After I got off the plane from AWS:Reinvent 2017, I told a few people here my No. 1 observation from the conference: the hoodie-to-sport coat ratio has shifted. Most laughed, but it’s a serious metric.
Just a couple of years ago, the folks who showed up for AWS:Reinvent were mainly developers, and maybe there were some consultants. In 2015, ClearSky Data had a booth at the show as we launched the company, and the hoodie set were the people who stopped by to chat.
Developers are great, but they’re not the market you want to talk to if you’re dealing in enterprise-scale infrastructure. They have very little budget; the credit cards they keep in their pockets are for buying rogue apps their IT teams don’t want them to have, not for buying storage infrastructure.
This year was different.
Not only was the crowd at AWS:Reinvent an order of magnitude larger than in 2015, at more than 40,000 attendees, it was also comprised of many more executives in sport coats. There are real budgets behind the checkbooks people carry in their sport coats, and it portends a serious shift in the kinds of buying decisions that are likely to get made in the coming year.
Many of these attendees are showing up for fewer of the other tried-and-true conferences, the events that used to be most-dos. Whereas attendance at shows like VMworld is shrinking, AWS:Reinvent is taking shape as THE technology conference. Amazon literally cannot get enough space to house everyone who wants to come and learn.
This was evident in the partner area, as well – an expansive space near the MGM Grand. It was populated by such a large number of vendors, one couldn’t help but notice it as a sign that Amazon is realizing it can’t do this stuff alone.
The AWS ecosystem is broadening.
There were few announcements in the way of enterprise infrastructure at the show, and it’s difficult to say what we should make of that. Amazon announced some basic S3 storage features and a couple of new instance types. The company also took a few thinly veiled pokes at Oracle, with mentions of big database vendors and their licensing fees.
But if you looked at the majority of the announcements or the Wednesday morning keynote, it was clear that Amazon has its sights set on other things, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytics infrastructure. This isn’t great news for startups in those markets. While Amazon won’t push those companies out of the top innovator spots, its interest in their space will likely slow the flow of money to early-stage and emerging players.
What were VCs and VMware up to in Vegas?
Speaking of money, venture capital firms were out in full force in Las Vegas, renting out entire nightclubs and other venues for their mixers. While VCs are no doubt tuned into which capabilities Amazon will develop next – and what that means for competitive companies – their presence at AWS:Reinvent signals continued interest in the cloud infrastructure market.
And finally, we saw the latest chapter in the VMware-AWS partnership unfold at the show, when the two announced the availability of VMware Cloud on AWS in Amazon’s U.S. East region. It was surprising to see this happen so quickly, when market expectations were for a 2018 announcement. The accelerated move suggested VMware’s sense of urgency to get its capabilities up and running, so it can maintain its position in the enterprise hybrid cloud market.
Lead, follow and get out of the way.
AWS:Reinvent is a more mature conference than it has ever been. While Amazon has its hands in many different capabilities, its focus on owning specific areas of the tech stack is clear. The company wants to control anything cloud native, in the same way Microsoft once fought to retain ownership over everything being developed in Windows.
Despite Amazon’s efforts to lock-in parts of the cloud infrastructure, it is also signaling it wants to get out of the way enough to enable hybrid innovation across the market. This is odd, new behavior for the company. Maybe it’s sparked by the increasing interest from all those AWS:Reinvent attendees, walking around with more decision-making power tucked into their coat pockets than the attendees of years’ past.
Register for our final webinar of 2017, “5 Ways to Eliminate Secondary Storage Forever.”