AWS re:Invent 2020 — Hottest releases

Laurens van Gunst
10 min readDec 23, 2020


re:Invent is back! With a 3 weeks, fully virtual and free conference you’ll get the latest insights into whats new within AWS. I think you can still sign-up if you want to, or you can go over this blog to get some of the insights.

As stated, re:Invent is back. Normally this would be a full week of tech, covering ground in most of the Las Vegas hotels, but, due to the covid-19, this year it’s different. Like all other conferences held this year, AWS decided to due a full virtual event, but step it up a notch. They decided to make it free, and covering 3 weeks. While the first is something most vendors did this year, the second is not. the reasoning behind this is, so that every session can be held in multiple time zones and there isn’t that much overlap, so you can pick what ever suits your need.

AWS Night Live

As always Monday night there is a pre-party, called AWS Night Live. During this “keynote” the first announcement is usually been made, which is a gimmick. They’ve done a DeepComposer (anyone still playing with that?) last year, AWS Firecracker before that and they keep on amaze me.

macOs on EC2?

This year their announcement was that you can now order a macOS instance on EC2. Being a mac-fan myself, I was curious about the OS and hardware types, as Apple just announced they will be migrating to their M1 chipset, which is basically their IP.

Powered by Mac mini hardware and the AWS Nitro System, you can use Amazon EC2 Mac instances to build, test, package, and sign Xcode applications for the Apple platform including macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and Safari. The instances feature an 8th generation, 6-core Intel Core i7 (Coffee Lake) processor. There’s 32 GiB of memory and access to other AWS services including Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

On the networking side, the instances run in a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and include ENA networking with up to 10 Gbps of throughput. With EBS-Optimization, and the ability to deliver up to 55,000 IOPS (16KB block size) and 8 Gbps of throughput for data transfer. Mac instances run macOS 10.14 (Mojave) or 10.15 (Catalina) and can be accessed via command line (SSH) or remote desktop (VNC). Unfortunately they don’t run the latest macOS BigSur yet, but hopefully that’s just a brief update away!

The funniest thing about these virtual conferences is that normally everything is pre-recorded, just to make sure everything works as flawless as possible during the moment of streaming. Not this year, and not at re:Invent. The complete keynote was live making it more fun to watch. There where some people present in a Chime session (which is basically Zoom or Teams, but then brought to you by AWS).

Keynote of Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services

Every year the real opening of the event is reserved for Andy Jassy. Andy has been CEO of AWS since 2016 and this is his 4th time speaking, and it has been my third time watching him shine “live”. The downside from watching these sessions from home, is that there is always something to do. During the opening an artist called Zack Person played, which normally annoys me, since it’s stretching my attention deficit disorder, but now it gave me some time to wrap up some sessions with my colleagues before attending the keynote. Let’s just say it was some good background music.

During the keynote of Andy, you can immediately see where he wants to go, as it follows a certain flow, which is usually from the state of cloud, to some advice to c-levels and builders to announcements in compute, data stores, machine learning and “the edge”.

This years 8 topics covered was something of a repeat of last year, but still very valid in today’s modern world.

  1. Leadership will to invent and reinvent You have to be maniacal, relentless, and tenacious. You need to have the data, even if people inside might try to obfuscate it from you. You can’t fight gravity, and you have to have the courage to pick up and change. Netflix cannibalizing DVD rental business, or Amazon.
  2. Acknowledge that you can’t fight gravity Amazon compared to eBay or Half, how do you serve customers? Build a marketplace, invite in third-party sellers.
  3. Talent that’s hungry to invent Now days you see new talent, which is often more willing to rip up and rebuild, while existing talent is reluctant to do that to what they built. Why is that? You need talent which as an appetite for curiosity and invent new ways of doing things.
  4. Solve real customer problems You should focus on customers, not on competitors or on products. Invent on behalf of customers instead of building stuff because it is cool.
  5. Speed Matters at every stage of the business. Push back against claims of too risky. Speed is a choice, make it, set up a culture that has urgency and wants to experiment. Not a switch, must build the muscle. Now is the time. This is something we see within several customers as well. Since their start of their AWS journey we are working towards getting the right speed which fits our customers demand and our need.
  6. Don’t Complexify Managing technologies while making big transformations and shifts. Choose a partner, get momentum, get success & results, add complexity later.
  7. Use platform with most capabilities & broadest set of tools All of these things enable builders to create anything that they can imagine.
  8. Pull it all together with aggressive top-down goals General Electric moved all of their apps to AWS in 30 days, which seemed aggressive, but their CIO made them do it anyway. They are now almost done moving 9,000 apps to AWS in just 2 years. Of course AWS pulled out their pet project, with a similar story at Capital One. It must be nice to avoid just dipping toe into the water. As you can read, none of these topics are technical, but all of them are about leadership. It is about building a business that outlasts all of us.

Gimme announcements!

After setting the scene Andy went on to the announcement in the order I earlier described. I wont go into detail to all of them, since there where around 30, so I’ll highlight my personal top 5.

1. Amazon here, Amazon there, Amazon Anywhere!

During the keynote Andy announced Amazon ECS Anywhere and Amazon EKS Anywhere. This allows you to run populair services ECS and EKS in your own data center.

Available in 2021, ECS Anywhere will allow customers to deploy native Amazon ECS tasks in any environment. This will include the traditional AWS managed infrastructure, as well as customer-managed infrastructure. All this without compromising on the value of leveraging a fully AWS managed, easy to use, control plane that’s running in the cloud, and always up to date.

EKS Anywhere brings a consistent AWS management experience to your data center, building on the strengths of Amazon EKS Distro (the same Kubernetes that powers EKS on AWS.) EKS Anywhere enables you to automate cluster management, reduce support costs, and eliminate the redundant effort of using multiple open source or 3rd party tools for operating Kubernetes clusters. In addition, you can leverage the EKS console to view all your Kubernetes clusters, running anywhere.

2. Cheap, cheaper, cheapest?

AWS isn’t the most expensive cloud available today, but what always amazes me if the way to seem to find price deductions.

Even this year, with the announcement of GP3 datastores, which makes cloud volumes about 20% cheaper, with roughly 3 times the added amount of IOPS (now around 10k). With EBS, customers can choose from multiple volume types based on the unique needs of their applications. This is a gamechanger: you should really start using this today, because, let’s face it: cloud is all about pay-per-use. And if you use something as much and all the time it is storage. storage is always one of the biggest topics on your AWS bill, since it’s always in use. If you’re currently using gp2, you can easily migrate your EBS volumes to gp3 using Amazon EBS Elastic Volumes, an existing feature of Amazon EBS. Elastic Volumes allows you to modify the volume type, IOPS, and throughput of your existing EBS volumes without interrupting your Amazon EC2 instances.

3. Those pesky licenses

Since last year where some vendors like Microsoft and Oracle decided to change it’s licensing model, it made it harder to run your databases within a different vendors cloud. AWS is all about Database Freedom. Within customers we see it with Oracle licensing on VMware as well, you need dedicated licenses, limiting your availability. AWS has a solution for this. Developers might say they prefer to run PostgreSQL to proprietary alternatives (and they do), but enterprises have spent years building data models in Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle. Change feels hard. Why buy a license? This is something Andy has spoken of quite some time about in the earlier re:Invents and I find it amusing to see how they are thinking about these freedom of database choices.

Babelfish for Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL will let you translate (what’s in a name) SQL queries to a Postgres database. Babelfish adds an endpoint to PostgreSQL that understands the SQL Server wire protocol Tabular Data Stream (TDS), as well as commonly used T-SQL commands used by SQL Server. Support for T-SQL includes elements such as the SQL dialect, cursors, catalog views, data types, triggers, stored procedures, and functions. With Babelfish enabled, customers don’t have to swap out database drivers or take on the significant effort of rewriting and verifying all of your applications’ database requests. And the best of this, it is completely opensourced! Hopefully this will come to RDS on VMware as well.

4. Create gurus!

Last year, AWS announced CodeGuru which uses machine learning to identify critical issues, security vulnerabilities, and hard-to-find bugs during application development to improve code quality. This was fully end on creating better code. But in a DevOps world, there is also the OPS part. So it makes sense to look into this part of the day2 as well. That’s why they announced Amazon DevOps Guru.

Amazon DevOps Guru is a fully managed operations service that makes it easy for developers and operators to improve application availability by automatically detecting operational issues and recommending fixes. As applications become more distributed and complex, operators need more automated practices to maintain application availability and reduce the time and effort spent on detecting, debugging, and resolving operational issues. Application downtime, for example, as caused by unbalanced container clusters, misconfiguration, or resource depletion, can result in significant revenue loss to an enterprise. DevOps Guru automatically detects operational problems, details the possible causes, and recommends remediation actions. DevOps Guru provides customers with a single console experience to search and visualize operational data by integrating data across multiple sources supporting Amazon CloudWatch, AWS Config, AWS CloudTrail and AWS CloudFormation. What’s next, AWS? Will you kill Atlassian, by providing a total servicedesk solution? Yes, please!

5. What about the edge?

Moving workload from on-premises to the cloud using VMware Cloud on AWS. AWS has a strong partnership with VMware. This is why RedLogic acquired the Master Competency for VMConAWS last year and pursuing to develop this technology in workshops for our customers. AWS itself has changed it’s view on this as well, being the cloud innovators they are. Redefining and asking what hybrid is all about. It was an early hype, but what does on-premises mean? A restaurant, a field? Customers want a hybrid offering that uses the same tools, APIs, and so forth as their cloud services.

Last year they announced AWS Outposts, an on-premises offering where you can host your own AWS environment from your own data center, using hardware delivered and maintained by AWS. This year they have refactored this offering into a smaller service: an 1U and 2U servers that will provide local compute and networking services to edge locations that have limited space or smaller capacity requirements.

More to come

That’s it for now. Over the next couple of weeks, AWS will announce other new features. Perhaps we can do a recap session at the end of re:Invent like the one I hosted last year, which was a blast to do, but we’ll see how this pandemic thing works out.



Laurens van Gunst

The Cloud Therapist. Does the hard Cloud, so that you don’t have to.