The theme was strong. It’s all about Transformation. The capital T is important because it is a strong word being used, and one that carries many connotations. Transformation is about people, process, and technology. I covered some keynote content in the first two posts here (Day 1 recap) and here (Day 2 recap), so this is the overall exit post, which I wanted to use to cover a couple of things that stood out for me from the event.
Exiting the Echo Chamber
While you are in the AWS re:Invent experience, you are truly immersed in a culture that makes you excited about every aspect of what’s going on. It is infectious in all the greatest ways. You become excited about things that you didn’t even know you could leverage, and I spent as much time starting up the services being talked about as I did learning about them. That is the advantage of being a cloud provider. AWS can talk about something, and nary a salesperson is involved for you to launch right into using their newly minted services.
As you step past the boundaries of the event center, you feel the Las Vegas vibe hit you which also hypes up the crowd. Once you survive the week of learning, keynotes, expo hall browsing, chatting with vendors and colleagues, you head for the airport and it suddenly hits you: not everyone is all-in on AWS.
I say this tongue-in-cheek because we know that AWS is huge, but it isn’t the entire solution for everyone. While you are there, the event seems focused on making you forget that anything other than AWS exists. Once you rediscover the reality of the rest of the world who operate quite happily on physical hardware and virtualized servers on-premises, you are reminded that the echo chamber effect is strong.
One of the biggest things that jumped out at me is how Andy Jassy called out a few times how AWS does not want you to have to be legally locked-in — and that is an important part of their product ecosystem. The very interesting thing with this is the fact that it is adding an asterisk to the phrase “lock-in,” because he and the AWS team talk about “legal lock-in,” which alludes to the Enterprise License Agreements (ELA) woes of many customers currently on VMware, Microsoft, Oracle, and others as infrastructure platforms.
That is what I call semantics, redirection, or more bluntly, sleight of hand aimed at some skillful deception. When you choose to build your platform on top of AWS, you do avoid legal lock-in. You can take your data out anytime… at a cost. You can take your applications out at any time… at the cost of engineering on another platform. You can redesign your application stacks to embrace other features that are on AWS… at the cost of re-engineering and potentially at the risk of similar products not being available at all.
I’m all about open options, so I do applaud Andy for bringing the attention to the ease of re-platforming from a contract perspective. But it's important to note that the technical cost and real capital cost of moving content in and out of AWS was carefully left out of the talking points.
Many Talents Creating a Bigger Picture
Even on the expo floor, there is an interesting set of vendors and partners who all seem to tackle one specific and focused challenge. They are also rather humble about being specialized on that single thing or a small set of challenges being tackled.
This seems to be s result of the Amazon AWS approach. They’ve created a swath of products that are loosely coupled. Some much more loosely than others. As each new product comes online, the integrations are often minimal with the other products in the ecosystem. That evolves and the integrations become stronger over time.
We all work together as consumers, developers, and architects of the platform. This enables innovation amongst our consumer community and also helps to drive internal innovation from what AWS learns based on the behavioral patterns of its customers.
I’m All-In on AWS, but Not Leaving IaaS or Private Cloud Behind
This marked my first AWS re:Invent attendance, and I am definitely looking forward to attending next year. My goal is to be an AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional level by then (currently at the Associate level), and to have even more stories to share with the community on how I’ve leveraged the good parts within AWS.
There is also a strong need to stay grounded in the traditional virtualization ecosystem and also to keep pushing ahead on the private cloud architectures that I work with, including OpenStack, the upcoming Azure Stack, and others. I’ve always said that I’m long on OpenStack as an ecosystem.
I say this all as I prepare to launch a fairly substantial Kubernetes infrastructure. The lesson here is to keep close to what’s happening, find the best of how you can leverage it as a business person and as a technologist, think like an architect, and enjoy the ride.
See you next year at AWS re:Invent 2017!