Amazon Web Services logoWhen Andy Jassy took the stage to keynote Amazon’s AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas yesterday morning, he didn’t have to sell the cloud as a mainstream option for enterprise IT. Amazon did that last year—and AWS’ amazing growth (81% year over year, with 1 million active customers and a $7.3 billion annual run rate, according to Jassy) provides pretty clear confirmation.

So this year’s re:Invent keynote focused on what Amazon is doing to help companies—particularly traditional enterprises—accelerate their transition to the cloud. Jassy told the event’s 19,000 attendees—and some 35,000 live streams—about a slew of new products, services, and offerings designed to make it faster, easier, and more rewarding for enterprises to run more and more of their IT workloads in the cloud.

Snowball data appliance

snowball at AWS re:InventThe coolest introduction may have been Snowball, a 47-pound ruggedized storage appliance designed to make it easier for companies to move really large quantities of data from their data centers into the AWS cloud. Each Snowball holds 50 TB of data and includes automatic encryption. Starting at $200 per job, sending a Snowball via UPS or FedEx could be much faster and cheaper than running all that data over the network, promised Bill Vass, head of AWS storage.

snowball presentation: AWS re:Invent

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Kinesis Firehose streaming

Sometimes, though, you don’t have a petabyte of data to send to the cloud, you just want to easily upload some streaming data. According to Jassy, that has been surprisingly difficult—until now. Kinesis Firehose is designed to let you easily stream data—from IoT devices, for example—into your AWS data store. Available now for AWS S3 and Redshift and scheduled to be available soon for all of AWS, Amazon says Firehose includes automatic scaling, concatenation, compression, and encryption.

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Database Migration Service and Schema Conversion Tool

According to Jassy, the cloud’s ability to give companies more control over what they do has been slowest to evolve in the database space. Popular open source databases don’t always match the performance of expensive commercial databases—and the migration process to the cloud has been difficult, whether you’re keeping the same database engine in the cloud or moving to a new one.

AWS’s new Database Migration Service is designed to address that issue, with setup said to take just 10-15 minutes to move production Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL databases to the cloud versions.

If you want to switch to an open source database, the free Schema Conversion Tool is basically an automated copy function that works to port database schemas and stored procedures from one database platform to another. Jassy estimated it covers about 80% of the conversion process, and then points database admins to where they need to make manual decisions to complete the process.

schema conversion tool: AWS re:Invent presentation

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Accenture AWS Business Group

If after all that you still need help migrating your enterprise to the cloud, AWS has teamed up with Accenture to create a new business group of “cloud sherpas” to help navigate the migration and solve complex big-data problems. In the first year, the group is slated to train an additional 1,000 Accenture professionals and certify 500 Accenture professionals on the AWS Cloud. The new group says it will provide a range of new services, including IoT and security.

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QuickSight data analysis

Once they make the transition, of course, enterprises want to make the most of the cloud environment and the data they’re storing and manipulating in it. Amazon’s new QuickSight is intended to help AWS users get the first visualization of their data within 60 seconds, Jassy said, without requiring help from scarce and expensive data scientists. QuickSight can be integrated with all AWS data stores, at one-tenth the cost of traditional business intelligence solutions, he claimed. Users will be able to share live dashboards—not just snapshots—with colleagues, or even embed them into websites or mobile apps where others can perform interactive analyses merely by clicking on the graphs. QuickSight is now in preview mode for select users.

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Not just mainstream—but default?

Put it all together and AWS appears to be making an ambitious push to make cloud computing not just mainstream acceptable, but the default option for companies of all sizes.

Jassy described a five-phase path that many companies take to the cloud:

  1. Development, test, and new applications
  2. Websites, analytics, and mobile
  3. Mission-critical applications
  4. Data center migration

AWS re:Invent presentation

The fifth stage, Jassy said, is aggressively building 3- to 5-year plans to move everything to the cloud. While Netflix paved the way for this approach, he said, not all companies are ready to retire their data centers, for a variety of good reasons. Typically, he said, these companies want to use a hybrid cloud approach, running cloud workloads side by side with their data center.

With its re:Invent announcements, Amazon seems to be trying to ease enterprises through the first four stages as quickly and easily as possible, and then be there for stage five when companies are ready.

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keynote crowd at AWS re:Invent


Yesterday’s big AWS news was followed by a series of more technical announcements largely focusing on the Internet of Things at this morning’s keynote by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. Among other things, Amazon debuted:

Amazon IoT Platform, a managed cloud service designed to help connect devices and build applications based on the data they send.

werner vogelsAmazon Kineses Analytics, designed to help ease the process of performing real-time analysis on streaming data.

AWS EC2 Container Registry, a fully managed service intended to make it easier for developers to store, log, and launch containers.

A new X1 instance type for EC2 with up to a whopping 2TB of memory (up from a previous maximum of 200 GB), an increase that drew gasps and applause from keynote attendees. It’s due in the first half of next year. (At the other end of the spectrum, Amazon also announced t2.nano instances.)

AWS Mobile Hub, designed to simplify the backend processes that many mobile developers find difficult, and let them focus on the functionality they offer to users.

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Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite,, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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