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New AWS cloud management tools cut business intelligence costs

Amazon launched a deluge of new tools this week, many that offer alternatives to more expensive third-party cloud management and business intelligence tools.

LAS VEGAS – Three new tools from AWS are in the works that will likely offer better pricing and simpler management than third-party products.

Chief among them is Amazon QuickSight, which entered the preview stage at the annual Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference here, and could undermine third-party business intelligence products on both price and ease of use.

QuickSight incorporates a new query engine called the Super-fast Parallel In-memory Computation Engine (SPICE) to process queries in-memory, and it will integrate with existing AWS data sources including Redshift, the Relational Database Service, DynamoDB, Elastic MapReduce and the Simple Storage Service.

Amazon claims the product can produce an analysis on automatically discovered data within 60 seconds; it also generates dynamic data visualizations with a feature called Autograph, choosing the visualization most appropriate to the data (for example, a bar graph vs. a line graph); and allows those visualizations to be shared within an organization, embedded within apps including mobile apps on Apple iOS and Google Android, or displayed on websites.

[QuickSight] is probably not as full-featured as third-party products, but it's also probably nowhere near as expensive.
Theodore Kim, senior director of SaaS operations for Jobvite, Inc.

Moreover, at $9 per user per month, Amazon claims the product costs a tenth as much as "old guard business intelligence products" which were not directly named by AWS' senior vice president  Andy Jassy in his keynote, but which visual aids made clear include IBM and Oracle.

The product can also integrate with third-party products from Domo, Qlik, Tableau Software, and TIBCO Software Inc., which can plug into SPICE to generate data visualizations if the customer prefers, according to Matt Wood, general manager of product strategy for AWS, who demonstrated QuickSight during the keynote.

Despite this integration, users will still weigh business intelligence tools competitively to determine which will handle the underlying analysis.

"[QuickSight] is probably not as full-featured as third-party products, but it's also probably nowhere near as expensive," said Theodore Kim, senior director of SaaS operations for Jobvite, Inc., a talent acquisition software maker in San Mateo, Calif. Third party tools can cost hundreds per user per month or more.

A consultant who has set up TIBCO and Tableau environments for clients called QuickSight a game-changer for the business intelligence market given its demonstrated quick setup time.

"This will make business intelligence easier for the enterprise," said Adam Book, principal engineer and senior cloud architect for Relus Technologies, a cloud consulting firm in Peachtree Corners, Ga. He said a business intelligence environment he set up for a client took two and a half months to complete with third-party tools. "With QuickSight you can just have it start working right away."

AWS security and compliance tools appeal

Two more AWS cloud management products entered the preview phase – and loomed large over the AWS Independent Software Vendor (ISV) ecosystem -- AWS Config Rules and Amazon Inspector.

Config Rules are a new feature for the existing AWS Config service, which allows users to specify policies and uncover violations of those policies in the AWS infrastructure. For example, if a user wants all Elastic Block Store volumes encrypted and one isn't, that volume can be encrypted. Or, if a volume or server instance is not tagged, it can be shut down.

The ability to enforce tagging drew applause from attendees.

"I have had problems with instances and volumes running with no tags," said an AWS certified architect working for a stealth startup in the Northeast. "Now if things aren't tagged I can shut them down immediately – I love it."

AWS Config will support both pre-canned and custom rules through Lambda.

On the heels of Config Rules will come Amazon Inspector, which is an automated security assessment service that finds security or compliance issues when deploying apps in AWS.

Amazon Inspector will be able to look at the network, virtual machines, operating systems and application configurations, and check for common security best practices and vulnerabilities kept in a built-in content library. Amazon Inspector will also track what tests were performed, when and with what results and store that information in CloudTrail.

Jobvite's Kim said he'll stick with the security configuration monitoring product he already uses from, but is reconsidering whether to invest in Puppet Enterprise to manage the configuration of CloudFormation templates given the AWS Config Rules preview.

"If it's good enough, it could be a Puppet replacement for us," Kim said.

AWS' cloud management tools look nice, but at the end of the day, there's much more to compliance than individual technologies, according to Book.

"They can help, to a point," he said. "But there's still manpower that needs to happen – when the audit comes, they'll want to know who was watching these systems."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.   

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