What to expect from AWS in 2019

By | December 31, 2018

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front. Making predictions about the behavior of a company that innovates as rapidly as AWS is simultaneously safe and risky: safe because AWS introduces so many new products and services that there’s a good chance some of the predictions will come to pass, risky because you’re anticipating things from a position of relative ignorance, unaware of all the internal projects and research that might manifest themselves in the coming months. Thus, consider these as reasonably-informed (as reasonable as possible from the outside) guesses, not calculated projections.

Despite having vigorous competition from some of the biggest names in tech, AWS continued its dominance of the cloud services market in 2018 and that won’t change in the new year. With more market share than the next four largest cloud providers combined, AWS still acts like a hungry startup, introducing dozens of new products and enhancements at re:Invent 2018. None were more significant than its moves in two areas: enterprise hybrid cloud and custom-built hardware tailored to its needs. Look for AWS to redouble efforts in both areas in 2019. A few particular items are worth watching for as we embark on a new year:

  • Look for AWS to expand the use of Graviton (ARM-based) and Inferentia (machine learning model execution, i.e. inference) processors beyond their initial use in EC2 instances and SageMaker (Inferentia). I expect to see Graviton variants with more cores and memory deployed in native services to reduce costs and improve performance. Candidates would include Lambda, DynamoDB, CloudFront, its developer services (CodeDeploy/Commit/Build/Pipeline) and business applications (WorkDocs/Mail/Chime). Given its secrecy, we might not ever hear about such deployments or the extent of AWS’s use of alternative processors in services where the processor is insulated by a service layer and not directly exposed to the customer.
  • Outposts, its service for on-premise implementations of AWS services, are said to use “fully managed and configurable compute and storage racks built with AWS-designed hardware,” which includes its nitro security and network hardware. While this sounds like an AWS-labeled hardware product, don’t be surprised if AWS reaches an agreement with Dell to provide Dell-branded hardware for Outposts options using VMware as the cloud software stack (recall that Outposts comes in two options: one for VMware, one providing native AWS services). If so, it could put a strain on Dell’s longtime relationship with Microsoft, which has its own hybrid cloud offering in Azure Stack, including a Dell-built Azure Stack rack
  • A perennial criticism of AWS (and other cloud services) is that their pricing model, particularly for infrastructure services, is far to complicated. Indeed, sAWS did an extensive guide to AWS cost management software in 2018 that illustrated the need for software help in navigating and optimizing the many options. Given such feedback, now that AWS has an on-premise enterprise option in Outposts, look for it to introduce a simplified purchasing model. One option would be bulk purchase of service credits that are automatically applied to whatever the customer chooses to use and where unused credits can roll over month to month like carry-over minutes on wireless plans. While AWS won’t eliminate the micro measurement of service usage, it could hide it behind a bulk line item and handle the messy usage statistics and billing adjustments internally. 
  • Given the high-profile spat between Oracle and AWS over the latter’s use of Oracle databases internally and AWS’s accelerated timeline for migration to Aurora, expect AWS to more aggressively push is database migration service as a way to both win more enterprise business and stick it to a vocal critic and competitor.

AWS will undoubtedly surprise us many times throughout the year, but its pursuit of enterprise customers, which is behind the recent hybrid infrastructure offerings, and flexing of its technological muscle through custom hardware and native AWS services like Aurora and SageMaker, will be two major themes to watch.