This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Your passport to AWS re:Invent 2016

New AWS developer tools offer better app insights, control

New AWS developer tools and data efforts will help users who want more hands-on control, but enterprises should also expect a boost by having those tools baked into MSP offerings.

LAS VEGAS -- Amazon has doubled down on its goal to win the hearts and minds of developers by disclosing an expanded range of AWS developer tools -- while also setting boundaries to approach enterprises and third-party tools.

The major focus of the final day of AWS re:Invent, held here this week, was deeper insights and control for applications running on AWS -- welcome news to many developers, but likely so fine-grained that most enterprises will turn to ecosystem partners to help manage their instances. The company also continued to push improved coordination around the massive sets of data customers are ingesting and functionality around fast-emerging serverless uses.

Several fully managed offerings added to the platform target developers, including OpsWorks for Chef for continuous deployment and AWS CodeBuild, which integrates with existing CI/CD services to test and integrate code.

AWS Lambda, the serverless, job function AWS developer tool, also received new capabilities for developers with [email protected] and AWS Step Functions, following the Greengrass and Snowball Edge services unveiled earlier in the week.

As the name implies, [email protected] puts Lambda functions at Amazon points of presence through CloudFront locations around the globe. The functions, available through an HTTP request, can process data without transfer back to the original source. Step Functions addresses complexity around multiple Lambda functions by coordinating microservices via a state machine with a series of programmed steps presented in a visualization workflow.

Deeper insights into AWS environments

One of the most well-received new services at the conference was AWS X-Ray. It can analyze and debug distributed applications that run in production on Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to provide granular insights into latency and other issues that affect workloads.

"People are having a really hard time finding what's going on in their systems, so it's really nice to see Amazon approach that issue of performance introspection in a really serious way," said Rob Harrop, CEO at Skipjaq, a Richmond, England startup that built a SaaS-based performance optimization on top of AWS.

There's very clearly a last-mile layer of service providers ... Amazon doesn't have the scale of manpower operation to support all its customers.
Carl Brooksanalyst, 451 Research

Other new services included AWS Shield, which will come automatically with customer accounts to help block volumetric and state-exhaustion DDoS attacks. The service provides application-level protection connected with a web app firewall, while Shield Advanced adds a 24x7 response team to help customers defend against attacks.

Amazon also rolled out a collection of open source projects for container management and orchestration called Blox. While there was some expectation that Amazon would expand its support for Kubernetes at re:Invent, the company instead opted to enter this crowded space of open-source projects jockeying for container mindshare.

Other new services unveiled here include EC2 Systems Manager, which pools existing services to patch configuration and automation of EC2 for Windows and Linux operating systems at a level of congruity with on-premises workloads; and Personal Health Dashboard, which, as the name implies, allows for a personalized view of application health.

Data is everywhere ... on AWS

Amazon dedicated considerable attention this week to data analytics' role in pushing AWS users forward, and executives acknowledged gaps in the service and challenges in pooling all the disparate sources and services on the platform.

AWS developer tools to address some of those challenges included Amazon Pinpoint, an analytics service for mobile apps that responds to user behavior; AWS Batch for batch processing based on volume and resource requirements; and AWS Glue, a catalog and ETL service to automate tasks and move data between the various Amazon services. Those upgrades come on top of other services rolled out this week, including Amazon Athena for querying data stored in Simple Storage Service.

These services won't solve all the problems around managing disparate data sources and tools, but it's a positive step, Harrop said.

"It's naïve to assume it's going to magically put [the data] into one pristine cathedral, but I'm glad the approach they've taken is to recognize it's a problem," he said.

Informatica, a Redwood City, Calif.-based AWS partner, will likely incorporate some of the AWS developer tools rolled out this week into its service, but it also sees a clear line between developer demands and the types of controls that enterprises require, said Ronen Schwartz, senior vice president and general manager of data integration and cloud integration at Informatica.

"There are a lot of components that the mature enterprise information management market sees as table stakes that developers don't typically look for because it serves the next layer," Schwartz said.

He said he'd also like to see Amazon add some catalog capabilities to address data stores from outside the AWS ecosystem.

Partners critical to enterprise IT on AWS

Most of the two dozen new services rolled out this week represent incremental advancements rather than revolutionary shifts like in years past, which reflect the relative maturity of the platform. At the same time, the established division between AWS and its partners has increased -- Amazon provides the primitives and the ecosystem fills in the gaps for enterprises.

"There's very clearly a last-mile layer of service providers," said Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research. "Amazon doesn't have the scale of manpower operation to support all its customers."

These service providers have become necessary within the ecosystem to deal with the complexity, especially with IT staffs at an all-time low compared to the resources they must manage, Brooks said.

X-Ray is a good example of that need -- many service providers at the show said they plan to incorporate it into their own offering. Though some midmarket companies may want to use it directly for self-management, this type of service is mutually beneficial for AWS and its partners, said Jeff Cotten, Rackspace senior vice president and general manager of Fanatical Support for AWS.

"They're actually creating [management] tooling and automation that [Rackspace would otherwise need to] create -- because humans have to do it today, either our humans or theirs -- and we don't want to do that stuff today," Cotten said.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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