The impressive depth of the AWS portfolio was on full display at this year’s re:Invent, with announcements of more than 70 new products and features. The list of presenters covered a vast range of expertise and disciplines. Just as stomachs feast on the endless Vegas buffets, our brains indulged in some gorging of their own on the sheer volume of innovation and information that filled re:Invent.

Basically, AWS re:Invent 2019 was akin to drinking from a firehose.

Among the many interesting presentations this year was AWS CEO Andy Jassy’s keynote. Though we were all there for the technology, his address didn’t really launch as a technology conversation. Instead, he talked about the requisite motions behind a successful digital transformation initiative with a focus on the need for strong leadership. To move an organization toward digital transformation, Jassy believes the executives and senior decision makers must have the conviction that they actually want to change the business. It’s incumbent on them to build a culture that supports, emphasizes, demands transformative action.

Getting everyone going in the same direction calls for aggressive, top-down goals. Jassy recounted examples where companies spent months and even years dipping their toes in the water of the cloud, yet made little progress on transforming their business in a meaningful way. At Carousel, we sometimes see the same thing. If everyone isn’t aligned, and if digital transformation objectives aren’t applied across all of the elements of the business, then making real change is nearly impossible.

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Without aggressive goals set (and championed) by the company’s top leaders – and without clearly defined and tracked results – digital transformation will never get good traction. The organization won’t get where it needs to go. Having helped many of our customers overcome similar challenges in their various stages of maturation, it was refreshing to see Jassy bring the issue to light. His keynote helped set the bar for executives who believe digital transformation is an imperative but who haven’t yet formally made it part of their organization’s culture.

From there the conference turned its attention to technology and there was no shortage of labs, bootcamps, breakouts, and announcements to keep attendees engaged.

Locality was a big topic at this year’s re:Invent expo. AWS Wavelength, geared towards those single digit latency use-cases, helps minimize the long-standing speed-of-light problem and offers a way to bring compute, storage even closer to the user or device. Sitting at the edge of the 5G network will allow exciting use-cases to emerge in the IoT (ML inference), live video, gaming, and AR/VR spaces. Similarly, the announcement of the new AWS Local Zone in Los Angeles puts AWS infrastructure capabilities close to end users in the LA area. Despite years of trying to send everything to the cloud, these new offers continue to demonstrate the necessity of a healthy mix of workload placement driven by the need for speed.

I was particularly excited this year to see AWS Outposts move to generally available with many questions answered. On the surface this appears to be just another hybrid cloud solution, but under the covers AWS has really gotten this right with the proper blend of local & centralized control/management plane functions. And unlike Microsoft’s offering with their Azure stack, AWS uses the same hardware that powers its cloud solution (No special reference architectures with 3rd party Compute OEMs, feature lag, extra QA, and much simpler ordering process).

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AWS Outposts also includes best-in-class security and availability features powered by Nitro, among them a hardware-based encryption key that can be physically removed and destroyed with a turn of the screwdriver, to quickly eliminate access to all of the encrypted data at rest (Makes RMAs a breeze). Where latency or stringent data locality is a requirement, Outposts definitely hits the spot and will likely be popular in the Fintech & Healthcare verticals.

If there was a theme for this year’s re:Invent announcements, it was that Amazon doesn’t bring me-too products to market. Sure, they aren’t always first to the table with a solution. But their offerings build on a strong history of giving businesses access to truly useful capabilities and devising practical ways to solve organizations’ most pressing and long-standing challenges. Their willingness to allow customers to dictate product direction is something that truly differentiates them in the space.

re:Invent 2019 was full of technology innovation and it also provided fertile ground for next-level thinking about how enterprises can win at digital transformation. As new solutions continue to enable meaningful change, the team at Carousel is excited about helping turn those strategies into action.