Amazon’s biggest re:Invent cloud announcements

AWS launched new IoT, Machine Learning and data analytics tools


IoT, Machine Learning and trucking data into the cloud

AWS’s 2016 re:Invent conference is a wrap, and if you missed any of the news check out the biggest announcements Amazon made in Las Vegas. From data analytics tools to machine learning platforms and new IoT functions, there was a lot to digest. Amazon will even truck your data into its cloud!

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Cool tech from AWS re:Invent | A peek inside Amazon’s cloud +

amazon athena

Amazon Athena

Athena is a SQL-supported query service for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). This is important because it allows customers to use standard SQL language to query data already in S3, without having to set up a data warehouse or provision a database.

Pricing and Availability: Amazon Athena is GA now and costs $5 per TB of data scanned.

auroa postgresql

PostgreSQL support for Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora is a cloud-based relational database that AWS says is the company’s fastest-growing service. It’s compatible with open source standards such as MySQL and MariaDB. PostgreSQL is now newly supported too, news that when announced received an enthusiastic cheers from keynote attendees.

Pricing and Availability: PostgreSQL Aurora databases are available now. See here for complete pricing details


AWS Batch

This is a preview of a tool that will coordinate resources needed to run batch computing jobs in Amazon’s cloud. Imagine a financial institution analyzing transactional data or a life sciences company running millions of computational tests; these can require large amounts of virtual machines to be spun up for a short amount of time, run the job and then turned off. Batch configures and executes these processes.

Pricing and availability: There is no additional charge for Batch (which is currently in preview), customers pay for the compute, memory and another auxiliary resources used to execute the batch processing job.


AWS CodeBuild

Last year Amazon released a series of tools named Code Commit, Code Deploy and Code Pipeline, all of which help developers who are building applications in Amazon’s cloud to more easily manage their code. CodeBuild is another product in this family: it can automatically deploy and test code and any changes to code developers write. When developers are iteratively updating apps, CodeBuild can test changes to ensure they’re accepted and implemented as intended.

Pricing and Availability: CodeBuild is available now and starts at $0.005 per build minute.

elastic gpu for ec2

Elastic GPUs

In addition to the new VMs AWS announced, the company also introduced the idea of Elastic Graphic Processing Units. This allows GPUs to be added on to any EC2 instance Amazon offers. It’s a feature gaming and CAD customers are sure to enjoy.

Pricing and Availability: Elastic GPUs are in private preview mode now; AWS did not disclose pricing information


AWS Greengrass

Greengrass is software meant to run in Internet of Things devices. It provides software components to manage local compute, messaging and caching functionality for connected devices. One idea behind Greengrass is for it to be implemented in IoT devices that have intermittent network connections. Greengrass could enable these devices to perform basic data processing then when an internet connection is available the data can be uploaded to the cloud. Read more about Greengrass here.

Pricing and availability: Greengrass is in preview. Up to three devices will be free, then each additional one is $0.16 per month.



Blox is a collection of open source projects hosted on GitHub related to application containers. The idea of Blox is to give customers the ability to build their own application schedulers and integrate third-party schedulers on top of Amazon’s container platform, Elastic Container Service (ECS).

Pricing and availability: The open source projects are free on GitHub and available now


AWS Glue

Glue is a business intelligence product meant to help customers analyze data in Amazon’s cloud. Glue will show customers where data is stored in Amazon’s cloud then extract it, prepare it for analysis and move it into your chosen data analysis platform.

Pricing and availability: Not yet available


AWS Lightsail

Amazon’s EC2 virtual machines are the basic building blocks of many applications but they require an OS image to be loaded onto them (although that process can be automated through scripting and other tools). But there’s another type of computing in the cloud called virtual private servers (VPS) which give developers a simple computing platform preloaded with some basic functionality. Lightsail is Amazon’s new VPS. In just a couple of clicks customers can spin up a server preloaded with more than 10 images, including Linux, WordPress and Drupal. VPS automatically configures the SSD-backed storage, networking and security groups to go along with it.

Pricing and availability: Lightsail is available now starting at $5 per VPS Instance per month.


Amazon Lex

The third machine learning announcement was Amazon Lex, which allows developers to program their applications to understand speech and have conversations. It’s the technology that's at the heart of the Amazon Alexa platform. Users map out expected conversation flows into the system, which Lex then executes. This could become a component in an automated chatbot, for example. All of these new machine learning tools are products on Amazon’s cloud platform but are meant to be integrated into applications that developers build and host in the AWS cloud.

Pricing and Availability: Customers can sign up for a preview of Lex, priced at $0.004 per voice request and $0.00075 per text request.

new vms

New EC2 Instances

Amazon announced a series of new core computing capabilities for its cloud. While these are not brand new features, they show how AWS invests in strengthening its platform. New virtual machine instance types include: C5 compute-optimized VMs; F1 FPGA VMs for graphic acceleration; I3 instances for storage-optimized input/output; R4 memory optimized VMs and T2 burstable performance VMs. In addition to the new VMs the company also announced a new product for managing groups of EC2 instances called EC2 Systems Manager, which can apply OS patches or automate image creation. While AWS is increasing choice for customers with the new VM sizes, some of the company’s competitors, like Google, allow customers to customize their VM instance types based on their workload instead of having to choose a size in AWS.

Pricing and availability: Most of the new VM instances types are available now, see full pricing details here. EC2 Systems Manager is free to use (customers only pay for the resources they’re managing) and is available now.

x ray


X-Ray provides visibility into the makeup and performance of applications running in Amazon’s cloud. Whether they’re simple three-tiered apps or distributed microservices applications, X-Ray provides a dashboard showing the components that make up the app and their performance, which can be helpful for diagnosing and troubleshooting problems.

Pricing and availability: X-Ray is currently in a free preview mode. Customers will get 100,000 traces per month free, and each 1 million traces are $5 per month thereafter.


Amazon Rekognition

Amazon made three announcements related to machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence, all of which are designed to make it easier to add ML-powered functionality to apps. Rekognition is able to analyze and detect trends in images and can automatically sort images based on common characteristics. It can recognize facial features and objects such as cars and furniture.

Pricing and Availability: Amazon Rekognition is available now. Up to 5,000 images per month can be processed free, then the first million after that are $1 per 1,000 images processed.


Lambda@Edge, C# support

Lambda is AWS’s event-driven computing platform, referred to some as serverless computing; it executes code without having to provision or manage servers. Lambda got a couple of updates at re:Invent 2016 including support for the C# programming language (it already supported Node.js, Python and Java). Lambda@Edge gives customers the ability to run Lambda functions in AWS’s content delivery network, CloudFront. Amazon says this is ideal for customers who can automate simple tasks in their CDN deployment so that traffic does not have to be routed back to a centralized server.

Pricing and availability: C# support is available now for no additional cost and Lambda@Edge is in public preview.


Amazon Polly

Another new machine learning product is Amazon Polly, which converts text into speech. Developers can input text via an API or manually through the AWS Console and the Polly program will output an audio file in dozens of optional voices and languages.  

Pricing and Availability: Up to 5 million characters per month can be processed now at no charge. After that, it costs $0.000004 per character, or about $0.004 per minute of generated audio.

step functions

AWS Step Functions

Step Functions are a way to manage distributed applications using graphical interfaces. The idea is that microservices-based applications are made up of various components, or steps. Step Functions provides a graphical interface for managing the creation and management of workflows that make up an application hosted in Amazon’s cloud.

Pricing and availability: Step Functions is available now. Up to 4,000 transactions of Step Functions per month are free, then they’re $0.025 per 1,000 transactions.


AWS Shield

High-profile Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly common and AWS says it has rolled out new protections inherently available on its platform for identifying and mitigating DDoS attacks. For extra protection - and cost - AWS offers Shield Advanced, which will provide application-level DDoS mitigation and a 24/7 support from Amazon.

Pricing and Availability: There is no additional cost for Shield Standard, Shield Advanced is available now and costs $3,000 per month.

snowball edge

AWS Snowball Edge

Last year Amazon announced Snowball, a ruggedized data transfer appliance. Amazon sends you a hardware box that can be loaded with up to 80 TBs of data. It’s encrypted and sent to AWS where the data is uploaded to the cloud. Customers can also use Snowballs to ship data out of the cloud in a reverse process. The next generation of Snowball announced this year is Snowball Edge, which is like the Snowball but adds more storage (up to 100 TB) and some compute functionality to the box. It can filter, clean, analyze and organize data as it gets loaded into Snowball Edge. The idea behind this is to use Snowball in some rugged environment (on a ship or in the middle of a desert, for example) where there may not be internet connectivity, Snowball Edge can store data which can later be uploaded to the cloud. Snowball Edge can also be clustered together in a rack formation.

Pricing and availability Snowball Edge’s are available now for $300 each.

personal health dash

Personal Health Dashboard

AWS’s Health Dashboard lists the current status and availability of all AWS services to track any service disruptions or outages. Personal Health Dashboards provide customers a personalized view of the status of services being used by individual AWS accounts.

Pricing and availability: Available now for no additional cost when using other AWS resources

aws snowmobile reinvent 2016
Blair Hanley Frank

AWS Snowmobile

Snowballs handle terabytes of data. For bigger jobs, AWS needed a bigger box. Snowmobile is a 45-foot container that is delivered to customers on a trailer truck. It can be loaded with up to 100 Petabytes of data, which like the Snowballs can be uploaded into Amazon’s cloud. This is meant for mass migrations of data to (or from) Amazon’s cloud, such as customers who are decommissioning whole data centers. One of the trailer trucks carrying a Snowmobile made a surprise appearance at re:Invent by driving on to the keynote stage in one of the most memorable moments from re:lnvent.

Pricing and Availability: Amazon says to contact them for information on availability of Snowmobile. It’s priced at $0.005/GB/month stored in the Snowmobile.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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