AWS Takes Deep Dive Into Internet Of Things

Amazon Web Services capped off its re:Invent conference Thursday by unveiling an expansive Internet of Things platform intended to help system integrators capitalize off the burgeoning number of interconnected sensors and devices being deployed across a broad range of industries.

A day after AWS chief Andy Jassy revealed seven new features and services coming to the world's largest cloud, Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels delivered the closing keynote in Las Vegas, describing how partners can create new solutions by applying existing AWS capabilities.

"Now that everything is software, we can really start building applications the way we've always wanted to," Vogels told a good portion of the 19,000 total conference-goers.

[Related: 7 Things Coming For AWS Partners]

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Many system integrators have turned to AWS for building and hosting the back-end functionality required to power the numerous and diverse Internet of Things applications cropping up. They're leveraging existing Amazon services -- from the Aurora database to the Redshift analytics platform, from S3 object storage to Lambda code-execution sans server, to Kinesis for streaming data.

To support their work, the cloud provider unveiled a new IoT competency for its channel at its Global Partner Summit on Tuesday.

The booming IoT ecosystem is making it possible for everything from toothbrushes to trash bins, street lamps and pocket-sized molecular analyzers to stream data, Vogels said. Even the hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the AWS conference venue were networked.

"So many things [are] happening in this whole world of IoT," Vogels said. "One thing really heating up is the world of industrial Internet of Things."

Illustrating that point, over the course of the conference, representatives from BMW, Major League Baseball and General Electric shared stories about how data streaming from untraditional sources was transforming their businesses. A video showed how smart tractors built by agricultural machine vendor John Deere were used by farmers to intelligently plant seeds and track crops.

Despite the buy-in from industrial vendors and burgeoning adoption by customers, building IoT applications remains extremely difficult, Vogels said.

"There's a lot of heavy lifting you still have to do," he told the audience.

Enter AWS IoT, Amazon's new platform to simplify the work of connecting, managing and securing devices sending data to Amazon's cloud.

Available for beta testing in two regions, the platform extends IoT functionality directly into devices with new SDKs. It also incorporates networking and security capabilities that make it easier to access the AWS features that store, analyze and trigger actions on data.

Matt Wood, Amazon's general manager for product strategy for AWS, took the stage to introduce an AWS IoT feature called Device Gateway -- a fully managed portal through which those SDK-enabled devices can access AWS over MQTT, a messaging protocol that's long in the tooth, but has found new life in the context of IoT because of its efficiency and fault tolerance. Once through the gateway, data can be loaded into databases, saved in object storage, send push notifications, trigger Lambda functions, or stream.

Device Gateway is paired with a scalable rules engine that directs those AWS features, he said.

All communications are secured by the TLS protocol, with roles and policies mapped to individual certificates, making it easy to authorize or revoke access to devices, Wood said.

To make the system more robust, AWS has even developed functionality to communicate with devices that are offline -- another new feature of AWS IoT called Device Shadows.

Developers can program "against the shadow," Wood explained, allowing them to read the last reported state of the device, or set a desired future state.

Aater Suleman, CEO of Flux7 Labs, an AWS partner that's investing in its IoT practice, told CRN the technology is winning over customers rapidly. Flux7 is implementing the IoT solution for John Deere agricultural equipment showcased in the keynote.

Suleman told CRN he's seeing many traditional businesses like John Deere actively pursuing IoT, recognizing that the technology represents "a great way to connect the physical world to the virtual world."

"The market is growing faster than pretty much anything we've seen in recent years," Suleman told CRN.

And Amazon understands it needs to be a player, he said. The world's leading cloud can't afford to cede an edge to competitors like Microsoft and Google, both pursuing IoT technologies.

"Amazon's smart enough to see that trend," Suleman said. "If there's any way they can make it easier, their customers will benefit from it."

While AWS IoT was the showstopper, there were more revelations in Thursday's keynote that resonated with partners and earned applause for Vogels.

One was AWS Mobile Hub -- a platform intended to speed development of mobile applications. Mobile Hub allows partners to choose mobile functionality without thinking much about back-end services.

AWS also introduced an X1 instance -- a memory-laden behemoth that's the first in the industry to use the Intel Xeon e7 v3 processor. With 2 terabytes of memory, X1 can support up to 100 virtual cores.

On the flip side, later this year a T2.nano instance will be available for nonintensive workloads, Vogels said.

Amazon's CTO also shared plans to introduce a registry for the EC2 Container Service, offering a secure repository for container images, along with some other container updates.