The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Re:Invent conference was held last week in Las Vegas. This year, the 10th Re:Invent, returned to an in-person format after a year as a digital event due to the pandemic. It was also the first Re:Invent under new CEO Adam Selipsky, who takes the helm from Andy Jassy, who had arguable one of the most successful tenures of any CEO in history, leaving big shoes to fill.
Going into the event, I wasn’t sure if we would see Jassy 2.0 or a different kind of event. Different is what we got, in many positive ways. Below are my top takeaways from AWS Re:Invent 2021.
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AWS Starts Shift Toward Social Awareness
For an organization the size of AWS, the company is remarkably quiet when it comes to climate change, sustainability, social justice, and other ESG issues.
If one looks at presentations from the likes of Cisco’s Chuck Robbins or Nvidia’s Jensen Huang, their focus is on how their technology can be used to make the world a better place. In contrast, the typical Jassy keynote was filled with product announcements; and while we got a heavy dose of that, Selipsky did talk up front about the impact AWS can have on the globe; and why that’s important, as AWS can change the planet in ways others can’t because of its might and scale.
Selipsky also brought in the theme of being a “Pathfinder,” which is an individual or company that continually challenges the status quo and finds new ways to do things, even though the norm is currently acceptable. An example of this is United Airlines; its Chief Digital Officer, Linda Jojo, described how her company used the AWS cloud to digitize the international flying experience – a prime example of digital transformation.
AWS is Going “All In” on Networking
While there were many products unveiled, I thought the two most notable reflected AWS’s entry into networking.
The company announced its own private 5G offering where customers could build, provision and operate a 5G network via the AWS console in a subscription model. Start-up Celona Networks launched an infrastructure private 5G solution earlier this year, which is great for IT shops that take a “do it yourself” approach to networking. In contrast, AWS Private 5G is an excellent option for companies that prefer a turnkey managed service.
The other network announcement was the launch of Cloud WAN, which is a WAN service that is also managed through the AWS console. Customers can build a network, using the AWS global network, or from their carrier. A point and click interface reduces much of the complexity in operating a global network.
In the near term, I anticipate Cloud WAN being used to connect corporate locations to AWS clouds. But given AWS’s ability to disrupt markets, I can see them taking share from the traditional telcos, which tend to have high prices and low innovation. One of the interesting aspects of Cloud WAN is that it’s consumption-based pricing versus flat fee, which could result in significant savings.
Partner Revenue Poised to Accelerate
The Monday keynote was by AWS Head of WW Channels and Alliances, Doug Yeum, who will be moving into a new role at Amazon. Taking over is Dr. Ruba Borno, formerly SVP and GM of Cisco’s CX Centers and Managed Services. One of the interesting aspects of the hiring of Borno is that AWS has elevated the position to a VP role, so clearly the company is expecting big things from Borno – and I think she will deliver.
Although AWS is one of the biggest IT companies in the world, it’s only been selling enterprise services for a little over a decade. Because of this, its partner program is very basic in many ways. Juxtapose this with Cisco, which has one of the most advanced partner programs, and it’s easy to see why Borno was such an attractive hire.
Look for her to take the program to the next level. I clearly see increases in partner focus and revenue.
AWS Competes by Packaging New Solutions
AWS has been the de facto standard in cloud since there has been cloud with Azure and GCP continually looking up at them. In the great AWS vs. Azure vs. Google cloud competition, AWS is the leader hands down.
AWS has, by far, the broadest set of services, which includes everything from app development tools to artificial intelligence to contact center and now networking. At the event it announced updates to the second generation of its ARM-based Graviton processors, artificial intelligence security and even mainframe modernization software.
What’s notable now is that AWS is doing a better job of packaging multiple products into solutions. For example, at the event, Goldman Sachs and AWS debuted its “Financial Cloud for Data” running on AWS, which is a data management and analytics solution for financial clients. Previously, Selipsky had discussed more customized products for specific industries, making this something to watch for soon.
AWS Struggle With End User Focus
For all its success with IT pros, AWS has yet to dent making products directly for end users, despite having a handful of products in this area. For example:
- WorkDocks is a fully managed, file storage and sharing product but has nowhere near the sophistication of a product like Box.
- WorkMail is an email and calendar service but it’s hard to find many customers that use it.
- Chime is a meeting product, and is actually very good, but the company is shifting it to a set of SDKs for developers to use.
The one end user focused product that does seem to be gaining traction is Connect, AWS’s contact center product, which got a boost from COVID. Its consumption-based pricing has helped customers like Hilton Hotels save money, while its AI features enable companies like Traeger Grills to provide significantly better customer service. I’d like to see AWS put a bigger focus on its apps, as I do think it could disrupt in this sector as it has done in IT services.
That’s a wrap on Re:Invent 2021 and I was glad it’s back live. A new CEO, Global Channel Chief and lots of new products should enable AWS to not only maintain its growth trajectory but accelerate it. See you in 2022.