AWS Re:Invent 2023 – Werner Vogels Keynote

Justyn Green

Principal Solution Architect, Cloud Adoption

December 5, 2023

With the end of Re:Invent approaching, Dr. Werner Vogels hit the stage for the final keynote this morning to speak about the observations and interactions he has seen in recent months that has impacted him and how we can “all” be better and support our customers. With the incredible announcements being shared this week already, it was still amazing to hear that some of the best announcements were being saved until last.

With his can-do attitude and light-hearted stories, Dr. Vogels spoke about multiple topics that he is passionate and energetic about.

In this post, I’ll got over his topics and thoughts, whilst sharing some of the few, yet important announcements being released today.

The Frugal Architect

  • Dr. Vogels kicked off his keynote with an allegory on the importance of architecture. Speaking openly around how cost drives the world we now find ourselves in.
  • The key theme was that we should all “architect with cost in mind,” and this concept was explored throughout the talk.

Dr. Vogels went on to discuss how there are 3 (THREE) themes in being a Frugal Architect. 

  1. Design 
  2. Measure 
  3. Optimise

Whilst architecture an application includes services design, being clear about architecting for cost, there are 3 (THREE) principles that should be considered (& regular reconsidered) in this process.


Cost is a Non-Functional Requirement

  • Whilst we continue to see cost as an after thought and a burden we review after a service has gone live, the focus should be directed to the left as part of the requirements.
  • Dr Vogels went on to discuss that as Architect’s partnering with the business to build requirements including cost targets must start at the beginning, not at the end.

Systems that last align cost to a business

  • Architecting systems that model the business profit centres to enable economies of scale.
  • Dr. Vogels demonstrated visually that when an application is built to provide a service that the scaling of customer demand should align to the costs being consumed so it doesn’t erode value.
  • But, building quickly, trade off’s are sometimes required. That’s okay, but it’s a choice where you will have to pay back those “technical debts”.

Architecting is a series of Trade-Off’s

  • It’s crucial to evaluate and re-evaluate technical and business trade-offs and invest in options that align to business needs.
  • Dr. Vogels shared a personal story on an Amazon service (Lambda) that they made a trade-off early, knowing that they had to pay back it’s technical debt.
  • Interestingly, when the choice was finally made, the first people to see the change were customers being pleasantly surprised by an increase in speed and stability.


Unobserved systems lead to unknown costs

  • Whilst investing time and effort (& technology) upfront on monitoring and observability solutions can be costly, it is crucial to identify wasteful practices, painful workflows and strategical align resources for better experiences.
  • Dr. Vogels passionately shared a story about a customer that had poor experience with their systems until they realised that a large portion of their issues weren’t the application but their business logic inside their application that could be fixed with update in their code of 3x extra lines. He finished this story by saying, “know your costs”.

Cost Aware architectures implement cost controls

  • Taking action, you can implement fine grain controls that allow for cost optimisation and user experience.
  • Dr. Vogels shared a story he found interesting a few years ago with where he noticed that when poor user experience was impacted with the review tiles under a product starting to error, that purchase commitment and checkout efficiency dramatically decreased because customers value the input and opinions of their peers. 
  • With tuneable architecture, businesses can enable or disable services to ensure optimal user experience.
  • Tiers of service types inform trade-offs and operations so that choices can be made to maximise customer satisfaction.


Cost Optimisation is Incremental

  • Achieving cost savings is a journey that requires commitment and regular implementations reflected from the architecture of cost focus.
  • Dr. Vogels fondly shared the most famous story about Jeff Bezos business mantra, regarding the “fly-wheel” effect. Focus on always iterating on an objective to customer success to increase traffic and experience, to drive more traffic and better experience.

Unchallenged Success leads to assumptions

  • Always challenge the ways that things are done. As Grace Hopper once said, “the most dangerous thing we could say, is we’ve always done it this way.”
  • Dr. Vogels expressed deep passion for challenging our ways of architecture and to always scrutinise these technologies with a focus on trade-offs, cost optimisation and user experience. Never forget who we’re working for, (our customers), and become comfortable with disconfirming your beliefs.

Personally, hearing these well articulated laws of architecture that Dr. Vogels discussed openly, it led me to wonder why these were not principles well defined as the dawn of computing or even cloud computing began. They’re simple, but powerful in enforcing a mindset on building with a team focus, and a way to innovate within a fast technology world that is to benefit the human race.

Whilst, the stories and principle’s shared almost felt like I was sitting in a technology philosophy session, excitedly there were several related AWS service announcements that will help adopt and easily adhere to these principles from “inception” to “reality”.

Amazon CloudWatch Application Signals (Preview)

With the removal of heavy lifting, soon to be released Amazon CloudWatch Application Signals allows for users to enable specific instrumentation against applications to increase visibility against the most critical business services. With an upcoming feature that allows for Service Level Objectives (SLO’s) to be configured, downstream notifications and alerts can be automatically raised when even the most minor component of an application landscape experiences an anomaly.

Amazon SageMaker Studio: Code Editor (GA)

Developers can now experience a more familiar and native approach to development of Machine Learning models with Amazon SageMaker Studio’s Code editor. Based on the OSS Code Editor for VS Code (C), this allows teams to use shortcuts, and integrations with their existing source code to write, run, debug and release code that natively operates with Amazon SageMaker machine learning capabilities and more.

AWS myApplications (GA)

With AWS myApplications, you are able to manage, monitor, orchestrate, secure, cost check and automate applications in your AWS environment.

The ability to have a single dashboard on a group of resources for a particular application, it unlocks the capability to see, manage and decide how to build, manage and improve applications from a known good baseline.

Amazon Application Composer: Integrated Developer Environment for VS Code (GA)

Finally, with a strong focus on enabling developers, unlocking capability by also adding direct IDE modules into VS Code for Application Composer, this service promises to allow developers to release at speed and scale no matter how trivial the project. Ensuring that the development lifecycle is simplified and accelerated by literally the click on 3x buttons. 

Learn and be curious:

Before Dr. Vogels closed his presentation, he shared one more personal but empowering story. 

And as you’d expect, it wouldn’t be without due expectations other than AI (Artificial Intelligence).Dr. Vogels wanted to have a go (how very Australian of him), with solving a real world problem using machine learning and trained models. Meeting with one of Dublin’s prestigious hospitals in their stroke department, he identified a relative simple problem that had yet to be solved. Detection of minor brain lesions with the use of image recognition and mass data processing and alerting.

Bring the story to a close, he shared that “if I can do it, you can do it!”

And with that final comment, he turned and said, “Now Go Build!” 

If you need to speak to a consultant on how you can utilise some of the principle’s and new released services in AWS, to transform your business, please reach out. 


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