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Host of New AWS Services Unveiled

Among the highlights is the release of the new F1 instance family.

With big conferences come product releases and updates. And last week's AWS Summit in San Francisco was no exception.

At the show, Amazon announced improvements to its public cloud platform in areas like hardware acceleration, database efficiency and analytics.

Werner Vogels, Amazon.com CTO, detailed the new services, which are both in preview and generally available. They include:

SaaS Contracts for AWS Marketplace
Five months after launching Software as a Service (SaaS) subscriptions on its marketplace, AWS on Wednesday announced the general availability of a new feature that lets customers make changes to their SaaS subscriptions on the fly.

SaaS Contracts gives users the ability to extend their monthly contracts to their choice of one, two or three-year terms, as needed. For independent software vendors (ISVs) selling on the AWS Marketplace, SaaS Contracts expands the billing and payment options that they can offer their customers. There are currently 20 ISVs taking advantage of the SaaS Contracts feature, Vogels said.

AWS CodeStar
Also generally available is a new integrated AWS development environment called CodeStar. Vogels said this new service is designed to help developers build and deploy apps quickly on AWS through the use of quick-start templates, as well as features that let them manage team access and delivery pipelines.

"With AWS CodeStar, development teams can build an agile software development workflow that [not] only increases the speed in which teams deploy software and bug fixes, but also enables developers to build software that is more inline with customers' requests and needs," wrote AWS technical evangelist Tara Walker in a blog post announcing the launch.

F1 Instances with FPGAs
In preview since November's AWS re:Invent conference, the new F1 instance family is now generally available. According to the company, the F1 is "a compute instance with field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that you can program to create custom hardware accelerations for your application."

Examples given by Vogels of workloads suited for the F1 instance family are genomics research, financial analytics, real-time video processing and Big Data search/analytics.

There are currently two F1 instance sizes. The f1.2xlarge includes a single FPGA card and supports eight virtual CPUs and 122GB of memory. The f1.16xlarge includes eight FPGAs, with support for 64 virtual CPUs and 976GB of memory.

DynamoDB Accelerator
Now in preview is the Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator, or DAX, which Vogels described as an in-memory cache that can deliver query responses 10 times faster than DynamoDB. DAX can process millions of requests per second with response times in the "microseconds," according to Vogels.

AWS is touting DAX as an extension to DynamoDB that's ideal for complex workloads that require real-time data access, including gaming, weather reporting and financial trading.

"Customers don't need to rewrite their applications to get DAX for their DynamoDB apps; they simply provision a DAX cluster, point their application to the DAX endpoint, and DAX automatically caches item and query results in-memory on designated DAX instances," AWS said in its press release.

Redshift Spectrum
A new service that lets customers extend Amazon Redshift queries to their data stored in Amazon S3 is now available.

"With Redshift Spectrum, customers can extend the analytic power of Amazon Redshift beyond data stored on local disks in their data warehouse to query vast amounts of unstructured data in their Amazon S3 'data lake' -- without having to load or transform any data," according to AWS' press release.

Vogels touted Redshift Spectrum's speed during his presentation, saying the service can process complex queries that would normally take years to answer in just seconds.

PostgreSQL-Compatible Aurora
AWS has been privately testing Amazon Aurora's compatibility with PostgreSQL since November. On Wednesday, Vogels announced that a public preview of the PostgreSQL-compatible edition of Aurora is now open for registration.

The public preview also includes Amazon RDS Performance Insights, which lets users "understand your database performance at a very detailed level, up to and including the ability to look inside of each query," said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post.

X-Ray
AWS' in-depth application debugging tool is now generally available, after being in preview since November.

The X-Ray service "allows you to trace requests made to your application as execution traverses Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon ECS containers, microservices, AWS database services, and AWS messaging services," Barr explained in a blog post announcing the product's launch.

Included with this release of X-Ray is a preview of the product's integration with AWS Lambda.

Rekognition, Polly and Lex
Vogels also announced some updates to the trio of AI tools that AWS announced at re:Invent last year.

The Rekognition intelligent image-analysis service now has an "image moderation" feature that identifies and flags inappropriate images that are posted on a user's site.

Polly, a text-to-speech service, now has a "whisper voice" option, as well as a "speech marks" feature that "allows developers to synchronize speech with visual experiences," Walker said in a separate blog post. "This feature enables scenarios like lip-syncing by synchronizing speech with facial animations or using the highlighting of written words as they are spoken."

Finally, the Lex natural language service is now generally available, after being in preview since November.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for RCPmag.com and senior editor of AWSInsider.net.

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