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Infrastructure

The most important announcement from re:Invent: S3 Express

Read any AWS reInvent recap from a major outlet and you’ll hear all about the AI news: new chips, new models, and their very own assistant. This was the theme of the event but was mostly variations on the same theme as any industry event—Google and Meta have made similar announcements in the last month, so the “big news” didn’t feel that big. 

We also noticed some shrinkflation at the expo hall. Most Series A startups used to get the standard king-bed-sized booths for $30k. But, in 2023, a desk size booth is now $50k. In an era of startup austerity, marketing at re:Invent is getting tricky. 

What was uniquely AWS, and I thought maybe most interesting, at least to the core AWS community, was a seemingly subtle change to core AWS services: the S3 Express One Zone, their new low latency storage class.

As Warpstream correctly pointed out, S3 Express is all you need. If you need convincing, read Materialize CEO Arjun Narayan’s LinkedIn post, which contextualizes this launch in S3’s history as a building block. Let me add to his history:

All modern data infrastructure is built on S3. In fact, S3 was preceded by Google File System (GFS) and its successor Colossus, internal Google systems that surely in part inspired S3. At Google, I worked on BigQuery, which is a query engine bolted onto Colossus in the same way that Snowflake runs on S3. In order to address latency issues, companies like Snowflake had to build high speed caches themselves. With this announcement, they would have become 10x faster overnight.

It’s not just Snowflake but all data infrastructure companies that will benefit from this. And, more interestingly, new architectures and products that take advantage of the new, improved S3 will be favored, further cementing AWS’s dominance in the infrastructure space. Chris Riccomini has been preaching the “S3 is all you need,” and Express just makes it all the more likely. 

There is some irony in saying an AWS announcement just favored a bunch of infra startups, in that it is the exact opposite of the trope of big tech announcements as startup killers. And just to reinforce the idea that AWS doesn’t always kill startups, Amazon announced serverless Redshift, years after Snowflake became a ginormous company largely because Amazon just never got around to upgrading Redshift. 

AWS is clearly staying in the ring for AI, but I’m most excited to see how these infrastructure changes will impact the state of data architecture and velocity at which teams will be able to build when they no longer have to build around availability of local or block storage.

If you’re building the future of data infrastructure, please reach out. We’d love to hear more about how S3 Express is impacting your work.

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