The Top 7 Announcements from AWS re:Invent 2018 & Why They Matter

This year at Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent, we joined over 50,000 attendees to witness 5 days of deep technical content, hands-on learning opportunities, and of course, no shortage of announcements from AWS experts. To help you focus on what matters most, we’ve highlighted the top seven announcements and what they mean for you.


1. New services that will expand your machine learning arsenal

Machine learning took center stage at the keynote hosted by AWS CEO Andy Jassy. 

What we heard: AWS is adding several new ML services to its SageMaker offering: SageMaker Ground TruthSageMaker RL (Reinforcement Learning), and Marketplace for Machine Learning. Those services will be available with a broad set of built-in algorithms—think k-means and XGBoost—that come with SageMaker and Marketplace, making it easier for developers to build, train, and deploy ML models. 

AWS also will add the following services to expand its AI arsenal: Amazon Textract (to extract text and data from documents), Personalize (a personalization and recommendation service similar to what uses on its website), Forecast (a forecasting service), and Neo (to train your ML models once so that it can run anywhere).

What this means: With these tools, instead of data scientists only tackling these well-understood problems, developers can now take action and produce quick results for the company’s data.


2. Containers, Kubernetes, partner solutions, and its continuous growth in popularity

With the rapid adoption of the popular microservice architectures, containers have become a necessity to package and run those applications. In fact, containers are now a preferred method of deploying new and refactored apps to the cloud.

Until recently, Docker has dominated the container world, but now, Kubernetes (K8s) and other technologies including Red Hat and OpenShift are taking the lead. Those new systems and tools make it easier and more effective to automate container deployments as well as scale, manage, and visualize your apps.

What we heard: Not using containers yet? AWS is all in but wants to ensure that developers understand the technology and have access to the latest tools. Check out recent offerings from Amazon including Elastic Container Service or Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes to help you with your container needs.

With the exploding popularity of this technology, AWS also announced the AWS Container Competency Program to introduce AWS partner container solutions from well-known companies including Docker and  Pivotal.

What this means: Developers now have a wide array of choices (150+), but more choice means that more due diligence to pick the right tool or partner. Choose wisely.


3. Easily create and manage scalable blockchain networks with Amazon’s new Managed Blockchain service

Amazon has taken a smart approach to blockchain support, listening to customers’ needs and evaluating use cases. After much anticipation, Amazon’s Managed Blockchain service offerings are now available.

What we heard: There are two use cases to consider: centralized and decentralized trust.

1) Centralized trust (for health care, manufacturers, DMV, HR, and payroll) tracks user and product data. For these use cases, Amazon announced a new offering in the form of a database: Quantum Ledger Database. This database is immutable, which means you can only append. All changes are also cryptographically chained and verifiable, which allows much easier implementation and visibility.

2) Transactions with decentralized trust (i.e., financial institutions, mortgage lenders, retail) that perform various transactions (i.e., payments and loan processing) can streamline customer rewards.

What this means: We can create blockchain networks with a few clicks and rapid scaling to support an extensive number of transactions. Both services are still in preview, but they are highly anticipated by those who work in any of these sectors.


4. AWS Control Tower: The easiest way to set up and govern a secure AWS environment

With enterprises continuing to migrate to the cloud, several challenges have arisen, especially when multiple teams from an organization are involved. 

What we heard: AWS Control Tower helps enterprises centrally manage the multi-account AWS environment by speeding up their processes and creating a secure environment that makes it easier to govern AWS workloads with rules for security, operations, and compliance.

By utilizing feedback received from thousands of enterprise customers, AWS Control Tower automates the setup of baseline environments that now comes with a configuration called Landing Zone. Built according to AWS’s best practices, Landing Zone allows you to quickly set up a secure, multi-account AWS environment.

What this means: Enterprises now can create their own set of rules and guidelines that can be enforced throughout the AWS environment without worrying about whether the new accounts are aligned with the policies. That gives enterprises total control of their own environments, and it enables them to migrate to the cloud even faster while maintaining a consistent level of security and compliance.


5. Centrally view and manage security alerts with AWS Security Hub

Until recently, it has been challenging to deal with security alerts and compliance management across multiple AWS accounts. As usage of the number of AWS services expands daily, managing those services will become even more difficult.

What we heard: AWS announced a new service, AWS Security Hub, which simultaneously resolves all of these issues by providing a comprehensive view of all security alerts received from several other AWS services used by organizations similar to yours. This new service will allow enterprises to understand the priority and importance of security issues that are aggregated from other AWS services including Amazon GuardDutyAmazon InspectorAmazon Macie, and AWS partner solutions.

Those particular issues are prioritized by their severity and are based on recommendations provided by AWS. AWS Security Hub provides a visual representation of the current state of security issues and compliance status across all AWS accounts. The service also allows enterprises to run automated compliance checks based on industry standards and best practices, such as the Center for Internet Security.

What this means: Upon identifying the trends and compliance checks in the AWS Security Hub, users can take necessary action immediately by sending the respective findings to chat, email, or even automated remediation using AWS CloudWatch events.


6. Build a secure data lake in days with AWS Lake Formation

In most cases, enterprises find it challenging to set up data lakes where data resides in multiple sources. That involves a significant amount of manual work including setting up partitions from the data collected, accessing control configuration for each setting, reorganizing the data in the needed format, and auditing the data after all necessary information is obtained.

What we heard: AWS announced a new service, AWS Lake Formation, which solves all of the issues enterprises are currently facing. AWS Lake Formation allows enterprises to set up a secure data lake within a few days instead of months by following a few easy steps. The data lake is a centralized repository where data can be stored in both their original and post- analyzed format.

What this means: This new service allows enterprises to break data silos and later, use data-analytical tools to gain insights that can guide you to make better decisions. To achieve that result, simply direct the AWS Lake Formation service to various enterprise data sources so the new service crawls through the data and moves into the dedicated new Amazon S3 data lake. And the Lake Formation also features a built-in machine learning algorithm that de-duplicates to increase the quality of the data.


7. Build, deploy, and host cloud-powered modern web apps with AWS Amplify Console

What we heard: The AWS Amplify Console provides continuous deployments and also acts as a hosting service for web applications with serverless backends.

This service allows you to connect repositories from Git, Bitbucket, GitLab, and CodeCommit. By simply configuring the build settings, your build can be deployed to the cloud within minutes. The app is deployed to a globally available content delivery network hosted on the Amplify app domain. With the help of this new service, frontend and backend workflows are simplified by creating a new environment for development and production.

AWS Amplify was announced at re:Invent 2017. It allowed mobile apps to be built on AWS with quick setups for authentication, analytics, and offline data syncing. But with the AWS Amplify Console, you can rapidly release features from their respective feature branches and avoid downtimes during deployment while simultaneously completing frontend and backend updates.

What this means: With the AWS Amplify Console, all feature branch deployments can be password protected, which restricts access to internal stakeholders only during development. When Web App is production-ready, simply choose your Amazon Route53 custom domain, and with the assistance of Amplify, the associated DNS records will be updated, and a free HTTPS certificate will be generated.

So why is this important? Picture this: multiple teams are collaborating on updating the frontend and backend of applications, and suddenly, that process becomes extremely complex and too difficult to manage. It is at that exact moment that the service becomes so valuable to enterprises. When several teams are collaborating on multiple new features, this service handles the complexity by enabling teams to lock and unlock features as needed while simultaneously accelerating the application release cycle and minimizing downtime. With the combination of AWS Amplify and Amplify Console, development teams have more control over the app, the capacity for continuous deployments, and the ability to connect the app with AWS services like authentication and analytics.

With no shortage of new announcements and launches in many categories this year, we can conclude that AWS continues to innovate and expand its service offerings. Although the above announcements caught our eye and will make an impact on our clients and our projects, there are many more that may be of interest to you. You can find all announcements here.


To see how we are working with AWS, please check out this page.


This post was co-authored by Andy Koziol and Harsha Madamanchi.