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Sometimes, AWS is smartest when it targets applications over infrastructure

Sometimes, AWS is smartest when it targets applications over infrastructure
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #172 • View online
If you’re reading this, I assume you know that Amazon Web Services’ annual re:Invent conference is taking this week and probably have read at least one story outlining what the industry expects will be announced (and possibly also realize the event now spans 4 separate hotels on the Las Vegas strip, which really are nowhere near one another). But in case you haven’t done the latter, here are couple to check out:
The TL;DR version is that, among other things, people think AWS will roll out some new AI capabilities (obviously), as well a bare metal instance type and enhanced Kubernetes support, or just a straight-up Kubernetes offering. 
AWS has actually been getting the AI ball rolling since last week, when it announced the Amazon ML Solutions Lab to help customers with their AI journeys. Today, AWS announced a an award program for machine learning researchers that will give them access to funding and AWS credits.
As much attention as these – and whatever else is announced starting with the first re:Invent keynote on Wednesday – will get, we’d be remiss to ignore the unimpeachable logic behind two new services AWS rolled out (somewhat under the radar) today: Amazon Sumerian and AWS Media services. The former is a tool for easily creating AR and VR experiences, and the latter is a service for processing and storing video content. 
I think these services are very smart in similar, but slightly different ways. Sumerian is smart because if it catches on, AWS is getting ahead of the curve on new types of applications that will require cloud computing resources in order to run. AWS made a killing powering the first big wave of mobile apps several years ago, and willing early AR/VR developers would set it up nicely to repeat that success with a new type of application. It did something similar in theory, but in a much different field, with the Connect call center service it announced in March.
AWS Media Services, on the other hand, looks like an attempt to take a bite out of YouTube’s dominance as online video content becomes even bigger. Obviously, the service isn’t targeting everyday consumers who just want to share their vacation videos, or probably even hobbyists posting passion projects or wannabe internet celebrities desperately seeking virality. Rather, AWS’s message seems to directly target companies who either (1) already create and publish a lot of video or (2) know they’re about to start doing so.
If the options are to process and host those videos on YouTube as their primary home (which I suspect an awful lot of companies and individuals currently do because it’s free and easy to embed them) or to process and host them using AWS Media Services, the latter might look like a better option. Yes, the AWS option costs more money, but it also offers a broader set of capabilities around processing, editing, security and output formats. And you can always upload files to YouTube later, too.
This application strategy is the same one AWS has employed before in its competition with Google and Microsoft, around email, docs and meetings, and one it definitely needs to employ more often if its goal is total cloud domination. Because while AWS built up a huge early lead in the cloud infrastructure race, its two biggest competitors own applications you might have heard of such as Office, YouTube, Gmail, YouTube and more. 
It’s easy to forget that users have personal and business allegiances that might run deeper than which cloud provider has the better database option or the cheapest instances. There are package deals, email/calendar/collaboration integrations, and just plain, old familiarity that might result in choosing one provider over another. The goal for everyone is making signing onto their platform the most important thing users need to do each day.
Finally, speaking of cloud competition, I feel obliged to share this story about how Microsoft’s new VMware-on-Azure service (which I linked to last week) apparently was developed independent of VMware and is not supported by VMware. AWS’s similar service, on the other hand, was developed with VMware and is supported by VMware. Conventional wisdom typically gives Microsoft the edge when it comes to winning really large enterprise accounts, so you have to wonder whether a VMware connection is really necessary and, if so, how much of an edge that gives AWS.

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ARCHITECHT delivers the most interesting news and information about the business impacts of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other trends reshaping enterprise IT. Curated by Derrick Harris.

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