What AWS re:Invent 2021 Means For The Future of Cloud Computing


AWS re:Invent 2021 struck a nice balance of nostalgia and the future. The tenth edition of the biggest conference in cloud gave a strong nod to the journey so far. It also delivered a clear message about the way forward.

Over the last fifteen years, AWS has defined what the “cloud” is: it started with a handful of services. Now, AWS is a platform helping businesses transform their approach to solving customer problems.


Around the time of AWS re:Invent 2016—the 5th—the team was struck by a realization. They couldn’t fit the new feature and service announcements into just one week so they started a new tradition. The conference would be a capstone on a month of announcements.

This year was no different. The AWS Blog and “What’s New” feed has details of the major announcements and a wide variety of community coverage has already been published with more on the way.

If you’re interested in the “big” announcements, I would recommend checking out;

That’s just the beginning. There were plenty more announcements. Just shy of two hundred and fifty, in fact.

That’s exciting but what’s more important is the signals this conference sends. What AWS releases and how they talk about the cloud influences everyone in IT.

This message is alsowoven through the leadership sessions. In the four primary keynotes, it really comes to light

>Sidenote: Yes, there are five keynotes. But the Global Partner Keynote is aimed at APN partners and the AWS Cloud through that lens.

The keynotes roughly breakdown into business (Adam), data (Swami), infrastructure (Peter), and developers (Werner). Here is what they say about the cloud.

The Second Age of Cloud

The business and data keynotes shone a light on the second age of cloud.

With this era, we’re seeing general acceptance of the cloud and it comes with an expansion into user groups that were previously a layer removed. These groups typically use services build by builders working in the cloud.

The customer examples in AWS CEO Adam Selispky’s keynote—Nasdaq, Dish Wireless, United Airlines, Goldman Sachs, 3M—are all extremely large enterprises.

While these names might not be associated with fast moving innovation, the stories they told proved that belief wrong.

These sentiments were echoed in Swami Sivasubram’s, VP AI at AWS, data keynote. He showed examples where large companies are drawing insights from data at scale in unexpected areas.

Both keynotes featured a number of product announcements. Most of these were “higher” level services. Ones designed for builders within business units or the end users themselves.

A great example is Amazon SageMaker Canvas. This tool is designed to let anyone comfortable with a spreadsheet use machine learning techniques with their data. AWS has offered solutions for this audience before but this marks a turning point.

The cloud has moved beyond low level building blocks that need to be assembled into a complete solution. The second age of cloud will deliver solutions directly to the business unit.

Building Blocks

The push towards the business unit doesn’t mean AWS abandoned their core audience of builders. Far from it.

Peter DeSantis’ keynote pulled back the curtain. He dove into some of the details of how AWS delivers the AWS Cloud. This year, the SVP of Utility Computing’s message focused on efficiently solving problems.

Peter dove into the details of AWS’ efforts around custom silicon. Chips like Inferentia, Tranium, and Graviton are delivering better performance with lower energy consumption.

Builders benefit through lower costs and AWS reduces its massive power bill. We all win with a more sustainable approach to solving business problems.

Amazon’s CTO, Dr. Werner Vogels closed out the keynote series with his annual clarion call for developers. This time Werner focused on builder efficiency. He tied it directly to AWS’s sustainability efforts.

With a nod to re:Invent’s past, he recounted the principles of “21st Century Architectures.” Developers should be striving to follow these principles as they build solutions. These principles consistently deliver more reliable, efficient, effective solutions.

The Everywhere Cloud

Werner had a term for the push to the business unit while still delivering for core builders. He called AWS, “The Everywhere Cloud.”

With efforts in space, 5G, edge, hybrid cloud, and the continuing expansion of the AWS Global Infrastructure, he’s not far off…literally.

More importantly, I think Dr. Vogels is referring to the idea of ubiquitous and pervasive computation. The cloud enables data processing and analysis at a scale that was unfathomable fifteen years ago.

Now the barrier to access that technology is lower than ever. Better still, it’s getting lower by the day. AWS has once again set the direction—it’s time to deliver better solutions directly into the hands of business users.

AWS is doing that. They are providing the building blocks we, the builders, need to build.

It’s a call to draw new insights from the data around us. To help move our businesses forward and to help solve real world problems.

As Werner said, “Now go build…

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