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What to expect at AWS re:Invent 2021

Protocol Enterprise

Good morning, and welcome to Protocol | Enterprise. This Monday: Adam Selipsky prepares to make his AWS re:Invent debut, AI companies want to watch you drive, and signs of corrosion for Rust.

Clouds return to the desert

The world has changed since the last time enterprise tech gathered in Las Vegas for the jamboree that is AWS re:Invent. That’s also true of AWS itself, as CEO Adam Selipsky prepares for his first week in the spotlight.

While many re:Invent attendees spent the Thanksgiving break trying to remember how to attend a conference, Selipsky was preparing for his first keynote as CEO, which will take place Tuesday morning. Entering the 10th year of its annual revival tent meeting, AWS doesn’t appear to have lost a step. Revenue growth has accelerated this year even as Microsoft and Google have produced some of their most competitive cloud infrastructure services yet.

Still, re:Invent is a week in which the entire industry watches AWS closely in hopes of predicting its next move or spotting an opening.

As usual, there were a few early announcements that didn’t make the cut for the keynote. They all trickled out during the holiday break.

  • Perhaps it’s not that surprising that AWS made two significant announcements related to the pricing of outbound data transfers during the quiet holiday week, given how much mileage Cloudflare has gotten criticizing its data egress policies.
  • As of Dec. 1, AWS customers will be able to transfer up to 100GB per month from most AWS regions to the internet, up from the paltry 1GB a month it currently offers.
  • Customers using Amazon CloudFront, the company’s content-delivery network, will be able to transfer up to 1TB of data per month to the internet for free, compared to the 50GB of free transfers given to free-tier CloudFront customers. And the CloudFront freebies no longer expire after a year.
  • These moves should help damper criticism about the “Hotel California” strategy AWS has traditionally followed when it comes to making it easy for data to get onto its servers but much harder to get that data out to the real world.
  • AWS also announced that customers of Fargate, its serverless container-management service, will be able to choose its Graviton2 processor for those applications, which the company said would improve the price-performance ratio in customers’ favor.

But the main event comes on Tuesday. Current Amazon CEO Andy Jassy used to hold court for nearly three interminable hours on the big day, dashing off a list of new services in between somewhat-relevant rock songs performed by a slick cover band. Selipsky, wisely, has pared the keynote down to two hours.

  • Earlier this month he told The Wall Street Journal to expect “more ways to make AWS easier to consume for more sets of customers.”
  • Venture capitalists hoping to unload their SaaS investments have spent years trying to convince AWS that it needs to move “up the stack” or else compete more directly with Microsoft and Google in the business applications market (where AWS is an afterthought) in order to stave off an existential threat from companies that want to bundle infrastructure computing with office productivity software.
  • Yet despite the lack of compelling business applications in its portfolio during the last four years, a period during which Microsoft and Google have been much more competitive players for infrastructure business, AWS nearly quadrupled its revenue.
  • It’s obvious that services like Chime and Amazon WorkDocs have failed to gain enterprise traction at this point. But there is a lot of room in the “stack” — in between flagship developer-oriented services like compute and storage and end-user products like business intelligence tools and spreadsheets — for AWS to grow.
  • That includes low-code tools, robotic-process automation and data analytics. Expect to hear more about these categories over the course of the week.

AWS also plans to hold several “leadership sessions” over the course of the week featuring its bench of VP-level executives across basically every segment of its business, and has reserved time for three additional keynotes.

  • Swami Sivasubramanian will highlight the company’s work on AI services Wednesday morning, an area all cloud providers are keen to promote given how compute-intensive machine-learning algorithms can be.
  • Peter DeSantis has updated re:Invent attendees on the company’s hardware news for the past several years, and could be poised to shed more light on the roadmap for its Graviton Arm processor Wednesday afternoon.
  • And as usual, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels will close out the formal program on Thursday with what is usually a deeply technical pitch to software developers about why they should continue to trust that AWS still understands where enterprise tech is heading.

But this is all going to be a little weird. No matter how close this re:Invent hews to the traditional playbook, the 2021 edition is going to be different, simply because of everything that has happened over the last 18 months.

  • AWS said the event was “sold out,” but it’s not clear how many tickets were offered. Around 60,000 people attended re:Invent 2019.
  • The company is requiring proof of vaccination to enter the venue, and masks will also be required.

And if you’re in Las Vegas this week, join Protocol | Enterprise for cocktails on Wednesday starting at 5 p.m. at Majordomo Meat and Fish by the Palazzo casino at the Venetian Hotel. RSVP here so we know you’re coming.

— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)


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This week on Protocol

AI, take the wheel: The recently passed infrastructure spending bill requires car companies to add new safety features such as lane-departure warnings in future cars, but it also opens the door for “interior sensing” companies that promise they can use AI to monitor distracted or even upset drivers. Protocol’s Kate Kaye talked to several companies working on tech they claim can actually detect a driver’s mood, which could lead to exciting new privacy nightmares.

Hold the chips: While the ongoing supply-chain disaster showed signs of improvement over the holiday weekend, there are still a lot of structural problems across the chip industry that continue to make it hard to purchase electronics, cars and other items that increasingly rely on chips and microcontrollers to operate. Protocol’s Max Cherney looked into the current state of the shortage as part of our Shopping Week 2021 coverage, and it might get worse before it gets better.

Upcoming at Protocol

Join us Wednesday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. PT for The Year in Enterprise Tech, a live virtual event recapping the week that was at AWS re:Invent and discussing some of the most important trends and developments that will shape enterprise computing in 2022. Our panel features Sheila Gulati of Tola Capital, Liz Fong-Jones of Honeycomb and Corey Quinn of The Duckbill Group in a free-wheeling discussion moderated by Protocol's Tom Krazit. RSVP here.

Around the enterprise

Cryptocurrency miners are using hijacked Google Cloud accountsfor their compute-intensive token chases; most of the compromised accounts downloaded mining software within 22 seconds of activation, Google said.

UMC ended a dispute with Micron Technology. It will pay an undisclosed sum to settle intellectual-property theft allegations that were a poster child for U.S.-China tensions.

VMware topped Wall Street estimates with an 11% increase in revenue during its third quarter.

There are problems with Rust. The programming language has become very popular over the last several years, but it’s also faced recent criticism regarding whether or not big enterprise tech companies have too much sway over the direction of the project. The entire Rust moderation team resigned last week in protest of what it called a lack of accountability for its Core Team.

Thanks for reading — see you Thursday!

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