Re:Visiting last month’s AWS re:Invent 2021

on December 17th 2021

After a full tradeshow season of canceled or 100% virtual events, we are seeing more evidence of a refreshing new (or normal?) trend – people gathering in-person at tech events, including last month’s AWS re:Invent 2021 show in Las Vegas. 

Not surprisingly, absent were mega-announcements, jam-packed aisles, and those super flamboyant headliner parties with shoulder-to-shoulder, maskless revelers. There were re:Invent 2021 parties but not necessarily on the scale of pre-pandemic, bygone (and hopefully future!) days. You can stroll through social media channels (search term #awsreinvent) or check out these daily recap videos from Corey Quinn to get a sense of this year’s crowd size and event tone.

Still, in-person registration did sell out, while virtual attendance is free and currently open for those who want to catch keynote and session replays on their own time. 

New CEO, new AWS re:Invent tone 

No Andy Jassy giving the re:Invent kickoff keynote. Well, that’s new!

Jassy recently moved up to his new role as Amazon CEO after Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of 27 years, stepped down. The new face of AWS is actually a familiar one – Adam Selipsky, who returned to run his old division, AWS, after departing for a five-year stint as Tableau CEO.

As usual, the keynote address from the CEO was visionary – Selipsky takes the helm with cloud providers Google and Microsoft hot on AWS’ tail – as he talked about the future of cloud computing. Selipsky’s keynote, “was not as technical as Andy’s were, but he obviously has a deep understanding of the business,” is how analysts John Furrier and Dave Vellante described in their live breakdown of new CEO Selipsky’s re:Invent 2021 opening keynote. They also noted, Selipsky’s keynote “wasn’t a typical fire hose of announcements. Even though there were a lot of announcements, they didn’t shove them down our throats and they didn’t in the analyst session, which is usually hours and hours and hours of fire hose, Kool-Aid injection. Not this year. Why do you think that is – is that a COVID thing? No, I think, Adam Selipsky wants to be his own guy as a leader.” 

Comparing the new CEO to Jassy, the pair observed another change, saying Selipsky “was very much more about the impact of AWS culturally – as a society, as a company – and brought in this ‘think different’ Apple vibe … the people who are Pathfinders. (former CEO) Jassy took the approach of ‘be a builder, be a change agent, be a game changer.’ Adam took that to another level by saying, ‘It’s okay to be a Pathfinder because it means net new disruption with the cloud.’”

The pair also co-wrote an insightful article – Where new AWS CEO Adam Selipsky plans to take cloud computing next – ahead of this year’s re:Invent.

On the lighter side, Selipsky kept the music tradition alive when he was on stage with the song, “Sweet Child O’Mine.” 

Later in the week, fellow keynoters – Swami Sivasubramanian (Vice President, Amazon Machine Learning), Peter DeSantis (Senior Vice President, AWS Utility Computing), and Dr. Werner Vogels (CTO, Amazon.com) – also shared their visions and teed up event news. In all, AWS made wide-ranging announcements over the re:Invent stretch, which can be viewed on AWS’ blog found here

AWS announcement news breakdown 

Here are the AWS re:Invent announcements that we think are most notable:

  • Amazon CloudWatch Evidently – Experiments and Feature Management, a new Amazon CloudWatch capability that makes it easy for developers to introduce experiments and feature management in their application code. Most organizations use feature flags to easily enable or disable features without re-deploying code (Chronosphere does this with LaunchDarkly). This is not AWS’ first forray into this market, there are already feature flag capabilities in AWS Systems Manager, although according to AWS, CloudWatch Evidently offers “advanced feature management and experimentation.”
  • Real-User Monitoring (RUM) for Amazon CloudWatch, which monitors web applications with the goal of understanding performance and providing an optimal experience for your users. Amazon CloudWatch RUM will help you to collect the metrics that give you the insights that will help you to identify, understand, and improve this experience.
  • Karpenter is a new high-performance Kubernetes cluster autoscaler built with AWS. The goal is to improve availability and efficiency by launching just-in-time and right-sized compute resources. This will replace the previous approach of using Auto Scaling Groups to adjust EC2 capacity and Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler to change the cluster capacity, an approach that many found challenging. Interestingly, AWS decided to license Kartpenter as an open-source project under Apache License 2.0, so it will work with any Kubernetes cluster running in any environment,
  • EBS, which is arguably the most widely used yet most neglected service, got two new updates. Recycle Bin forAmazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) Snapshots, which allows you to set up rules to retain deleted snapshots so that you can recover them after an accidental deletion. AWS also announced Amazon EBS Snapshots Archive, a new storage tier for the long-term retention of EBS snapshots of your EBS volumes.
  • AWS Control Tower Account Factory for Terraform, a new Terraform module maintained by the AWS Control Tower team that allows you to provision and customize AWS accounts through Terraform using a deployment pipeline.

Ready to go deeper on AWS highlights?

There are a few reliable, annual re:Invent recappers who were able to attend in-person this year and provide helpful on-the-ground insights. 

Of course, one of the biggest must-read-and-watch is the daily re:Quinnvent Recap email and video stream from Last week in AWS newsletter publisher, Screaming in the Cloud podcast host, and Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. 

You can start by watching day-one of Corey’s re:Quinnvent Recap videos or skip right to the end by watching the abbreviated, re:Invent in 5 Minutes. You can also subscribe to his newsletter so you’ll be in the know next re:Invent.

Chris Farris, aka Cloud Security Guy, also does a thorough re:Invent recap, covering in detail a huge chunk of AWS’ many announcements in detail. He breaks them into Serverless, Networking, and Cost Savings categories. You can check out Chris’ re:Invent coverage here.

For more AWS re:Invent 2021 takes, also, check out: 

Photo sources: AWS re:Invent YouTube channel and AWS re:Invent parties Twitter feed.

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