Amazon unveils ‘Alexa for the enterprise,’ SQL database support at Re:Invent

LAS VEGAS – Amazon has made more than 1,000 announcements in 2016 and the pace of new announcements from the Seattle-based company only increased on day one of the Re:Invent conference.

At one point AWS CEO Andy Jassy was making a new announcement every 90 seconds. Click here to watch a video of all the announcements made on day one of the Re: Invent show. 

The plethora of new announcements was highlighted by the next generation of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). EC2 will feature memory and compute optimized with high input/output (I/O) instances. Altogether the new EC2 is the company’s first customer-programmable, hardware-accelerated compute instance with Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).

And, FPGA is an important aspect of this announcement. Herman Pais, the head of marketing for AWS Canada, told ITWC FPGA itself is nothing new as it’s been around for more than three decades. However, FPGA is for digital signal processing for things such as CAT scans or MRI machines. These machines take in millions of data points from trillions of atoms in a person’s body to produce a 3D image.

“In order to do that the manufacturer of the machine has to take FPGA and program the algorithm at silicon speed to take in millions of processes. This costs 10s of thousands of dollars, but in the cloud you can rent it more affordably and now it can get into the hands of a startup,” Pais said.

The new EC2 may have highlighted the slew of announcements, but it was followed closely by the Athena server-less query service and the full availability of PostgreSQL compatibility to Amazon Aurora, an AWS database engine that similar to other commercial databases but brought in an open source manner.

Jassy told ITWC that all these announcements were not made because of any new market trends or shifts.

“All these announcements are more like a kid with gifts to open at Christmas. And, he is able to share them with family and friends. We have 32,000 customers here at the Re: Invent conference. If you check out the vibe in the halls and in the sessions those people are excited about what the cloud and what it can enable them to do. This is a movement. There is passion out there about the ability to have control over your own destiny. These tools give them the leverage. They now feel that whatever needs to get done; can be done,” Jassy said.

And, so the announcements kept on coming. Such as:

  • Two larger sizes of T2 Burstable Performance Instances;
  • R4 Instances for high-performance databases, distributed memory caches, in-memory analytics, genome assembly and analysis, and other enterprise applications;
  • C5 instances include the next generation of the Intel Xeon Processor line (code named Skylake). This one will be available in early 2017;
  • I3 Instances (also for 2017) for I/O-intensive relational databases, NoSQL databases, transactional systems, and analytics workloads; and
  • Amazon Lightsail a virtual private server that starts at $5 per month for running code in the cloud. Lightsail comes with Web sites, blogs, custom apps, development servers in either Linux, WordPress or Drupal. There are five server sizes to choose from.

“We announced a lot today,” Jassy said. “Tomorrow we’ll announce more. Other things are coming in December. And, in the first part of 2017 we’ll have more. AWS has several autonomous teams that are working on delivering things in the next couple of years. The customer tells us what to build and that’s the process we use going forward.”

Interested in artificial intelligence? Well AWS made three announcements in that product section.

AWS released Amazon Rekognition for image analysis inside apps. This can help users with facial recognition technology.

Amazon Polly transforms text into lifelike speech, enabling apps to talk with 47 lifelike voices in 24 languages.

Amazon Lex, powered by the Alexa engine is slated for the web, mobile, and connected device apps.

Just like many other vendors AWS is also interested in the burgeoning Internet of Things market. AWS announced Greengrass, which enables users to run compute, messaging, data caching, and sync capabilities for connected devices. Greengrass runs Lambda functionality that helps keep the data in sync with other devices on the AWS cloud.

The AWS Snowmobile truck for exabyte data transfers
The AWS Snowmobile truck for exabyte data transfers

And, last be certainly not least Jassy’s showstopper announcement was the update to Snowball data transfer appliance. Last year Snowball was able to transfer up to 100 terabytes. The update to Snowball is called Snowmobile and it comes in an 18-wheel truck and can transfer up to 100 exabytes.


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Paolo Del Nibletto
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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