AWS re:Invent 2021: what you need to know
Celebrating our 10th re:Invent
As the 10th edition of re:Invent gets started here in Las Vegas, we take a look back at some of the event’s most memorable moments:
Robots take center stage in first news out of re:Invent
It was all about robotics last night with the first two announcements to come out of the AWS re:Invent news blocks:
- AWS IoT RoboRunner is a new robotics service that makes it easier for companies to build and deploy applications that help fleets of robots work seamlessly together. Building on the same technology used in Amazon fulfillment centers, it’s now being made available to all developers to build advanced robotics applications for their businesses.
The new AWS Robotics Startup Accelerator—which Amazon CTO Werner Vogels announced via his blog—is open to robotics hardware and software startups from around the globe. The accelerator, which AWS is running with MassRobotics, a leader in launching innovative robotics programs, offers a range of benefits including hands-on training with AWS robotics solutions, and up to $10,000 in promotional credits to use AWS IoT, Robotics, and machine learning services.
Startups accepted into the four-week program will be able to consult with AWS and MassRobotics industry experts on business models, as well as AWS robotics experts for help overcoming technological blockers. They will also gain additional knowledge through mentoring from robotics domain experts and technical subject matter experts. To prepare for life after the accelerator, they will get business development and investment guidance from MassRobotics, and co-marketing opportunities with AWS via blogs and case studies.
How to build an impactful corporate citizenship strategy
According to a study by Deloitte, corporate citizenship is now a CEO-level concern—defining an organization’s very identity. AWS Head of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity LaDavia Drane hosted a panel discussion this morning to examine why corporate citizenship is such a business imperative and what the fundamentals are of building a successful strategy. Drane was joined by Gina Fratarcangeli, managing director at Accenture; Noelle Abra, associate director at Biogen; Lauren Shanley, chief of staff at Pega Systems; and Greg Gill, president and CEO at SRO Motorsports, to discuss everything from integrating social responsibility with corporate citizenship, to how employee engagement and empathy from leaders build social responsibility culture organically inside organizations. The session ended with inspiring ways for companies to think about how to use data to make commitments to inclusion, diversity and equity even bigger—both in the workplace and in the community.
More than 10 new offerings for AWS Partners
Yesterday’s AWS Global Partner Summit keynote included more than 10 news announcements on our offerings for AWS Partners—companies that use Amazon Web Services to build solutions and services for other businesses and organizations. Two highlights:
- New AWS Game Day Partner benefits to help build cloud skills. AWS GameDays are team exercises that allow customers and partners to solve real-world problems using AWS solutions in a virtual, gamified, and risk-free environment. Companies in the AWS Partner Differentiation Program will now have more opportunities for their employees to access these hands-on sessions to explore AWS and help them upskill.
- A new AWS Energy Competency Program to support the global energy industry in safely meeting increasing demand, while accelerating the transition to a more sustainable future. The program will help connect energy producers with highly specialized AWS Partners to help them build and operate assets efficiently and safely, while furthering the development of sustainable energy solutions. Learn more.
Working backwards to make digital health care more equitable
The use of telemedicine dramatically increased during the pandemic, but many patients who did not have smartphones or broadband internet were limited in their ability to access virtual care. This is one of the challenges the new AWS Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) at the University of California (UC) Davis Health—announced at re:Invent yesterday—will explore. The center is the latest in AWS’s global CIC Program, an initiative that brings together nonprofit, education, and government organizations to collaborate on solutions to address real-world problems using Amazon’s ‘working backwards’ approach to innovation.
The UC Davis Health CIC is the first at an academic medical center and will allow clinicians or clinical care providers, patients, and developers to exchange ideas, as well as prototype and validate open-source solutions. It will focus on digital health equity, looking at discrepancies in how technology is currently used in healthcare, transportation, and mental health, and what could be improved to serve a greater diversity of patients. Clinicians, patients, and the community-at-large will be invited to submit their ideas for projects for the CIC to work on.
Invest in employees’ skills? You can’t afford not to
“If you have an interest in cloud, we can train you”—this was the message from AWS Vice President of Training and Certification Maureen Lonergan in her leadership session yesterday, as she talked about how AWS is delivering on its commitment to train 29 million people in cloud computing skills globally by 2025. Lonergan also discussed how AWS is helping organizations build cloud fluency across their workforce. One example came from guest speaker Kathy Kay, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of 140-year-old global financial services company Principal Financial Group, who described how the company is working with the AWS to transform the way it trains its employees and creates a culture of continuous learning. “Migrating to the cloud requires critical, in-demand skills that weren’t readily available in our teams, or simple to hire,” said Kay. “To move quickly, our best option was to upskill our existing staff while continuing to recruit talent.” Using AWS Training and Certification, Principal has significantly advanced its employees’ cloud capabilities and accelerated its speed of innovation in the cloud. For example, a group of Principal interns with little to no cloud experience entered an AWS hackathon and successfully migrated on-premises data to a cloud data warehouse in only nine weeks, a task that would usually take an experienced team six months to complete.
According to Lonergan, employees “choose to stay at companies where they build skills and competencies. They want to do meaningful, interesting work.” With cloud skills becoming ever-more sought after across all industries, she cited a recent Enterprise Strategy Group study that found 75% of learners said they wanted more training on AWS services to be more effective on the job. “Investing in your employees this way might seem like a nice thing to do, especially if you’re worried about them potentially leaving,” she said. “I’m here to say you can’t afford not to.”
20 nonprofits receive funding and support through AWS Imagine Grant
Ensuring clean drinking water for millions of people. Accelerating research into Crohn’s Disease. Understanding sperm whale communication. Expanding access to classical music. Enabling more effective collaboration when responding to disasters. These are just some of the bold visions of the 20 nonprofit organizations that received an AWS Imagine Grant this year, announced during re:Invent. The program is a public grant opportunity open to registered 501(c) nonprofit organizations in the U.S. that are using technology to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since launching in 2018 it has awarded more than $4.5 million in unrestricted funds, AWS Promotional Credits, and AWS training support to 46 nonprofit organizations. This year, the program offered two new award categories—the Go Further, Faster award for highly innovative projects using advanced cloud services, and the Momentum to Modernize award for foundational technology projects— and expanded funding for nonprofits. As part of the program, AWS seeks proposals for big ideas on how to leverage technology in new and innovative ways to accelerate impact in local and global communities. Learn more about the AWS Imagine Grant.
United Airlines’ pivot in the pandemic
In April 2020, United Airlines found itself in the unusual position of flying fewer passengers in a day than it had pilots on staff, said Linda Jojo, United’s Executive Vice President of Technology and Chief Digital Officer, on the situation the company faced at the start of the pandemic. Jojo—who was speaking at re:Invent this morning during AWS CEO Adam Selipsky’s keynote—explained how the airline navigated the challenges of COVID-19 by embracing them as an opportunity to innovate faster in the cloud.
Pre-pandemic, United flew an average of 450,000 passengers per day. However as international travel almost ground to a halt, the airline’s technical team was initially forced to shutter most of its technology projects and focus on streamlining the company’s IT operations to reduce costs. Fortunately, United had already decided to modernize its technology on AWS, and now it had the chance to create tools for its customers to help them easily manage the new realities of travel. For example, United developed its Travel Ready Center on AWS to help passengers easily comply with testing and vaccine documentation requirements that vary from destination to destination. Today, it’s using AWS machine learning to automatically evaluate passengers’ uploaded documentation so that they can bypass congested airport lobbies and check in to their flights quickly through United’s mobile app. Learn more about how United Airlines is innovating with AWS.
Cloud is the opportunity to reimagine everything
What do Angelo-Giuseppi ‘Hank’ Luisetti, an American college basketball player; Florence Nightingale, a British nurse, social reformer, and pioneer in statistics; and Roscoe Brown, one of the first Black aviators to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, all have in common? Whether it was Luisetti pioneering an early version of the jump shot in the 1930s, to Nightingale driving huge reforms in healthcare in the late 1800s, to Brown breaking racial stereotypes as a distinguished, trailblazing pilot in World War II, they were all considered innovators in their specific field. And according to AWS CEO Adam Selipsky, they were all pathfinders: people who refused to accept the status quo and looked for a better way to do things–transforming their fields and communities in the process.
Pathfinding was the theme of Selipsky’s keynote at re:Invent this morning, his first since taking over as CEO earlier this year. Selipsky said AWS had come a long way in 15 years, looking back at how it disrupted the information technology industry when it launched in 2006, when the concept of cloud hardly existed. He described how IT and infrastructure was inflexible and slow, and suffocated innovation. AWS knew there could be a better path forward, then—and now. And according to Selipsky, the company is running as hard and fast now as it was back in 2006.
During his keynote, Selipksy made a suite of new service announcements showcasing AWS’s continued commitment to innovation, as well as inviting customers Nasdaq, United Airlines, Dish Wireless, and 3M on stage to share how AWS is helping them forge entirely new paths in their own industries.
AWS CEO Adam Selipsky makes six major service announcements during keynote
New instances powered by AWS-designed chips lower costs and increase energy efficiency
In 2006—when cell phones could flip, but they weren’t yet smart—a team of AWS engineers set themselves an ambitious goal of making almost infinite computing power available to anyone in the world. And they did it. The service they created, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), revolutionised the way people build businesses by offering on-demand access to the kind of compute power previously only available to Fortune 500 companies. Fifteen years on, and EC2 shows no sign of slowing down. Today’s announcement of three new Amazon EC2 instances (virtual servers that mimic the functionality of physical servers) powered by three new AWS-designed chips—AWS Graviton 3, AWS Trainium, and AWS Nitro SSD—will help customers:
- Significantly improve the performance, cost, and energy-efficiency of the workloads they run on EC2
- Speed up the time it takes to train machine learning models at lower cost
- Ensure optimum storage performance for data intensive workloads
As part of the announcement, Selipsky said: “AWS is working with SAP to power SAP HANA Cloud with AWS Graviton processors.” Read the press release to find out more.
Making it easier to move off a mainframe
For those of us not so well-versed in the language of information technology, a mainframe, or ‘big iron’ as they are sometimes referred to, is a high-performance computer typically used by large companies for critical applications—such as storing and processing large amounts of customer data. While mainframes have been used for decades in industries including banking and healthcare, they are complex, expensive, and difficult to scale. That’s not to mention the fact that applications written for mainframes are increasingly hard to manage, as fewer and fewer engineers specialise in what’s essentially an outdated technology. Many organizations want to modernize their systems and move from mainframes to the cloud, but are held back by the sheer complexity and time-consuming nature of the process. That’s why the new managed service AWS Mainframe Modernization, which makes it faster and easier to move mainframe workloads to the cloud, could be prove a big deal for enterprises that want to make the leap—and fast. Read the press release to find out more.
Setting up a private 5G network in just a few clicks
More and more companies need to collect, analyse, and transfer huge amounts of data from sensors and devices in their operations, and many want to use cellular technologies like 5G to help them do it. The advantages of 5G are that it allows organizations to connect more devices, and transfer data more cost-effectively and flexibly than current wired and wireless networking technologies. The problem? Building your own private 5G network generally requires considerable investment—in both hardware and software, and in time required to set it up. AWS Private 5G promises to change all that. It will enable companies to set up private 5G networks in their facilities in days instead of months. With a few clicks, customers can specify the geographic area they want to cover, along with the amount of traffic they expect the network to handle, and AWS will do the rest—delivering everything they need to operate the network, so they don’t need to buy, integrate, and maintain hardware and software from multiple vendors. Read the press release to find out more.
The right capacity for data analysis, right when you need it
Many AWS customers make data-driven decisions using a wide variety of the company’s purpose-built analytics services. Things just got easier for them with today’s launch of serverless versions of three popular AWS analytics services—Amazon RedShift, Amazon MSK, and Amazon EMR. Essentially what this means is that customers in industries ranging from pharma to gaming to financial services and beyond can analyse data at scale without worrying about having to set up and manage any underlying infrastructure to support it. The serverless options will automatically add or subtract resources instantly to provide just the right amount of analytics capacity, right when customers need it. Read the press release to find out more.
The digital twins that could transform industrial operations
Imagine you’re in charge of a metals processing plant, with a blast furnace burning up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. If you could detect anomalies in that furnace before it fails, it would transform the way you run your operations, not least from a safety perspective. This kind of predictive maintenance is possible with the use of a ‘digital twin’—a 3D virtual representation of the factory (or any other physical system), pulling in data from the plant’s equipment sensors and combining it with real-time video of various machines in operation, plus the maintenance history of those machines. Digital twins are virtual representations of physical systems, regularly updated with data to generate immediate insights about the operational state of the environments they are designed to mimic. Many industrial companies have the vast troves of data about their facilities required to build digital twins, but creating and managing them is really hard, even for the most technically advanced organizations, so the majority are unable to use them. AWS IoT TwinMaker will make it faster and easier for companies to create digital twins of buildings, factories, industrial equipment, production lines, and any other physical system, helping them to do things like optimize operations, increase production output, and improve equipment performance, as well as reacting more quickly and accurately when issues occur. Read the press release to find out more.
Helping car manufacturers make better, safer vehicles
Car makers got a lift in the form of AWS IoT FleetWise—a new service designed to make it easier and more cost effective to collect and transfer vehicle data to the cloud in near-real time. Why does this matter? Well, manufacturers have been collecting data from standard vehicle sensors for years to improve vehicle quality and safety, but as these sensors get more advanced, they also generate a lot more data. Today’s sensors can produce up to two terabytes of data an hour per vehicle (roughly equivalent to 1,000 hours’ worth of movies) making the cost of transferring it to the cloud hugely expensive. AWS IoT FleetWise will allow manufacturers to collect and organize data from vehicles, regardless of make or model, and standardize it for analysis in the cloud. Among other things, this will help them to diagnose issues in individual vehicles, analyse vehicle fleet health to help prevent potential recalls or safety issues, and use analytics and machine learning to improve advanced technologies such as autonomous driving. Read the press release to find out more.
From space to small business to skills
Governments, education providers, nonprofits, aerospace, satellite, and healthcare organizations are all examples of AWS customers in the public sector. All of them, wherever they are in the world, are trying to accomplish complex missions with limited resources. And yet, as Max Peterson, AWS Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, said in his leadership session yesterday, people expect the same world-class technology from these organizations as they do when they log onto Netflix or shop online.
Peterson’s session showcased the variety of ways AWS public sector customers change the way society engages, educates, and does business by delivering innovative, world-class services, enabled by the cloud. Key announcements included:
- A new agreement with Singapore’s Office for Space Technology & Industry—the first of its kind for AWS in Asia—to support Singapore’s focus on space as a new area for economic growth and technology development. Read the blog for more information.
- A new ‘buy local’ search platform in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to support its goals of supporting its small businesses. AWS has built the platform, called Common Goods, in partnership with MindGrub, and it is now onboarding local merchants. The site, which uses semantics to prioritize Pennsylvania-based businesses, will launch in the coming months.
- AWS will help power The Room Intelligence Platform, a new initiative from The African Leadership Group—an ecosystem of organizations focused on harnessing the power of the booming African population—to connect global talent to in-demand technical careers. AWS will also offer cloud skills training curriculum to assist in the effort.
Driving new innovations in cloud data storage
The need for data storage in the cloud has not stopped growing, in fact—it’s accelerating faster than ever. The word we like to use here at AWS is 'exponential.'
It’s everything from the NFL analyzing in-game helmet impact videos to reduce future injuries, to groundbreaking neuroscience and drug discovery research at Johnson & Johnson. All of them rely on storing data on the cloud.
According to the latest market research, within the next four years, enterprise data stored by organizations will triple, and nearly 90% of enterprise data will be stored in the cloud.
"We’re constantly looking for access capabilities"—that’s the forward-looking message Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec delivered here at re:Invent in her leadership session yesterday. As VP of AWS Block and Object Storage, she and her team announced several new innovations that will propel the mission on storage solutions.
Pinterest’s Chief Architect, David Chaiken, joined her onstage to demonstrate how the new data solutions will help anyone trying to access any of billions of pins from anywhere. With more than 80% of Pinterest’s customers using their service from their phones, the new S3 Glacier Storage Instant Retrieval powers those to the device in your hand within milliseconds.
Why one left-hand turn took 2.3 million attempts
Before Aurora ever attempted an unprotected left-hand turn in a vehicle on a real road with its autonomous driving technology, it had completed nearly 2.3 million turns in simulation. That’s roughly equal to 20,000 hours of real-world driving practice. The company’s self-driving system is designed to operate everything from people-moving sedans to goods-moving trucks, and it relies on AWS to run millions of driving simulations per day. The virtual testing helps train the Aurora Driver to navigate situations such as construction work or jaywalkers quickly and safely. This morning at re:Invent—during VP of Amazon Machine Learning Swami Sivasubramanian’s keynote—Aurora’s CEO Chris Urmson explained how the company relies heavily on cloud computing to achieve breakthroughs for the Aurora Driver, and how it plans to triple the volume of simulations it runs on AWS to more than 12 million per day by the end of 2021. Read the press release to learn more about how Aurora uses simulation and machine learning training on AWS.
AWS Announces Customer Carbon Footprint Reporting
To build a sustainable business for our customers and the planet, Amazon is committed to reducing carbon emissions across our businesses. It’s why, together with Global Optimism, we founded The Climate Pledge and committed to reaching net zero carbon by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Powering our operations with 100% renewable energy is central to meeting this commitment, and Amazon is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy.
AWS announced today that we will provide our customers with the carbon footprint of their use of AWS services to support their efforts to meet their carbon reduction goals. A forecast will also be included that shows how our sustainability investments will lower the carbon intensity of our customers’ workloads as AWS progresses toward net-zero carbon. There’s more to come here, and we are looking forward to making the AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool available early next year.
By moving to AWS, our customers have already taken an important step toward lowering the carbon footprint of their IT workloads. A study by 451 Research found that moving to AWS can help customers reduce the carbon footprint of their IT operations by up to 88% compared to a survey of U.S. enterprise data centers and up to 96% once AWS is powered with 100% renewable energy, a target we are on path to meet by 2025.
Regularly reporting carbon emissions is one of the commitments made by Climate Pledge signatories, and organizations need to measure their emissions to track their progress toward net-zero carbon. Knowing the carbon emissions associated with their use of AWS services will help our customers with their own reporting.
AWS is committed to running our business in an efficient way to reduce our impact on the environment, and we know this is true for many of our customers. Whether it’s understanding the carbon implications of your IT choices or using AWS to make your broader business operations more sustainable, AWS is committed to helping customers on their sustainability journey. This is one step of many we’ll be taking along the way.
Two new initiatives to make machine learning more accessible
During his re:Invent keynote yesterday, vice president of Amazon machine learning (ML) Swami Sivasubramanian announced two new initiatives designed to open up educational opportunities to people interested in learning about, and experimenting with, the technology:
- A $10 million education and scholarship program specifically aimed at helping underrepresented and underserved high school and college students learn foundational ML concepts, and preparing them for careers in AI and ML. The AWS AI & ML Scholarship, delivered in collaboration with Intel and talent transformation platform Udacity, will offer students from all over the world free access to dozens of hours of training modules and tutorials on the basics of ML and its real-world applications, a chance to win a Udacity Nanodegree program scholarship, and mentorship opportunities. Find out how to get started with the AWS AI & ML Scholarship.
- Free access to a version of Amazon Sagemaker—a service used by developers, data scientists, and researchers worldwide to build, train, and deploy ML models quickly—through the new Amazon Sagemaker Studio Lab. The new lab, which doesn’t require users to have an AWS account or provide billing details to access it, will enable people to start work on ML projects in the time it takes to open a laptop. Users simply sign up with their email address through a web browser, and can start building and training ML models with no financial obligation or long-term commitment. Learn more about Amazon SageMaker Studio Lab.
Using machine learning to help communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters
According to a recent report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), natural disasters are occurring three times more often than 50 years ago. As a result, more governments, businesses, nonprofits, and international organizations are accelerating efforts to make their data publicly available. Why? So researchers, developers, and data scientists among others can put technology to work on some of the world’s most pressing disaster preparedness and response issues.
In support of these efforts, AWS launched a Disaster Response Hackathon at re:Invent yesterday. It challenges participants to use machine learning (ML) to solve a problem aligned with at least one of the phases of a disaster life cycle (mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery), that’s present in one or more types of natural disaster—such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and drought. The virtual hackathon, which offers a total of $54,000 USD in prizes, is also an attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the largest ML competition. Participants can access Amazon SageMaker Studio Lab, a free service also announced yesterday, to learn and experiment with ML. The hackathon runs from December 1, 2021, through February 7, 2022.
Using AWS to help more borrowers and first-time homebuyers
When unemployment swelled by 25 million jobs in April 2020, Fannie Mae—a leading source of financing for mortgages in the U.S.—had no historical reference point to suggest how borrowers or mortgages would behave. As the company was already using AWS, it had the flexibility to respond quickly to the challenges of the pandemic, rolling out new programs to help keep millions of borrowers and renters in their homes. According to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kimberly H Johnson, it’s the ability to innovate in this way that enables Fannie Mae to make it more equitable and affordable for people to buy or rent a home. During AWS Senior Vice President for Utility Computing and Apps Peter DeSantis’s keynote at re:Invent yesterday, Johnson talked about how Fannie Mae uses AWS analytics services to derive data insights and responsibly expand access to mortgage credit. The company recently launched a new feature in its automated underwriting engine to assist lenders in completing credit risk assessments to establish home loan eligibility more efficiently, as well as incorporating consumers’ timely rent payments into the mortgage underwriting process—enabling more first-time homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage. Learn more about how Fannie Mae is using AWS to help solve some of the biggest challenges in housing.
Thank you, and now go build
The cloud is going everywhere, and the next frontier is space. That’s according to Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels, who delivered the final keynote at re:Invent in Las Vegas yesterday. Vogels began by reminding the audience how the launch of AWS 15 years ago unleashed a wave of innovation, and why AWS continues to push the boundaries of technological possibility. He invited Payam Banazadeh, CEO and Founder of Capella Space, on stage to demonstrate why ‘space is the missing link’ when it comes to gaining greater insight on what’s going on down here on earth. An AWS customer, Capella Space is building the largest constellation of commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites to provide hourly monitoring of anywhere in the globe. Banazedeh explained how Capella is making it as easy to order incredibly clear, high-quality satellite images in any weather conditions as it is to order food from your favorite delivery app—sharing examples of how Capella is helping organizations respond to everything from oil spills, to burst dams, volcanic activity, and extreme weather events.
Highlights from Vogels’ keynote include:
- The launch of AWS Cloud WAN, a managed wide area network (WAN) service that makes it faster and easier for enterprises to build, manage, and monitor a unified global network that seamlessly connects cloud and on-premises data center environments. AWS Cloud WAN provides a central dashboard that companies can use to connect their on-premises branch offices, data centers, and Amazon Virtual Private Clouds (Amazon VPCs) across the AWS global network in just a few clicks. Read the press release for more information.
- A new Sustainability Pillar for the AWS Well-Architected Framework, to help organizations learn, measure, and improve their workloads using environmental best practices for cloud computing. It contains questions aimed at helping customers evaluate the design, architecture, and implementation of their workloads to reduce their energy consumption and improve their efficiency. Much more than a simple checklist, it’s designed to be a tool that customers can use to track their progress toward policies and best practices that support a more sustainable future.
Read Werner Vogels’ tech predictions for 2022 and beyond.