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AWS didn't reinvent the wheel in 2016, but it did use wheels at re:Invent 2016 to pull a tractor-trailer called Snowmobile onto the stage. The display of showmanship intended to put an exclamation point at the end of a long keynote address, but likely led to quite a few question marks.
AWS uses its yearly conference as a showcase for new services, and IT professionals can guess until they're blue in the face as to what AWS' future holds. The data storage transport vehicle, Snowmobile, was unexpected, and some observers questioned the real demand for transporting 100 terabytes of data. Other services, however, struck a chord with developers, as AWS attempted to fill gaps in its service offerings.
The cloud provider wasn't silent during the other 11 months of 2016, regularly introducing new support and features for different services and tools. That constant innovation helps IT professionals, but can also be dizzying to keep up with.
As AWS moves into its second decade of providing public cloud services, it needs its own reinvention to remain on top in a constantly changing cloud market. We asked SearchAWS contributors to answer two questions as we move into 2017: What new features or services do you expect in AWS' future? Which other public cloud provider will be AWS' biggest competition? Here were their responses.
We'll see a massive migration to AWS. The tools are ready, the market is well educated and the enterprise has voted for Amazon in the cloud. Now it is a race to the public.
Some companies will have to overcome a lack of cloud skills, and although Amazon and its partners are doing a lot to overcome that, a migration that isn't scalable might lead to failures. Companies that fail with adoption, might fail in their businesses. This is all wrapped up with company culture, implying how innovative, fast and talented its personnel can be, particularly its midlevel leaders.
Until recently, AWS has been lukewarm toward hybrid cloud implementation. But October's VMware agreement demonstrates a new push to entice enterprise customers using legacy virtualized infrastructure. My contention from the beginning has been that from Amazon's perspective, the partnership is about creating a convenient on-ramp to AWS. I expect in AWS' future to see release services that tighten the integration with VMware. These might include incorporating VMware infrastructure; including vSphere, NSX and VSAN into the AWS Management Console -- and the converse to the AWS portal for vCenter; giving customers the ability to create VSAN volumes from Amazon Elastic Block Store; integration of network services like Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon Route 53 and Amazon CloudFront with NSX; and SSO integration between vSphere user, group and security policies and AWS Identity and Access Management.
I also expect enhancements to the AWS Machine Learning service, including better native support for programming frameworks -- perhaps even the TensorFlow library -- and better performance through the use of new GPU instances although AWS has never stated if it actually uses GPUs in its machine learning service.
Microsoft will remain the closest to AWS in the infrastructure as a service and platform as a service (PaaS) markets, but Google has an opportunity to create more surprises and disruption. Google Cloud Platform has a lot going for it: a superior pricing model that generally yields lower costs, the scale to globally compete and, arguably, a better integrated PaaS stack (App Engine) that is tailored to cloud-first, 12-factor applications. While Google doesn't offer as many services as AWS nor does it match Microsoft's enterprise outreach and connections, it has improved in both areas in the first year under Diane Greene, the executive vice president of Google Cloud Enterprise. I expect the Google Cloud Next '17 conference in March to have some significant announcements that will lead many organizations to give Google Cloud a fresh look and challenge Amazon.
AWS' future focus will continue to be on tactical improvement to its existing services. I suspect that many new features will involve serverless- and container-focused services, such as AWS Lambda and EC2 Container Service.
Other areas of focus will be on security, governance and AWS cloud management. AWS could offer improvements to existing services such as Amazon CloudWatch, as well as introduce new services in this category. As more enterprises adopt AWS, I'm sure we'll see more enterprise-oriented services that will also benefit small and midsize businesses.
It's easy to see that Microsoft Azure will be on AWS' tail. It grew faster relative to the market growth in 2016, and this will likely continue in 2017. But Microsoft focuses on a different part of the market than AWS, typically those that already run its platform.
I suspect AWS' future will focus more on beating Microsoft, including launching more native .NET application-friendly services and providing a migration path from Microsoft on premises to the Microsoft cloud.
Now that AWS has fundamentally redefined the computing and software development industries, it is well positioned to reshape other industries in the coming years. For instance, AWS is now a custom computer chip developer. AWS' global network could be used to turn AWS into a telecommunications service provider competing with Skype. And the cloud provider has built an extensive set of alternative energy sources to power its data centers worldwide, which can be made available to its customers in the future.
In addition, Amazon is expanding its internet of things technology. Amazon Go is the latest indication of the company's efforts to use advanced sensor, artificial intelligence (AI), logistics, supply chain and other technology advancements to transform the retail industry. Amazon's Alexa voice recognition capabilities attract a vast ecosystem of third-party software developers, enabling it to become the epicenter of smart homes and other environments.
AWS re:Invent 2016 gave us a lot of new toys to play with, but it also shed some light on where AWS' future is heading. The simple answer is everywhere it can.
AWS' new field programmable gate array instance family is a clear indication that it's trying everything it can to remove reasons for IT professionals not to use AWS.
I predict 2017 will expand more on the new products already launched. We'll see expanded developer tools like we saw with AWS X-Ray; and hopefully we'll see Docker on Lambda. We should also expect to see AWS expand its AI movement that it started when it released Lex, Polly and Rekognition. AWS has also gone all-in on hybrid with AWS Greengrass, which shows that it still wants to play in the realm of non-AWS hosted services. That helps with vendor lock-in concerns, but it also grants some room for competition with OpenStack.
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