Here at AWS re:Invent, Werner Vogels (@Werner) was the keynote compere on day 3, and I quickly realised the formula. On day 2, Andy Jassy announced some new stuff with more of a business value message, but the real techy new announcements were for Werner to unveil. He also made light of the fact that all AWS ever do is bleedin’ mention Netflix, saying that a new drinking game had been created where you have to down a shot every time anyone mentions them.
Anyway, there was a lot of announcements…
- PostgreSQL on RDS – this actually got a spontaneous whoop from the gathered audience, and so there is clearly a lot of pent-up demand for it. I note that it has multi-AZ support from launch, which hasn’t been the case for other databases on RDS.
- A new I2 instance family – for uber-high IO
- A new C3 instance family – for uber-high CPU
- Global secondary indexes on DynamoDB
- Cross region Redshift snapshot copies
- Amazon Kinesis – stream processing that can handle huge data ingest rates and deliver it to a number of consuming applications or services.
So that’s enough for most vendors for a year of releases really.
Later in the day I attended the Amazon WorkSpaces session (which wasn’t previously on the re:invent agenda as it wasn’t announced!) to understand this new offering a bit better. I have to say that the first impression is one of… well… it’s a bit dull. What can I say – it’s a Windows desktop – even if you are accessing it via a laptop, an iPad or and Android tablet. It just does what it says on the tin. It’s the economics of it that are the really interesting thing. It’s not a market I know really well (i.e. the price points of the key vendors), but it’s fair to say that the Citrix guys on the expensive-looking stand in the vendor expo were not looking too happy – or very busy. In a kind of “my breakfast has just been eaten” way.
Interestingly I had a chat with an Amazonian on this point and his view was that Citrix could have easily launched a pay-as-you-go virtual desktop product like Amazon WorkSpaces if they had really wanted to, but I guess Citrix had the classic dilemma of whether to cannibalise their on-premise business model or not. The answer clearly is – you HAVE to do this, as someone else will regardless.
Both Citrix and VMware‘s share prices dipped following the announcement.
VMware’s response was as you would expect from a competitor – as detailed in Erik Frieberg’s blog post:
- We welcome a new competitor in our market etc etc
- Ours is better than theirs
What else could he say? But of course I strongly suspect he knows the real unspoken truth here – it’s not AWS’s first product launch you need to worry about (as it will always typically be relatively immature and lacking key features), it’s the pace of product updates that follow it that should concern you.
From a technical point of view, Amazon WorkSpaces uses the same protocol over the wire to “deliver the pixels” as VMware’s product – PCoIP, a UDP protocol that both parties have licensed. Only Windows 7 desktops are supported in this preview release, running on Windows Server 2008r2 under the covers. Other OSs are clearly in the pipeline, including support for browser based clients. Provisioning time is currently 15-20 minutes, but they plan to get that down to 5 mins when it comes out of preview. Active Directory integration is supported.
The day wrapped up with the re:Play party, sponsored by Intel. I had a chat with the Intel guy to understand what their motivation for such a strong sponsorship with AWS. Obviously AWS buy a shedload of Intel chips, but it’s more than that – I just think they know they need to be onboard with the way the wind is blowing, simple as that.
The party was good I must admit, although it’s never a good sign at a party when there is a queue for the men’s toilets but not the women’s :). There was lots of entertainment laid on – 1980′s video games, Jenga, helicopter flying, laser-dodging etc – and then a set from deadmau5 – who I must confess I was not massively familiar with. Good to feel your jeans shake with the sub-bass though….
I was off playing Centipede (badly) after 30 minutes of this. I spoke to a Canadian (Dov Amihod, CTO from Lagoa – a really interesting start-up doing really high quality photo-real 3D image rendering for use in retailer catalogues etc as it’s cheaper than using getting a photo-shoot done) on the way back from the party and apparent deadmau5 is really big there, but he was a bit suspicious as to why he’s want to play in-front of 8000 geeks, for Intel
Experience deadmau5 by watching my short clip on YouTube here.
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