LAS VEGAS — S. “Soma” Somasegar has a unique perspective on Amazon Web Services, as the former leader of Microsoft’s Developer Division, and now as a managing director at Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group.
He has attended the AWS re:Invent conference for five years, meeting with tech and startup leaders, and getting a first-hand look at Amazon’s latest cloud advances. And as he watched AWS CEO Andy Jassy’s nearly three-hour re:Invent keynote Tuesday morning, one piece of news prompted him to dash off a quick note to his Madrona colleagues.
The announcement was SageMaker Studio, a new tool that gives developers a web-based interface where they can build, train and deploy machine learning models. Although Microsoft Azure and Google have their own development systems for machine learning, Amazon describes this as the first fully integrated development environment ― or “IDE,” to use the industry lingo ― dedicated to the purpose.
“Rest assured that all these cloud platforms are going to have a first-party set of tools that enable machine learning and AI developers to do a whole lot better than what they’ve been able to do so far,” Somasegar said when we met up with him for coffee afterward. “That one is exciting to see.”
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If Microsoft and Google weren’t already working on something on par with what Amazon showed, they will be soon, he said. Microsoft developed a Machine Learning Studio of its own as a predecessor to its Azure Machine Learning Service, but the new Amazon SageMaker Studio stands out for the way it promises to bring end-to-end machine learning capabilities together in a unified environment.
That’s one of the announcements fueling conversations among attendees, press and business leaders at Amazon’s annual cloud technology event, which has drawn 65,000 people to Las Vegas this week. Like many of the other buzzworthy pieces of news, it reflects an effort by Amazon to make machine learning and artificial intelligence more accessible to software developers and businesses.
Others include Contact Lens for analyzing call center operations; Transcribe Medical for documenting and analyzing doctor’s visits; and even a musical keyboard, called DeepComposer, that creates full songs out of snippets of music.
Somasegar also pointed to Amazon CodeGuru, a newly announced tool that uses machine learning to help developers find problems and mistakes in code. Amazon originally created the technology for its own internal use, before releasing it publicly.
“As a former DevDiv guy, this one definitely caught my attention,” he said. “I know that Visual Studio team has been incorporating ML and AI into some of the core development tasks as a part of the IDE to make it easy for developers. This is a service that was exciting to see and I am eager to see the adoption and usage of this service.”
Overall, Somasegar said he was encouraged by what he saw from Amazon in machine learning, which is in line with one of Madrona’s core investment themes, intelligent applications.
“Whether it is the slew of capabilities and tools around SageMaker or the hardware driven performance improvement for ML model training and inferencing, it is great to see the continued innovation and evolution of the platform and tools that enable developers and machine learning experts and data scientists (across start-ups and big companies) to continue to push the envelope on what is possible here,” he said in a follow-up email Tuesday afternoon.
At a dinner here Tuesday night, hosted by Madrona and attended by journalists and leaders of the firm’s portfolio companies, other topics of conversation included Amazon’s new Local Zone initiative and the general availability of AWS Outposts. These are examples of how Amazon is getting into hybrid computing, bridging traditional cloud technologies with on-premises computing.
At the same time, Amazon has largely avoided the topic of multi-cloud deployments, the notion of making it easier for businesses and developers to use AWS and other cloud platforms in concert. Attendees at the Madrona dinner were mixed on whether customer demand will ultimately force Amazon to address this issue.
Of course, given his history, we had to ask Somasegar for his take on Jassy’s jabs at Microsoft during his keynote. While he has noticed AWS getting more vocal about competitors in recent years, he said the criticisms of the Redmond company on stage this year didn’t strike him as out of the ordinary.
More notable, Somasegar said, are Amazon’s efforts to demonstrate the breadth and depth of its services, and the message from AWS that the cloud revolution has only just begun.