AWS re:Invent 2021: Keynote live - heroes bowed, clouds endowed & crowds allowed

AWS re:Invent 2021 is big… but actually it’s not, this event has about a third of its normal number of attendees with somewhere around 20,000 people on-site, which (in the continuing Covid-19 era) still feels very crowded.

All credit to AWS for doing it right (some vendor events have been very lax) in terms of pandemic safety i.e. attendees didn’t get their badge until we showed vaccination status, national photo-ID and an approved event QR code. All hallways have been given ‘traffic lane’ separation (Americans still drive on the wrong side of the road, but we’ll let it pass this time), there are safety sensors everywhere, attendees walk through electronic airport-style scanning gates and there are somewhere around 8-gallons on hand sanitiser on-site per person. 

March 2021 saw Adam Selipsky appointed as the CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and – although he had previously been an engineer at the company for some 11-years, Selipsky became widely known as the CEO of Tableau Software, a position he left in the aftermath of Salesforce buying Tableau In June 2019.

Now staging his first In Real Life (IRL) keynote at the AWS helm, Selipsky is widely regarded as the right kind of person for the job… so how did his keynote go down?

Queue flashing lights, 300 decibels of thumping hard-core rock beats and all the normal CEO entrance paraphernalia you would expect, Selipsky welcomed attendees in with a very appropriate nod to the tragedy of the pandemic and the ensuring economic challenges that face us all.

Now 15-years in, it’s hard to believe that cloud was hardly defined as a computing paradigm said Selipsky. “At the start, cloud was expensive, slow and inflexible that was dominated by old guard vendors who loved the expense and the lock-in.”

Offering a respectful note and bow to many changemaker heroes that have come and gone throughout history (as befits an inspirational CEO keynote) and talking about the innovative force for change that people like Florence Nightingale (Selipsky calls them ‘pathfinders’) and others have had, this keynote nicely moved in and out of server-side cloud-native quantitative data analytics techniques with some real world inspiration at the same time.

The age of mission-critical cloud

Explaining the progress path from early AWS storage technologies, Selipsky talked about the path cloud has taken and, fundamentally, it’s progression path to now handling mission-critical workloads.

As there are now millions of cloud customers running applications across every industry vertical, the AWS narrative is one that stems from a position of some authority, obviously… so, therefore, we could reasonably argue that AWS has a responsibility for making sure its Cloud Services Provision is executed and delivered prudently and effectively – after all, so many organisations have changed the way they operate because of their cloud backbone.

As the first event key speaker, NASDAQ president and CEO Adena T. Friedman explained how the first she heads is now more than a trading solutions company i.e. the organisation also applies its financial markets expertise to build and provide crypto exchanges and other technologies. NASDAQ is also now working to become a 100% cloud-based company, so there’s the game-changer takeaway for you.

If anyone wants to play buzzword bingo at this kind of event, this list could be a good starting point: highly scalable, ultra-resilient, end-to-end, web-scale, go-to-market, standardised-journey, global footprint and inclusive growth.

AWS: 475 different instance 

Back to Selipsky and the CEO detailed the 475 different instance types that AWS company now offers, but it’s not just about compute optimised, storage optimised cloud and all the other tuned offerings it brings to market… ultimately AWS says it nows that the appetite for compute is still increasing.

To answer the need for speed, the company then launched the first of its own ARM-based chips and then finally launched its Graviton chips, which the firm talks about in the context of its price-performance that it claims beats x86 chips.

As we now welcome the launch of Graviton 3, the chips themselves provide x2 better performance for scientific workloads – and use up to 60% less energy for a better carbon neutral stance. The C7g instance for EC2 is the first rollout of this chip in a cloud instance.

It’s not hard to remember that Selipsky was an engineer, he knows his floating point from his deep learning.

AWS Mainframe Modernization is also a key product announcement, with a mainframe compatible runtime environment it offers a way of re-platforming (and refactoring where needed) and methods to convert COBOL code over to Java for a new home in the cloud.

Platform and tools

Selipsky shouldered the whole gamut of product announcements without needing to bring on an endless stream of product specialists – detailing new product services in serverless analytics, democratised Machine Learning visualisation functions (Amazon SageMaker Canvas) and several other AWS SageMaker (cloud machine learning/training) and AWS Redshift (data warehouse) updates.

With a number of other speakers rounding out the keynote (including Dish Wireless, United Airlines, 3m and others) there was a resounding feeling of ‘almost normal’ pervading throughout the convention centre show-floor. As we start to come back to tech events, it’s almost quite warming and comforting to see an industry heavyweight like AWS hosting the great and the good in Las Vegas.

Here’s to more events and continued personal safety for all – now wash your hands.

Image: Adrian Bridgwater

Data Center
Data Management