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For one week, at least, Amazon’s HQ2 is in Las Vegas.

Amazon Web Services will get the last word on cloud computing in 2017 and set the agenda for the industry going into 2018 at its sixth annual re:Invent conference in Sin City this week. More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the event, which sprawls across several hotels along Las Vegas Boulevard and features thousands of technical sessions, workshops, and exhibitors gathering for the Super Bowl of cloud computing.

Like cloud computing in general, re:Invent has evolved over the past five years from a cozy event catering to developers to a Big Enterprise Computing Show not dissimilar from the likes of Oracle OpenWorld or Salesforce’s Dreamforce; although we can all be thankful AWS isn’t taking over several blocks of downtown Seattle this week, given the traffic nightmares those events bring to San Francisco.

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy at a previous re:Invent conference. (Amazon Photo)

Techies decided long ago that cloud computing was the way to go for a large portion of their workloads, and AWS is now focused on helping older companies with legacy technology find a way to take advantage of this new world.

Still, expect a flurry of announcements catered to both developers and chief information officers. AWS needs to convince the former that it is still the most technically advanced cloud, given renewed competition from the likes of Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. And CIOs who have been asked to develop a cloud computing strategy need assurances from the market leader that they’ll be able to make the transition in a timely fashion without breaking anything.

Amazon kicked off the news early with the announcement Monday morning of its new Sumerian service for creating augmented and virtual reality environments, and five new media services for video providers from its Portland-based AWS Elemental division. The company also announced a customer win: TurboTax and QuickBooks maker Intuit will use AWS for machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Nothing is ever a sure bet in Vegas, but here are a few other items we’re likely to hear about:

Managed Kubernetes: AWS is the only cloud vendor that doesn’t have its own managed Kubernetes service, and after joining the Cloud Native Computing Foundation in August, the timing seems about right for that to change. Kubernetes has enjoyed quite a year, emerging as the de facto standard for container orchestration. But it is a complicated beast, and most people need a little help making it work.

Bare metal: Most cloud customers run their workloads on virtualized or containerized servers, in which several different customers share the same hardware. That’s fine for most people, but some customers need to have exclusive use of a server for performance or compliance reasons. This is called “bare metal,” and last week bare-metal cloud provider Packet wrote one of those classic “thanks for validating the market” blog posts usually written when you’re pretty sure an 800-pound gorilla is threatening to steal your startup’s business. AWS offers bare-metal servers for VMware customers, but seems poised to extend that service.

Big customers: Re:Invent tends to be a parade of high-profile CEOs and CIOs that have decided to cast their computing lot with AWS, and this year won’t be any different. A health-care partnership with Cerner seems like it might make a big splash, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see other big household names grace the stage with AWS CEO Andy Jassy during his keynote address Wednesday morning.

Artificial intelligence and serverless. This is a pretty easy prediction: Jassy did something a little different ahead of re:invent this year, tweeting that Amazon CTO Werner Vogels would eschew product announcements during his Thursday keynote address.

Expect Vogels to outline new research directions for both AI, which is a key battleground for cloud vendors heading into next year, and serverless, a movement that AWS kicked off with the release of Lambda at re:Invent in 2014.

Open source: With the lion’s share of the cloud market and ever-expanding revenue and profit, AWS was often accused this year of being the classic enterprise computing rent-seeker everybody loved to hate back in the days when Oracle and Cisco ruled this world. Part of that criticism focused on the proprietary nature of the services offered by AWS and the charge that AWS is less interested in giving back to the open-source community than others.

That criticism softened a bit with the CNCF announcement, but it didn’t go away, and releasing a big open-source contribution at re:Invent might adjust its image among the development community. In any event, I’ll be surprised if either Jassy or Vogels doesn’t tip their caps to the open-source community projects that underpin so much of cloud computing.

This is not meant to be a full list: with so many sessions and so many other companies making the trek to Las Vegas to take advantage of the big tent AWS is gathering, there will likely be a lot of partner announcements as well as some product introductions to be demonstrated on the show expo floor. I’ll be on the ground in Vegas on Monday, and will have coverage all week from the biggest show in the cloud.

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