re:Invent 2015 Conference report: Welcome to the Starship Enterprise

re:Invent 2015 Conference report: Welcome to the Starship Enterprise

Too cool for a suit, not cool enough for jeans and a t-shirt

Too cool for a suit, not cool enough for jeans and a t-shirt

Last week I attended the fourth re:Invent conference for Amazon Web Services in Las Vegas. During four days I got to hear some new announcements, gain insights into specific technologies and gauge the mood of the AWS ecosystem. Reflecting on the week, there is one theme that resonated with me: AWS has its eyes on the Enterprise.

Andy Jassy (SVP Web Services) himself talked about the phases of adoption of the cloud, from initial use in development, to cloud-native web applications, and finally ‘all-in’ migration of core systems. Given that adoption in the enterprise has already been significant in the first two phases, AWS’s focus has shifted to assisting the last.

So how are they going to do it? A combination of enterprise-friendly services and partnering. Let’s talk through the major new announcements.

Database Migration Service

“I have so many legacy apps on Oracle/MS SQL!”

The Database Migration Service  allows on premise databases to be migrated into AWS, either in a matching platform or migrated to a new platform. Have an on-premise Oracle instance? Migrate it to Oracle RDS, or (preferably to AWS) Aurora. The service maps your source DB to your destination DB, automatically converts as much as it can, and helps you through the rest. Once the schema is created, it then helps you to sync data between the two. Even better, this syncing is two-way, allowing migration strategies where both on premise and in-cloud instances can be used simultaneously, either during a brief cut over or during a longer transition.

Who is the target market for this wizardry? All those enterprise systems running proprietary databases that seem too hard to move. Shift them to the cloud, preferably to an Open Source platform with lower costs, and the business case for migration gets a whole lot easier.  Many caveats still apply, including:

  1. It is in preview, so all we know is what we have been told and seen in demo;
  2. AWS claims “about 80%” of functions like stored procedures will be automatically converted. In a demo, I saw how nicely this was done, and I suspect most simple functions will be trivial to convert, but the proof will be in the testing.

The service works both migrating to the cloud, as well as from the cloud, but amusingly the answer to “can I migrate between instances on premise” was a curt “no” 🙂


“But I can’t migrate, my database is huge!”

AWS now has an end-to-end service to help you send and receive large amounts of data via…. UPS. To do this, they designed a secure, hardy physical device that can transport 50TB of data at a time. Simply order the device, plug it in when it arrives, then call UPS when you are done. The device itself has its own shipping label (a Kindle no less), and you can track where it is at all times.

When it gets to the other end, Amazon will upload the data into your cloud storage. It’s an offering that I am sure AWS isn’t going to make a lot of money on, but one that takes another barrier out of the way of large systems migration to the cloud.  Note that this service is currently restricted to US West and US East for now.


“But I already paid for my licences, I don’t want to waste them!”

Now you can BYO Windows licences for your instances. Run up your server in the cloud, apply your licence, shut down that instance on your premise.  Check that off your list of reasons to not move your enterprise to the cloud.


“Can you save me some money on Business Intelligence?”

Once you’ve gotten your data into the Cloud, AWS Quicksight can help you to gain insight into your data a lot more cheaply than existing Business Intelligence tools like Tableau.  Aiming to be both the core BI engine plus an end user interface, it sounds like AWS has created a solution where they hope you create value-add on your data, but if you don’t like the interface you can still use other visualisation tools (one of which is the grinning/grimacing Tableau).

Many enterprises have invested heavily in data warehouses and BI tools, so I don’t think this is going to help migrate applications over, but it does tick a box in AWS plus remove the need to ship data back onto premise in order to perform analysis.


“If this thing is so big, why aren’t there global technology integrators on your partner list?”

Well, now there is. Accenture has committed to training 1000 staff in the next year in the technologies the rest of the partner list has been experts in for years. Good news for Accenture graduates and companies who need a global brand name to get the business case up.

There is already a rich list of partners *cough*, who can – indeed, are already – helping enterprise customers. However, there is no doubt that adding Accenture will pave the way for other large consultancies to offer these services, giving extra credibility to the platform.

Config Rules and WAF

“But is it secure and auditable?”

Now AWS Config lets enterprises monitor and report on resources in the cloud, helping with audits and compliance.  Think alerts on config drift, automatic termination if an instance does not comply, audit log of all changes to an instance.  Very handy in enterprises where entire teams try to keep track of what is going on, or more likely what happened.

Also, AWS Web Application Firewall now helps secure publicly facing services from attack without the need for expensive 3rd party appliances.  In an enterprise, these resources are often shared, but by making this ‘infrastructure as a service’, teams within an enterprise can control their own WAF, whilst still complying with appropriate standards.

And finally…..those outfits?

Whilst re:Invent was a terrific conference, one funny thing that I noticed was the dress sense of all the AWS presenters. Seemingly torn between whether to wear business suits or t-shirt/jean combos, they almost all opted for a strange mis-match of jackets and trousers. I hope this awkward mash up isn’t indicative of a company trying to straddle the disparate worlds of startup and enterprise!

In summary, it feels like AWS have increased their focus on lowering the barrier to entry for enterprise customers. Of course, this wasn’t the only thing we took away from re:Invent, and in another blog Shine’s Head of Consulting Luke Alexander will be talking about some other interesting things that got announced.

Mark Johnson is one of the Founders and CEO of Shine Solutions Group, a Technology Consultancy in Melbourne, Australia.

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