This week, Amazon announced a slew of new offerings at its AWS division Re:invent conference in Las Vegas. Here's a look at several of the most exciting.
According to Amazon, “In this day and age, it is almost impossible to do without our mobile devices and the applications that help make our lives easier.” But mobile app developers face numerous challenges in developing apps that deliver the “quality, real-time experiences that app users desire.”
AppSync aims to solve some of these by offering a serverless service for real-time data queries, synchronization, communications and offline capabilities. As Tara Walker, a Technical Evangelist for AWS, explained, “With AppSync developers can simplify the retrieval and manipulation of data across multiple data sources with ease, allowing them to quickly prototype, build and create robust, collaborative, multi-user applications.”
AppSync utilizes GraphQL, an API query language that was originally developed internally at Facebook. GraphQL bundles a runtime that fulfills requests for data against existing data sources, such as an Amazon DynamoDB database, an AWS Lambda function or an Amazon Elasticsearch index.
One of the biggest selling points of GraphQL is that, unlike with traditional REST APIs, it retrieves all the data an app requests in a single request, saving multiple network roundtrips. As such, a GraphQL solution like AppSync is ideal for mobile apps that might have to retrieve data over slow network connections.
Security has never been more important to organizations storing data and running applications in the cloud. As the recent Equifax incident demonstrated, the direct and indirect costs associated with hacks and data breaches can be incredible.
To help AWS customers secure their AWS accounts and workloads, Amazon created Amazon GuardDuty, a managed threat detection service that continuously scans customers' AWS accounts looking for potentially malicious or unauthorized behavior.
GuardDuty uses machine learning, as well as proprietary and third-party data, to identify usage patterns that are suspicious in AWS CloudTrail and Amazon VPC Flow Logs. Once suspicious activity is identified, GuardDuty generates a detailed alert that is sent the AWS account owner.
According to Stephen Schmidt, AWS' Chief Information Security Officer, “We designed Amazon GuardDuty to be so simple and cost effective that turning it on would be an easy choice for every AWS customer, regardless of their security expertise or the existing security services they use. Amazon GuardDuty intelligently identifies hard-to-detect threats that might slip through the cracks of other security products and easily scales to meet the needs of any organization, whether they have two AWS accounts or two thousand.”
Artificial Intelligence Services
Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over the world and it's no surprise that Amazon is growing the number of AI-related APIs it offers.
Amazon's new Transcribe, Translate and Comprehend services allow developers to access natural language processing (NLP) functionality to “to easily build applications that transcribe speech to text, translate text between languages [and] extract insights from text.”
The use of NLP has grown significantly in recent years and while there are already numerous providers offering access to NLP through API-based solutions, Amazon's presence will almost certainly only grow the size of this market.
But Amazon's most exciting AI announcement was related to Amazon Rekognition Video, an extension to its existing Rekognition image recognition technology. As the name suggests, Rekognition Video allows developers to analyze videos in real-time or batches to identify objects, including people, as well as scenes and activities.
Rekognition Video has been trained to identify celebrities, and can also track people throughout a video.
Initial users of Rekognition Video include the National Football League, which is using it for its next-generation stats initiative, and the Orlando Police Department, which is using it to detect persons of interest in real-time in surveillance video.
Finally, to help organizations take advantage of all its new AI offerings, Amazon launched SageMaker, “a fully managed service that removes the heavy lifting and guesswork from each step of the machine learning process.”
Using SageMaker, developers can more easily and quickly create, train, tune and deploy machine learning models. According to Swami Sivasubramanian, AWS' VP of Machine Learning, “We want all developers to be able to use machine learning much more expansively and successfully, irrespective of their machine learning skill level.”