While Generative Artificial Intelligence was a major focus at the recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) annual user conference in Las Vegas, other important themes stood out to our analyst team. These include an increased focus on partnerships, cost optimization, and new growth channels. Read on for our analysis of the trends to pay attention to from AWS re:Invent 2023.
Since attending AWS re:Invent from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, we have been digesting the newer offerings, alliances, and strategic focus areas for AWS. This blog explores the top three themes we believe make their mark in the sea of announcements, initiatives, and even unspoken priorities.
Increased focus on the partner ecosystem
Much like prior years, a significant focus was put on the partner network, including service providers (global system integrators, niche system integrators, etc.), technology partners (large and small vendors), and others (e.g., resellers).
The AWS Marketplace witnessed significant changes to help partners that are already well supported. Many service providers demonstrated high-value client transformation case studies during keynote sessions, round tables, and in expo booths.
With the massive spectrum of service partners and their diverse wish lists, we firmly believe a key focus area for AWS should be improving the profitability of its AWS business. AWS needs to make it simple to use its many offerings, scale personnel training, and help build tools and intellectual property (IP).
AWS continuously assesses its partner program and the results shared were encouraging. However, with the market transitioning to Generative AI, the earlier approach of building partnerships based on core infrastructure will need to evolve.
We observed that clients want service partners to proactively have strong views on specific cloud vendors they should work with rather than be indecisive. To remain the preferred choice, AWS needs to continue engaging its service partners, especially with the newer demand for cloud services.
Nonetheless, AWS will need to work with service partners to strike a balance between being the primary cloud partner, which AWS wants, while maintaining the partner’s professed cloud agnosticism to ensure they both deliver client value.
Service providers’ industry expertise is another critical engagement area. This can explain why the event did not heavily emphasize the “industry cloud” because a large part of industry-centric development will be done in collaboration with service partners.
We believe the earlier witnessed “client ownership” friction between service partners and AWS is now resolved. However, as some service partners still raise this concern with us, AWS should address this issue through partner communication and stronger action.
Cost optimization at the center of all conversations
One notable feature of AWS re:Invent 2023 was the presence of a large number of financial operations (FinOps)-focused providers in the booths. While FinOps is not new and cost optimization has always been a CIO agenda, the sudden surge in their relevance can be attributed to the current macroeconomic situation and the frantic, unplanned post-COVID cloud adoption. As a result, most enterprises ended up having complex, hybrid cloud estates and a lack of visibility, leading to spiraling costs.
According to an Everest Group survey of 450 enterprises, 63% dedicate more than 7% of their cloud spend to FinOps as they are becoming more aware of the potential cost-saving available through investments in FinOps.
The FinOps space has become quite crowded with several specialists, global and regional system integrators, and technology providers, including AWS, offering these solutions. Enterprises currently have too many choices and identifying the right partner is difficult.
The provider type also varies by their offering within FinOps and typically can be categorized by: reseller, Reserved Instances (RI)/Savings plan (SP) management provider, consulting and managed services provider, visibility and recommendations provider, and end-to-end FinOps capability and offering provider.
Some of the specialist providers that caught our attention at the event include Alteryx, Archera, Aviatrix, CAST, Chronosphere, Cloudability, CloudFix, Cloudflare, CloudKeeper, CloudZero, Coralogix, DoiT, Finout, Flexera, Harness, Kubecost, LogicMonitor, Ollion, ProsperOps, Splunk, Stacklet, Ternary, Vantage, Vega, Virtasant, Xosphere, and Zesty.
Each enterprise should identify the right solution to meet its requirements. A few considerations to keep in mind when choosing a FinOps solution or service include the ability to manage environment complexity, the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) used to track progress, cross-team collaboration features, availability of skilled FinOps personnel, and the visibility and dashboarding quality.
Newer channels for growth acceleration
In the third quarter of 2023, AWS reported US$23.1 billion in revenue, up 12% year-on-year, but the growth rate was below the company’s typical historical increases in the mid-20 to low-30% range. The same trend is visible across its partner ecosystem, except for a few specialist players.
The growth rate of most global cloud system integrators has diminished by more than half compared to 2021 and 2022. Amid this slowdown, we sense an emphasis on identifying channels for growth acceleration within AWS and across its entire ecosystem partners.
Generative AI was the biggest growth bet and talking point for all attendees at the event. Almost every major announcement by AWS was around Generative AI. However, it’s worth noting that Generative AI has had little influence on the top line of hyperscalers, technology vendors, or system integrators.
Most Generative AI implementations are still in the proof of concept stage, with more than 90% of deal sizes being under US$1 million. AWS expects that many Large Language Models (LLMs) will require public cloud computing capacity and is pushing all its partners to drive enterprise adoption.
However, the founder of a leading Generative AI company at the event mentioned that while the potential is enormous, the shape and form of future adoption are completely uncertain. Interestingly, he suggested with the rapid rate AI models are evolving, LLMs might get replaced by something completely new in two years. While AWS and the entire ecosystem need to continue investing and exploring Generative AI use cases, placing big bets on it could be a risky short-term proposition.
Other Focus Areas at AWS re:Invent
If not for the emergence of Generative AI, industry cloud and complex workload migration to AWS would have dominated the event. These AWS industry cloud solutions had dedicated booths right at the center of the expo hall.
However, its impact was muted by limited announcements by AWS and the lack of a serious investment intent displayed. As suggested earlier, this could be due to AWS focusing the industry cloud narrative with service provider partners who have a better understanding of industries. The impression created by AWS at re:Invent in this area was low, making it appear the hyperscaler is taking a wait-and-see approach.
Another growth area AWS is expected to pursue is the migration of complex workloads, like mainframes, to its platform. It announced partnerships with a few system integrator partners and showcased its intent to help enterprises migrate.
With a significant portion of simple workloads already migrated to the cloud, complex workload migration could be the most stable growth potential for AWS in the next few years. AWS and its partners should double down on investments in this area.
Undeniably, AWS re:Invent 2023 turned out to be a delicate balancing act of strengthening the partnership network, investing in emerging innovation areas, maximizing client value, and ensuring cost optimization in the current macroeconomic environment. We would love to hear your observations from AWS re:Invent. To share your views or to discuss other details, please reach out to [email protected] or [email protected].