Multicloud Adoption, AWS Culture, and My New Socks: More 2019 re:Invent Reflections

It’s now a week after departing from Vegas, from my 8th AWS re:Invent, and I still find myself reflecting on the experience. Last week, still high off the mildly manic vibes that accompany networking and live tweeting, I published the typical analyst recap detailing Amazon’s announcements, new offerings, and emerging trends. From the data engineering news to the announcements about partnering with the telecom industry to Andy Jassy’s targeted messaging toward traditional enterprise IT leadership, last week’s show both offered more of the “same” and some surprises. 

However, after arriving back at home in Tel Aviv and recovering a bit, I’m back to share with you a more personal perspective, as someone who has “grown up” in this industry alongside AWS. When I landed in Vegas for my first re:Invent, I was there to represent a startup I was working with at the time, as well as to educate myself on this world of cloud I was getting more and more familiar with.

In the years since, I’ve shown up at re:Invent wearing a variety of different hats; one year helping build booths for a strategic partner, another year supporting a brand with their content and social presence at the show, and some years, I focused mainly on the breakout sessions as a means of keeping myself up-to-date and educated about the AWS platform. No matter which hat I wore, I was always there as a cloud enthusiast.

Seven years later, my enthusiasm for cloud still lives on. In fact, each year when I return to re:Invent I’m reminded a little of what it’s like for me as a military reservist in Israel. Here, military service is mandatory at age 18, and following your release you are required to attend a yearly training and service that lasts about a month. Reserve duty is meant to keep you sharp and in shape, but it also gives you the chance to meet up with old pals. Our once-a-year reunion of sorts allows us to reminisce about old times, and see how each of us has changed or evolved over the years.   

At re:Invent this year, despite the familiarity of the scene and the crowd, I noticed how much I have changed over the last seven years. My awareness of this probably had a lot to do with a change in role for me at re:Invent 2019: this year, Amazon invited me to come as an official industry analyst. So rather than spending most of my time on the floor chatting with vendors, and learning about new additions to the AWS marketplace, I spent my days in keynotes and press conferences, getting to know better the analysts from Gartner and Forrester, and interacting with senior AWS leadership.

What a fantastic experience it was, particularly in contrast to my very first re:invent experience in 2012. I’m amazed at how much AWS and cloud has transformed since then, and how I have transformed as a tech marketing professional and blogger alongside it. 

Here are some of my takeaways with that in mind.

AWS as a Culture

Over the years, re:Invent has grown in attendance from a mere 5000 to more than 65,000 this year. But it’s not just the conference that’s grown, the organization has, too. One thing I noticed this year is how many of my industry friends now work for AWS. When I first met them, they were working for various cloud solutions and services companies, small and mid-size. 

When this happens inside an industry, the implication is that an organization has become an in-demand community, one that others want to be a part of and support. When I asked my friends about their new positions, all around the answers were some version of “demanding, but amazing” or “I can do whatever I wish to achieve my goal” or “embracing failure and fail fast are not just statements, these are at the core of our culture” or “AWS has that startup feel, just bigger” or “the terms are very good and my stocks have gone up so much.” These are highly experienced professionals whose words of praise I don’t take lightly. 

For the past few years, it’s become more and more clear how innovative Amazon is, both internally and externally, both with its products and with its attention to their people. It’s clear how seriously the company takes representation of the brand — consider, for example, how strict they are about enforcing partners to use the AWS slide templates and accurate product names. 

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What about the ever-present assertion that AWS “competes with its partners?” Amazon’s typical response is that they don’t want to “kill anyone,” but instead intend to deliver their customers what they need by disrupting markets with a 1,000 MPH pace of innovation. This is what I heard, too, from my friends who have joined AWS, which tells me it’s not just some empty message the brand managers are sprouting. This belief is a cornerstone in the AWS culture: run fast, be independent, and always keep looking ahead. 

Market Leaders Are Still Vulnerable

With a market share of 47.8% (twice the market share sum of Microsoft and Alibaba), Amazon still reigns as leader of this space. That said, while AWS deserves its big orange AWS smile, they remain aware and vigilant that no competition means your competitors have more incentive to hurry up and close the gaps faster than you can keep them wide open.

And where is AWS in their perception of multicloud? Alongside AWS’ popularity, the market is still growing and users may look to Google and Microsoft as solutions. AWS knows this and are working hard to capture the untapped enterprise market. Much of the messaging during keynotes referenced the transformation journey of traditional enterprise without referencing their competition’s market share.

It’s clear, though, that their competitors must be looking toward AWS customers, and this means moving to a multicloud discussion. However, the multicloud adoption challenge is not small considering that lack of skills inside the organization certainly limits the true options enterprises have. Recognizing this, however, the competition comes with new offerings such as Google Anthos and Azure Arc. I expect the competitors to push toward investing in enriching their platforms with AWS-compatible products and capabilities to enable fast time to market with a multicloud. I won’t be surprised to see a real “50/50 multicloud” showing up in IT organizations much earlier than is happening today.

What’s In Store for Us Next?

Just before the holiday season each year, you can be sure to find me in Vegas, despite how every summer I hem and haw over making a decision whether or not to go to re:Invent again. The long flight and the jet-lag really do take a toll on me, and I’m not getting any younger. 

However, what also happens each year is that I’m reminded of what an important role this event has played in my professional growth and the growth of my company. It’s still a fantastic place for worthwhile networking and educational opportunities.   

It’s funny. I remember a while back when someone once told me that AWS was just “another simple hosting environment.” Ha! AWS has revolutionized the world of tech and will continue to. It’s my belief in this that gets me to return to re:Invent year after year, and will surely be the case next year. See you in Vegas in 2020! 

(Note: I am particularly appreciative of the opportunity provided by AWS inviting me to this amazing industry event this year,  and, of course, for the new socks.) 

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