This week in Las Vegas, AWS conducted its annual client conference, re: Invent. It is usually a high-octane consumer extravaganza — a circus for techies — but this year’s model had a few twists that made the event feel a little more muted than in the past. For starters, it was the first time the event had returned to Vegas after being forced into virtual form last year due to the epidemic. There were fewer people on-site than in a typical year (whatever that means these days), and it was also the first re: Invent with new CEO Adam Selipsky as the major keynote speaker on Tuesday.
Much of the innovation, according to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, took place behind the scenes as the business attempted to streamline operations for its customers. There was some speculation that he might try to stamp his mark on things and possibly plan a course for the profitable division’s future, but what the audience received was incremental rather than revolutionary, boring rather than thrilling. It was a pleasant, well-organized event with little hype.
Selipsky’s address was slick and competent but lacked the huge statement that Andy Jassy had previously delivered. While there were several noteworthy announcements — we certainly covered a few — nothing at 2021 re: Invent seemed particularly exciting. Amazon seemed to be checking boxes and filling up gaps in the product roadmap.
Maybe that is what we have all been looking for this year. Perhaps it is the best Amazon could accomplish in a year of upheaval, when Jassy was promoted to CEO of the whole firm and the globe grappled with a pandemic. However, whatever the cause, it did not appear as if anything significant occurred.
Holger Mueller, a Constellation Research analyst who has attended the conference for nine years in a row, described it as “one of the tamest re: Invents” he has ever seen. “Overall, there were no major announcements during re: Invent. For instance, this is the first time in a long time that AWS hasn’t announced a new database during re: Invent. Rather, it shifted a lot of services to serverless and added [small] capabilities across the board,” he explained.