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What to expect from a virtual AWS re:Invent

AWS reveal

Welcome to Protocol Cloud, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This week: it's beginning to look a lot like re:Invent, how the retail industry survived the pandemic and AMD's Lisa Su makes history.

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The Big Story

Reinventing re:Invent

It's going to be a weird Thanksgiving for everyone, perhaps unless you're an AWS employee. For the first time in years, those people will get to spend the holiday at home instead of in Las Vegas, frantically rehearsing for the cloud leader's biggest event of the year.

Thanks to the unchecked pandemic, AWS re:Invent will join the long list of major events on the enterprise tech calendar this year that have gone virtual. While AWS will take a page from Google Cloud and spread its event sessions across several weeks, the main event is AWS CEO Andy Jassy's keynote next Tuesday morning, traditionally a three-hour affair packed with new product announcements and an extremely loud cover band.

So what can we expect from a virtual re:Invent? First, let's revisit the biggest AWS announcements from November, which tend to be the new things that didn't make the final cut for the keynotes.

That leaves a few likely themes for the first week of re:Invent.

  • The Information reported earlier this month that AWS is planning to introduce new services that support multicloud strategies, a concept essentially banned from discussion at past re:Invents. But multicloud is increasingly important to customers, as well as an area in which AWS trails its rivals Microsoft and Google Cloud.
  • Two years ago, AWS introduced its Arm-based Graviton server processor, and last year followed up with a second-generation product that has impressed several companies testing it for their applications. A roadmap update seems likely.
  • Last year, AWS devoted a huge chunk of Jassy's keynote to a single service, its SageMaker managed machine-learning service. Expect to hear about additional AI and ML services, which AWS is keen to promote given those services enjoy profitable margins.
  • Databases are usually a big part of Jassy's keynote, and last year he announced a few improvements to Amazon Redshift, which competes with Snowflake's flagship cloud data warehouse to some extent. Given Snowflake's success this year, expect to see clearer lines drawn between the two products.

Perhaps inspired by the virtual format, AWS is also planning to highlight a deeper bench of executives across the company than in years past through prerecorded talks called "Leadership Sessions."

  • Usually those folks make short appearances during the major keynotes that seem mostly designed as a chance to give the big shots a moment to catch their breath and pound some water.
  • But this year will feature hour-long talks across technologies like storage, security, containers and serverless computing that will shine more of the spotlight on lesser-known AWS executives.
  • Virtual events lack some of the best parts of real-life events, such as the "hallway track" and the after-hours parties where deeper conversations take place. But there's no denying that virtual events greatly expand the number of people who can take part, both on the presentation side and the attendee side.

Still, given the way this year has gone, it's almost enough to make you miss the cold dry air, jostling crowds and incessant noise of Las Vegas in December. Almost.

A MESSAGE FROM JUNIPER NETWORKS

Juniper

Juniper Networks, driven by Mist AI, has been named a leader across the board by analysts because our solutions improve customer experiences. IT teams in all industries need to manage increasing demands, including work-from-home, and analysts agree that Juniper's AI-Driven Enterprise delivers secure and assured experiences from Client to Cloud.

Learn more about Juniper here.

This Week on Protocol

Retail therapy: Outside of the travel or restaurant sectors, perhaps no other industry was disrupted as much by the pandemic as retail. In our latest Protocol Manual, we took a look at how retail companies have revamped their business models and rebounded amid a great deal of uncertainty that will stay with us into 2021.

Slackers slacking: Slack can be a difficult product for new users to understand, as CEO Stewart Butterfield told Protocol earlier this year. So how does Slack use Slack? Kevin McAllister talked to several employees about emojis, automation and channels.

Five Questionsfor...

Marcel Weekes, director of engineering, Slack

What was your first tech job?

In college, I interned at a hardware company making network circuit boards. As an electrical engineering student this was super interesting to me, as it was basically a summer-long lab. However, the following summer I interned at Oracle and got to see how quickly ideas could come to fruition in software (as opposed to hardware). I was hooked and returned to Oracle the next year as a software engineer working on workplace productivity tools.

What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting their first tech job?

Build your personal network. Try to surround yourself with the smartest people you can find and ask questions of everyone. All sorts of questions.

What was the first computer that made you realize the power of computing and connectivity?

The Apple iBook. It was the first "laptop" computer I used and it coincided with me having consistent internet access. It was great: I could work on school projects without having to go to the "computer lab." (Those were real things that existed in the '90s.)

What was the biggest reason for the success of cloud computing over the past decade?

The ability for all companies to have access to horizontal scaling. This meant that more startups could spend their precious time working on product-market fit, rather than setting up data centers for expansion that relied on that same product-market fit.

What will be the biggest challenge for cloud computing over the coming decade?

The quick "add more servers" scaling is the easy part. Building and managing the right cloud operations for a given environment and product is something that requires a unique skill set and attitude. As an industry, we are still learning to build this muscle.

Around the Cloud

A MESSAGE FROM JUNIPER NETWORKS

Juniper

Juniper Networks, driven by Mist AI, has been named a leader across the board by analysts because our solutions improve customer experiences. IT teams in all industries need to manage increasing demands, including work-from-home, and analysts agree that Juniper's AI-Driven Enterprise delivers secure and assured experiences from Client to Cloud.

Learn more about Juniper here.

Thanks for reading, and have as great a Thanksgiving as you can. See you next week.

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