacks one of the incumbent enterprise workloads that IT teams maintain and manage in the datacentre.

EC2 instance pricing may be rounded to a minute instead of the current hourly pricing

With customers migrating Microsoft Windows workloads to AWS, they need centralised file sharing service. Currently, customers need to spin up a Windows Server instance in Amazon VPC to configure and expose a distributed file system to other machines. 

With its investment in Samba-based servers through AWS Directory Service and a robust file sync and share platform in the form of Zocalo, Amazon may announce a file-sharing service. This complements Amazon S3 and Zocalo by offering a SMB compatible file system, which can be accessed from both Linux and Windows machines.

Last but not the least, expect Amazon to announce changes to their pricing and billing model. With Google and Microsoft dropping the prices, AWS might trigger another round of price corrections. 

With the competitors charging for virtual machiens by minute, EC2 instance pricing may be rounded to a minute instead of the current hourly pricing. It may also make changes to the reserved instances pricing which is complex and confusing in the current form.

What do you think Amazon will announce at AWS re:Invent?

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