GenAI, Bedrock, Graviton4 — Here's everything you missed from AWS Re:Invent

Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Re:Invent conference is not for the faint-hearted — last week’s conference attracted more than 60,000 attendees and took over the entire Las Vegas strip. Generative artificial intelligence (AI) and the introduction of Amazon Q was a big headline-maker from the conference but there were other notable announcements as well. Here’s a rundown of the biggest takeaways from the public cloud provider’s annual confab.

Q is AWS’ answer to Microsoft’s CoPilot 

Amazon Q, a new generative AI assistant, was by far the star of the show. Similar to Microsoft’s CoPilot, Q is a natural language assistant that AWS is incorporating into its other products. Q is being touted by AWS for its ability to have conversations, solve problems, generate content and take action. It is tailored to be used by enterprises and their employees and is connected to many enterprise-oriented services such as Google Drive, Gmail, Slack and more.

Gordon McKenna, CTO of public cloud at Ensono, said that he wasn’t surprised by AWS’ debut of Q because he believes the public cloud provider felt pressure from competitor Microsoft to do more with AI. However, he was impressed with the number of features AWS has included in Q.

“AWS gives you a box of Legos and hundreds of bricks and different corner bricks and then you build the house,” he said. “Developers love it because they can use it for many different functions and customize it.”

Bedrock gets better 

But Q isn’t AWS' only AI initiative. Bedrock, which AWS announced last April, is a fully managed generative AI service that makes large language models (LLMs) and other foundational models from other AI companies available through a single API. AWS announced new capabilities for Bedrock, including allowing customers to customize models and providing gen AI applications with the ability to do multistep tasks.

But how does Q fit in with Bedrock? 

Roy Chua, founder of AvidThink, said that Q is intended to help enterprise consume AWS services faster while Bedrock give customers such as telcos a consistent framework to consume LLM-as-a-service. Chua was impressed with how quickly AWS added new features to Bedrock, noting that new capabilities such as the addition of retrieval augmentation using AWS data sources will be convenient for users.

He also said that the agent-based workflows that leverage AWS Lambda will allow for integration with other external data sources and systems. “This is useful for telcos who have external APIs and services, as well as pools of domain-specific data,” Chua said.

However, McKenna said that he believes Bedrock took a bit of a backseat to Q during Re:Invent. Instead, he sees Bedrock as something that AWS just announced earlier in the year as a quick response to what Microsoft was doing with AI. But McKenna added that it’s important to not underestimate AWS.

“Microsoft may dominate AI with first-mover advantage. But don’t discount AWS,” he said.

Faster, better compute resources

AWS also continues to innovate with its silicon. The company announced Graviton4, its fourth-generation Arm-based processor that the company claims is 30% faster, has 50% more cores and contains 75% more memory bandwidth than the current generation of Graviton3 processors. AWS also debuted a new instance type, R8g, that is specifically for memory-intensive workloads. 

Chua said that network equipment vendors such as NEC are starting to port their network functions to the Arm-based architecture and early results (from using AWS’ Graviton2) show a significant reduction in power consumption compared with traditional x86-based processors for 5G core workloads. He believes Graviton4 could help maintain that “edge over x86” but said that it will need to be validated to be sure.

Project Kuiper adds private networking

Amazon added another use case — private networking — for its low-earth orbit satellite system, Project Kuiper. This makes sense as AWS can take advantage of its vast number of data centers, making it possible for enterprise customers to move data around from a remote location directly to AWS and bypass the public internet.

But Project Kuiper will not be ready for beta testing until the second half of 2024. AWS has launched two prototype satellites so far and is conducting tests to validate Kuiper’s satellite design and network architecture. The company said full-scale deployment will begin in the first half of 2024 with customer pilots scheduled for the second half of 2024.

The company has agreements with several telcos including Verizon, which plans to use Kuiper for backhaul. Vodafone also has said it will beta test Project Kuiper in 2024 to see if it can use it to extend the reach of its network in Europe and Africa.