Amazon CTO Tells AWS Partners: 'Go Build'

"Go build" was Amazon CTO Werner Vogels' parting instruction Wednesday to AWS customers and partners attending the public cloud leader's San Francisco summit.

In a keynote mostly aimed at software experts and coders in the AWS ecosystem, Amazon's vaunted technical guru described several upgrades to the cloud platform geared to enable developers to create high-performance solutions faster for their customers.

Between announcing feature upgrades, however, Vogels revealed the launch of SaaS Contracts, a contract framework that aims to make delivery of Software-as-a-Service from Amazon's ISV partners more flexible.

[Related: 5 Topics Partners Want Addressed At AWS Summit]

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Customers subscribing to those third-party services through the AWS Marketplace, and partners managing the delivery of those services, will now have the option, through SaaS Contracts, of expanding those subscriptions to pre-negotiated contracts of one, two or three years. The AWS service offers APIs the software vendors can use to easily onboard and set up customers in those contracts, Vogels said.

"It’s going to be a whole lot easier for any SaaS provider hosted in AWS to be able to provide their subscription-based services to the world," Jarrod Levitan, chief cloud officer at TriNimbus, an AWS partner based in Vancouver, said of the new service.

Doug Merritt, CEO of machine analytics vendor Splunk, gave testimony during the keynote as to how SaaS Contracts will make it easier for AWS tech partners like Splunk to forge relationships with their customers.

Vogels got started by introducing AWS CodeStar, an integrated DevOps-style environment that simplifies the development process with project templates, support for different programming languages and target environments. CodeStar lets users start building applications right away by setting up team access parameters, configuring a continuous integration pipeline, and offering monitoring and management tools, he said.

Through CodeStar, developers can stitch together a pipeline that allows them to develop, deploy and manage their code in the cloud.

Vogels also introduced Redshift Spectrum, an analytics service AWS released in preview Wednesday that expands the power of the AWS Redshift database's query engine to query unstructured data residing in S3 storage.

While the Redshift database features its own data warehouse, customers often want to have applications use the same query language to access less-critical data left to reside in the basic storage service, Vogels said.

Levitan, of TriNimbus, told CRN he was particularly impressed with Redshift Spectrum, which is an appealing product to large data users, both when considering speed and costs.

Because the product is paid for per query, it offers a true pay-for-usage model, separating compute from storage, Levitan said.

"Redshift storage is scaled by node, so you may get tied to a higher number of unnecessary nodes, because you just need the storage," Levitan explained. "This distributes the storage from the compute, where the storage in S3 will be a lot more cost-effective, and you can appropriately scale Redshift. If you architect your data warehouse well, you could save a lot on Redshift costs."

Vogels went on to announce general availability of Amazon Lex—the engine inside the Alexa personal assistant. Lex enables developers to build applications integrating artificial intelligence capabilities around voice and text recognition.

Also released on Wednesday was X-Ray, a tool for tracing and debugging serverless AWS Lambda functions.

X-Ray is part of a large build-up of tools in the serverless category that Amazon sees as a game-changing capability, Vogels said, reducing costs and helping applications scale faster.

AWS is focused on removing "all this notion of servers," Vogels told attendees, so they "no longer need to think about servers, or managing any types of instances."

Vogels also introduced DynamoDB Accelerator, a feature that delivers one-click deployment of front-end data into cache memory to speed applications, like gaming or ad tech, reliant on speed.

On some more esoteric notes, Vogels demonstrated Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service powered by a deep learning engine, speak in a whisper; and Amazon Rekognition, an image recognition service, exercise its new moderation capability to flag a picture of a half-nude man as potentially inappropriate.