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Digital Technology

Top 5 Things We Learned at AWS re:Invent 2019

Jeff Olle and I recently attended AWS re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas. Going into the conference we did not know what to expect. 65,000 people, 3,700 sessions, 77 product launches across 4 major casinos. An "unbelievable experience" doesn't give it justice!

Opening night was in a complex that was easily 4 football fields long and had video screens from one end to the other. There was a 400-person chicken wing eating contest, a marching band and a demo of the AWS Deep Composer musical AI tool (it worked with a musician to co-write a song which was ironically, a cautionary tale about AI taking over the world). Amazing! Not to mention, everything was very well coordinated, not a single logistic overlooked. The only other place that was this fast, efficient and enjoyable is Disney!

While opening night gave us a strong positive first impression, we were not let down by the speakers and panels to come. The most impressive part of the conference was the amount of rich information shared from panelists, vendors and other conference attendees. There was so much to take in, we want to share some of the key learnings and takeaways from the event, some general concepts and others from specific panels that we attended. 

  • IoT and ML are actively being applied across many areas – That’s right. These are not just buzzwords. These applications are being used and transforming the way companies deliver excellence to their customers. For example, Firestone knows when tires are reaching mileage guidance and doing direct marketing to customers for replacements and iRobot is actively tracking data and errors of devices to proactively contact customers when they need replacements.

  • Security is being improved and embraced – Security is always a concern for large companies with sensitive information. However, security in the AWS cloud has progressed dramatically. AWS speakers talked extensively about the security integrated into the platform as well as their third-party ecosystem of vendors and products. We also talked to a lot of people in information security roles, many of which were at large banks and using AWS for their transaction processing. In fact, CEO of Goldman Sachs was part of the Andy Jassy keynote – that's proof that people are becoming more comfortable with security if large players like this are moving to the cloud.

  • AWS is building processors to improve visualization – Bare metal instances (also known as Amazon EC2 bare metal instances) provide your applications with direct access to the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor and memory resources of the underlying server. This makes it possible for customers to run virtualization secured containers such as Clear Linux Containers. This is a big differentiator for AWS. In the CEO keynote, Andy Jassy spoke about the introduction of the new machines running these new chips. Dr. Werner Vogel, CTO of Amazon, also talked about the problems with virtualization and how the new chip architectures get you performance closer to bare metal instances.

  • Amazon Connect is enabling organizations to use AI to improve the customer experience – One of the panels that Jeff attended was the Amazon Connect Leadership Session Omnichannel Cloud Contact Centers with Intuit and Salesforce. Here, we learned how both companies are using Amazon Connect to better the customer experience. Amazon brands its Contact Center Management as Amazon Connect. This product is completely in the AWS cloud and is already being tested using Alexa to ask questions and use AI to start, change, and pay for airline flights. Both Intuit and Salesforce shared specific use cases of Amazon Connect. Intuit successfully migrated to Amazon Connect for the 2018 Tax season (Jan 2019 to April 2019) and will be incorporating chat and text next. Salesforce has moved to Amazon Connect for services on a large scale. Salesforce uses voice AI to understand what the agent is talking about. For example, you’re looking for advice for “investing in bonds”. The word “bonds” then instructs the agent on the resources and people to provide the customer with a customized experience. This is enabling Salesforce to maximize its use out of the Einstein platform.

  • Amazon Managed Blockchain has an "Open Source Ledger" that can help with commodity trading & logistics documentation management – Out of all of the panels, there were few specific to energy. Jeff attended several energy panels including the Trade Finance Goes High-Tech using Amazon Managed Blockchain panel. Daniel Ness, a solutions architect at AWS, led the panel and shared a project that he had done with Contura Energy using Amazon Managed Blockchain to develop an ‘Open Source Ledger’ to control and document each step of the process of a sale-deliver-receive-buy transaction in commodities (coal in his sample). Daniel pointed to the extended use of API to allow the AWS Managed Blockchain to be especially suited for use with ‘Smart Contracts’. In their project, they allowed several buyers and sellers to participate on their own node to report their compliance to the terms of the transaction. Daniel finished with convincing evidence that the Amazon Managed Blockchain has built-in security that lets certain people change the ‘Open Source Ledger’, allowing it to pass to the next step. Amazon Managed Blockchain sets the ability to allow new members into the ‘Open Source Ledger’ by using a ruler member or consensus.

AWS re:Invent was a great event! We were blown away at the scale and precision of everything. We highly recommend going and advise you to create a plan before you go so you can target your learning and maximize your experience!

Veritas Total Solutions is an Amazon Select Tier Partner. We help our clients set-up and manage AWS solutions as part of their ecosystem. We recently helped build an ecosystem including a CTRM system and AWS solutions among others for Avant Energy and Novum Energy.  To learn more about how we can help you, contact us. 

At Veritas Total Solutions, one way we stay up-to-date with the latest energy industry trends is by attending conferences and events. All of our services have technical components so we invest in attending technical conferences like AWS re:Invent to support all of our service areas including  Technology Solutions. We believe in sharing our thoughts and ideas with peers, clients and colleagues so everyone can benefit from what we learned at these conferences and events. Please note, all of our event recaps are interpretations and opinions on the topics discussed. If you want to chat with us about a specific event or if you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.

Written by Eddie Harper

Eddie Harper, Director of Veritas Total Solutions, has deep industry and technical experience. He has managed many diverse projects including CTRM implementations and development efforts, risk exposure analysis of complex purchase and sale contracts, and infrastructure upgrades. His experience spans multiple commodities including US natural gas, US/EU Power, crude and refined products, base metals, precious metals, agricultural, interest rate and FX products.