Artificial Intelligence and Hybrid Cloud Are High on Amazon’s Agenda


Janakiram MSV

December 6, 2016

At the AWS re:Invent event, Amazon has announced a host of new services that highlight its commitment to enterprises. Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, emphasized on the innovation in the areas of artificial intelligence, analytics, and hybrid cloud.


Amazon has been using deep learning and artificial intelligence in its retail business for enhancing the customer experience. The company claims that it has thousands of engineers working on artificial intelligence to improve search and discovery, fulfillment and logistics, product recommendations, and inventory management. Amazon is now bringing the same expertise to the cloud to expose the APIs that developers can consume to build intelligent applications. Dubbed as Amazon AI, the new service offers powerful AI capabilities such as image analysis, text to speech conversion, and natural language processing.

Amazon Rekognition is the rich image analysis service that can identify various attributes of an image. Amazon Polly is a service that accepts text or a string and returns an MP3 audio file containing the speech. With support for 47 different voices in 23 different languages, the service exposes rich cognitive speech capabilities. Amazon Lex is the new service for natural language processing and automatic speech recognition. It is the same service that powers Alexa and Amazon Echo. The service converts text or voice to a set of actions that developers can parse to perform a set of actions.

Amazon is also investing in MXNet, a deep learning framework that can run in a variety of environments. Apart from this, Amazon is also optimizing EC2 images to run popular deep learning frameworks including CNTK, TensorFlow, and Theano.

In the last decade, Amazon has added many services and features to its platform. While customers appreciate the pace of innovation, first-time users often complain about the overwhelming number of options and choices. Even to launch a simple virtual machine that runs a blog or a development environment in EC2, users may have to choose from a variety of options. To simplify the experience of launching non-mission critical workloads in EC2, AWS has announced a new service called Amazon Lightsail. Customers can launch a VM with just a few clicks without worrying about the complex choices that they need to make. When they get familiar with EC2, they can start integrating with other services such as EBS and Elastic IP. Starting at $5 a month, this is the cheapest compute service available in AWS. Amazon calls Lightsail as the express mode for EC2 as dramatically reduces the launch time of a VM.

Amazon Lightsail competes with the VPS providers such as DigitalOcean and Linode. The sweet spot of these vendors has been developers and non-technical users who need a virtual private server to run a workload in the cloud. With Amazon Lightsail, AWS wants to attract developers, small and medium businesses, and digital agencies that typically use a VPS service for their needs.

On the analytics front, Amazon is adding a new interactive, serverless query service called Amazon Athena that can be used to retrieve data stored in Amazon S3. The service supports complex SQL queries including joins to return data from Amazon S3. Customers can use custom metadata to perform complex queries. Amazon Athena’s pricing is based on per query model.

Last month, AWS and VMware partnered to bring hybrid cloud capabilities to customers. With this, customers can run and manage workloads in the cloud, seamlessly from existing VMware tools.

Amazon claims that the customers will be able to use VMware’s virtualization and management software to seamlessly deploy and manage VMware workloads across all of their on-premises and AWS environments. This offering allows customers to leverage their existing investments in VMware skills and tooling to take advantage of the flexibility of the AWS Cloud.

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware was on stage with Andy Jassy talking about the value that this partnership brings to customers.

In a surprising move, Amazon is making its serverless computing framework, AWS Lambda available outside of its cloud environment. Extending Lambda to connected devices, AWS has announced AWS Greengrass – an embedded Lambda compute environment that can be installed in IoT devices and hubs. It delivers local compute, storage, and messaging infrastructure in environments that demand offline access. Developers can use the simple Lambda programming model to develop applications for both offline and online scenarios. Amazon Greengrass Core is designed to run on hub and gateways while Greengrass runtime will power low-end, resource-constrained devices.

Extending the hybrid scenarios to industrial IoT, Amazon has also announced a new appliance called Snowball Edge that runs Greengrass Core. This appliance is expected to be deployed in environments that generate extensive offline data. It exposes an S3-compatible endpoint for developers to use the same ingestion API as the cloud. Since the device runs Lambda, developers can create functions that respond to events locally. Amazon Snowball Edge ships with 100TB capacity, hi-speed Ethernet Wi-Fi, and 3G cellular connectivity. When the ingestion process is completed, customers can send the appliance to AWS for uploading the data.

Pushing the limits of data migration to the cloud, Amazon is also launching a specialized truck called AWS Snowmobile that can move Exabytes of data to AWS. The truck carries a 48-foot long container that can hold up to 100 Petabytes of data. Customers must call AWS to open the vestibule of the truck to start ingesting the data. They just need to plug the fiber cable and the power cable to start loading the data. Amazon estimates that the loading and unloading process takes about three months on each side.

Apart from these services, Andy Jassy has also announced a slew of enhancements to Amazon EC2 and RDS.


This article was written by Janakiram Msv from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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