Biggest Wins for Startups at re:Invent

What is moving the needle for startups at AWS?

It seems like eons ago when I attended a huge conference. In fact, it was over a year ago in Singapore attending the Singapore FinTech Festival and SWITCH when over 60,000 attendees came together to learn all about the latest in FinTech innovation and meet with rising startups. I thought it was too big at the time, but now I would give anything to be among a huge throng of random people pushing their way through the crowds to attend sessions.

I have never been to AWS re:Invent, but I have heard it is the same vibe. The biggest difference is that it is all about cloud, even more people attend, and it’s in Las Vegas. As opposed to most vendor oriented events, re:Invent is a learning conference for the global cloud computing community.

The very first re:Invent was a smaller affair. That was in 2012 with 6,000 attendees mostly from startups and emerging technology partners. Back then, only startups were on the cloud for the most part. Enterprises treated cloud as a mere novelty.

Last year’s re:Invent was on a different scale. There were over 65,000 attendees taking over a good portion of Las Vegas for a week. Though there was a startup program, the heavy emphasis was on enterprise cloud migration and adoption of AWS. The content, the speakers, and the steep costs to attend led most startups to give re:Invent a pass.

The pandemic has put an end to conferences for this year, but the show must go on as they say. To adapt, conferences switched to virtual formats, as did re:Invent. With the move to virtual, this meant creating an entirely new experience.

The event is now three weeks. Then in January, there will be recaps and additional sessions. The entire program runs follow the sun, so the same talks and sessions run three times a day to accommodate time zones. Because it is virtual, it means no travel is required. It also means that the cost considerations are off the table for startups as re:Invent is completely free this year.

Today is week two of re:Invent, which also kicks off most of the startup programming. The Startup Attendee Guide helps sort through the various programs and talks from customers and AWS experts. On the events side, AWS is hosting Mentor Sessions, an Ask the Startup Expert Series, a Machine Learning Overview tailored for startups, a Female Founders Event & Pitch Competition, and a panel featuring AWS startup partners on how they have scaled their businesses. Finally there are also industry specific tracks for FinTech and Health & Life Sciences startups.

What interests most attendees at re:Invent however are the announcements of new services. Every re:Invent features a whirlwind tour by AWS CEO Andy Jassy on the various feature enhancements and new releases over a multi-hour keynote. I watched and live tweeted the entire keynote if you want to get the highlights from the talk.

With all the new services released, which ones are most useful for startups? I narrowed down the list to the top five services that would be most applicable to startups and also called out a few other releases that were too interesting not to mention:

Amazon EC2 Mac Instances to Build and Test macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS Apps

In the past, developers would have one development pipeline setup on the cloud for most platforms and a separate one for Mac based apps in the office (or the developer’s own hardware for most startups). Now developers can run these pipelines using Mac instances on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and use all the same tooling and processes for building and testing on other platforms. Check out this cool video story about the launch.

AWS Amplify Admin UI Helps You Develop App Backends, No Cloud Experience Required

Amplify was created to help front-end and mobile developers speed the building and deployment of full-stack, scalable apps using any popular web or mobile framework. With Amplify Admin UI, developers can now build apps through an intuitive interface instead of spending hours deploying and stitching together cloud infrastructure. For startups, this means shipping web and mobile features and whole products even faster than before, or even using Amplify for building MVP’s and prototypes.

Amazon DevOps Guru Helps Identify Application Errors and Fixes

As applications become more distributed and complex, operators need more automated practices to maintain application availability and reduce the time and effort spent on detecting, debugging, and resolving operational issues. For early stage startups, this complexity tends to be minimal, but as a startup scales, these operational issues act like tech debt slowing down resolution when issues occur. Amazon DevOps Guru is a fully managed service that makes it easier for developers and operators to improve application availability by automatically detecting operational issues and recommending fixes built on machine learning insights based from 20 years of running

AWS Proton is an Automated Management for Container and Serverless Deployments

Maintaining hundreds or thousands of microservices is super challenging. AWS Proton enables infrastructure teams to define standard templates centrally and make them available for developers. Think of this as combining Infrastructure-as-Code plus pipelines plus observability, so that developers have a single interface to work from and know their code meet all requirements. Much like DevOps Guru, this is a service that will mostly benefit scaleups that have a dedicated platform team to ensure standard infrastructure and monitoring practices.

Amazon EKS Anywhere & Distro, the Open Source Kubernetes Distribution in Your Data Center

AWS has three container solutions. ECS is AWS’s own containerization service. EKS is the Kubenetes container that we all know and love. Fargate is the fully managed service where AWS handles all the orchestration. Now you can run ECS and EKS in your own datacenter and can even use an open source distribution called EKS Distro, which is the same version of Kubernetes deployed by Amazon EKS to manually create your own Kubernetes clusters anywhere you choose. For startups that deploy their solutions for Enterprise customers, these new options will significantly improve deployments.

These next three services are some of the more interesting releases that I could not help but mention:

Amazon S3 Adds Strong Read-After-Write Consistency

With this S3 update, all S3 GET, PUT, and LIST operations, as well as operations that change object tags, ACLs, or metadata, are now strongly consistent. What you write is what you will read, and the results of a LIST will be an accurate reflection of what’s in the bucket. This is a huge win for big data workloads and data lakes sitting on S3 and is now available to all AWS customers.

AWS Lambda 1ms Billing Granularity Adds Cost Savings

Lambda is AWS’s serverless option, and since 2014, pricing has been based on the number of times code is triggered and executes, rounded up to the nearest 100ms. Now AWS is rounding up to the nearest millisecond with no minimum execution time. Serverless was already a huge cost saver for developers, and now with millisecond pricing, this means even more cost savings, especially if you are running in the tens or hundreds of millions of triggers per month.

EC2 C6gn Instances and 100 Gbps Networking with AWS Graviton2 Processors

The Arm-based Graviton2 was a huge update for instance options using custom built Arm processors, and the new C6gn instances provide 100 Gbps network bandwidth and deliver up to 40% higher packet processing performance and 40% better price/performance versus comparable current generation x86-based instances, again delivering greater cost savings.

With more re:Invent happening this week and next, I am pretty sure there will be many more updates in store. There is also the Machine Learning keynote on Tues, Dec 8th which I look forward to checking out.

If you are attending re:Invent or following the updates, what is the most interesting announcement so far for you? What service do you see putting to use immediately for your team?

I am doing two talks this week (in addition to stuff at re:Invent). I am really excited for my talk at YOW 2020 tomorrow and really do hope you can check that out. I am also speaking at the Cloudbazaar conference, which will be my last talk of the year.

What cool stuff are you up to and how are you closing out 2020? If you have a big announcement or some awesome news, please do share and I will include in the newsletter.

YOW! Conference — Launching an Internal Developer Community — Monday, December 7 at 8:20 PM EST — Overall this is one of my favorite developer conferences with many excellent speakers that I am honored to be included in, where I will talk about launching and scaling thriving internal developer communities.

Cloudbazaar — The Age of Authenticity, the New Way to Sell & Scale Revenue — Saturday, December 12 at 7:30 PM IST / 9:00 AM EST — The Cloudbazaar is a conference for all things web. I am proud to be the closing keynote speaker and will share some observations on the need for authenticity in engaging customers.

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Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, enterprise agility, community building & software engineering culture. Author 👉

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