Some Notable Highlights From Amazon's AWS re:Invent 2016

Every year since 2011, online retail and web hosting company Amazon has held a conference for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud division customers.

In just five years the conference has turned into one of the notable conferences on the tech calendar, drawing the attention of not just AWS customers, but the rest of the technology industry as well.

The conference has also turned into a showcase for new products and features, meaning that it is easy to miss the notable announcements if you don't pay close attention.

As such, we've put together a list of some of the most notable announcements from AWS re:Invent 2016.

Amazon Lightsail

Amazon Lightsail is designed to be the easiest way to launch and manage a virtual private server with AWS.

AWS re:Invent Amazon Lightsail
Amazon Lightsail announcement at AWS re:Invent 2016

It includes a virtual machine, SSD-based storage, data transfer, DNS management, and a static IP – for a low, predictable price. Given the pricing too, it is likely to take away customers from other cloud hosting and computing players.

Amazon AI

Amazon AWS' Chief Executive, Andy Jassy, announced the company's first AI services, which will use machine learning and deep learning technologies to meet various needs.

The service includes the Rekognition image recognition service, Polly text-to-speech (TTS) service and Amazon Lex, the learning-powered automatic speech recognition and natural-language understanding tool that powers Amazon Alexa.

AWS re:Invent Amazon AIl
AWS Chief Executive Andy Jassy announcing Amazon AI services at AWS re:Invent 2016

Of great interest to most was the announcement of Amazon Lex, the technology underlying Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated virtual assistant. Lex provides deep learning-powered automatic speech recognition and natural-language understanding.

Rekognition was developed by a team that Amazon acqu-hired from Orbeus. Polly, meanwhile, supports 47 voices and 24 languages, and the free version allows users to process up to 5 million characters a month according to AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr.

The Snowmobile Truck And Snowmobile Edge Boxes

One of the biggest announcements was the "next generation" of AWS' Snowball boxes that customers can use to move lots of data to AWS cloud services.

AWS re:Invent Amazon Snowmobile Truck and Snowball Edge Boxes
AWS re:Invent Amazon Snowmobile Truck and Snowball Edge Boxes

“We’ll drive the truck over to your data center, we’ll take Snowmobile affixed to a trailer, we have power, and we’ll fiber-connect to your data center, you fill ‘er up, the truck will come back, we’ll put [the container] back on the truck, and we’ll move it back to AWS,”Andy Jassy, AWS Chief Executive

Some companies may need to move exabytes worth of data, which is more than what Amazon's 100TB Snowball Edge Boxes can handle. For those companies, AWS is introducing a full-size truck containing 45-foot shipping container in which customers can load up data.

How much will the "Snowmobile" cost? Well, there is no official price yet but as chief evangelist Jeff Barr noted in a blog post sales people will work with interested customers, and that AWS is keen to ensure that the service “is both faster and less expensive than using a network-based data transfer model.

AWS Shield Standard

AWS Shield Standard is AWS' DDoS mitigation services. This sounds like a partial swipe at companies like CloudFlare, who offer a similar service as part of their DNS management service.

Amazon AWS chief technology officer Werner Vogels introduces AWS Shield at the AWS re:Invent
Amazon Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels introduces AWS Shield at the AWS re:Invent 2016

AWS Shield Standard will protect customers from 96 percent of the most common attacks known, including SYN/ACK floods, Reflection attacks, and HTTP slow reads. What's more, it will be made available for all AWS customers, free of charge.

AWS Blox

Blox is an open-source software that will let developers create custom schedulers for use inside AWS’ EC2 Container Service (ECS).

Amazon AWS chief technology officer Werner Vogels announces AWS Blox at the AWS re:Invent
Amazon Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels announces AWS Blox at the AWS re:Invent 2016

This has essentially made container deployment easier to "play around" with, rather than using existing third-party schedulers, such as Google-backed Kubernetes, Mesosphere’s Mesos, or Docker’s own Swarm.

Amazon Pinpoint

Werner Vogels also announced the launch of Amazon Pinpoint, a mobile analytics service that developers can use to understand the behaviour of their mobile app users.

Amazon AWS chief technology officer Werner Vogels announces Amazon Pinpoint at the AWS re:Invent
Amazon Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels announces Amazon Pinpoint at the AWS re:Invent 2016

Amazon Pinpoint will let developers send push notifications and then track their impact.

This year's re:Invent event has seen the launch or revamping of more than 50 products at the heart of AWS's web hosting service, and as CFO Brian Olsavsky points out, this is all geared towards enhancing the customer experience and ensure that the business keeps going.

We are investing very pointedly and very wisely, we believe, in things that will enhance customer experience and create lasting businesses for us down the line. We’ve said we want things that customers will love, can grow to be large, will have strong financial returns and durable and can last for decades. So that’s still our mission. Brian Olsavsky, Amazon CFO

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