AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

In Case You Missed It, Ten Public Sector Takeaways from re:invent 2017

At this year’s AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, AWS made important announcements and hosted unique activities relevant to our government, education, and nonprofit customers. Below are ten takeaways from re:Invent 2017 that have particular relevance for the public sector:

  1. Amazon Rekognition announced three new features: Amazon Rekognition announced detection and recognition of text in images, real-time face recognition across tens of millions of faces, and detection of up to 100 faces in challenging crowded photos. Customers who are already using Amazon Rekognition for face verification and identification will experience up to a 10% accuracy improvement in most cases. Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon uses Amazon Rekognition to identify unknown suspects caught on surveillance camera. “Every time we had a suspect, I started running it against our collection,” Chris Adzima, a senior information systems analyst with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in Route50. “We are working with other counties to get them onto Rekognition and have their own platforms, so we can query against their collections.” Other machine learning and artificial intelligence announcements at re:Invent include Amazon SageMaker, AWS DeepLens, Amazon Translate, Amazon Transcribe, and Amazon Comprehend.
  2. AWS Educate is now available to students ages 14 and up: Students ages 14 and older globally can now access AWS Educate. This expansion is bringing access to the cloud and its many applications to high school and secondary school students around the world. The specialized introductory content and hands-on activities are designed to get young students comfortable with the basics of cloud computing and introduce them to tools such as AWS’s AI services including Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly, and Amazon Rekognition.
  3. Empower your organization with Alexa for Business: Alexa for Business extends Alexa for use in organizations, transforming everyday tasks with voice, and helping people get more done at work. Twenty-five global leaders from higher education, government, nonprofits, and commercial enterprises came together to discuss how personal assistants and devices, such as Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo, are enabling new kinds of interactions between humans and machines. Public sector and enterprise organizations are looking to use these voice and text-based interactions to improve the availability of information to citizens, employees, and students, reinventing the way services are delivered. The voice and text computing roundtable at re:Invent was moderated by Bill Powers of MIT Media Lab, the City of Las Vegas, Liberty Mutual, and the University of Oklahoma to highlight services and skills launched using voice and text.
  4. Detect and protect against threats with Amazon GuardDuty: Amazon GuardDuty is an AWS threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious or unauthorized behavior to help customers protect their AWS accounts and workloads. It can be enabled through the AWS Management Console in a few clicks and immediately begin analyzing billions of events across a customer’s AWS accounts, identifying suspected attackers through integrated threat intelligence feeds, using machine learning to detect anomalies in account and workload activity. It monitors for activity such as unusual API calls or unauthorized deployments that indicate a customer’s accounts may have been compromised, as well as direct threats like compromised instances or reconnaissance by attackers. When a threat is detected, the service delivers a detailed security alert to the GuardDuty console and AWS CloudWatch Events, making alerts actionable and easy to integrate into existing event management and workflow systems.
  5. AWS CloudStart provides resources to educate and train small businesses: We announced AWS CloudStart to support Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) by providing resources to educate, train, and embrace the cost-effective options that our cloud computing services can offer to companies serving customers in the government, education, and nonprofit arenas. AWS CloudStart helps companies get started on AWS by providing a set of resources that will allow them to quickly learn about the AWS Cloud, while maintaining the highest levels of security and privacy at a low cost.
  6. Access services hosted on AWS in a highly available and scalable manner, while keeping network traffic within the AWS network with AWS PrivateLink: AWS PrivateLink allows customers to privately access select AWS services from their Virtual Private Cloud and from on-premises infrastructure via Amazon Direct Connect. We are now extending this capability to customer and partner services hosted on AWS. PrivateLink enables customers to access services hosted on AWS in a highly available and scalable manner, while keeping all of the network traffic within the AWS network. Customers no longer need security appliances, such as VPN, NAT, and firewall proxies for consuming services hosted outside their VPCs. Services available on PrivateLink also support private connectivity over AWS Direct Connect, so that applications within your premises will be able to connect to these services via the Amazon private network. PrivateLink simplifies customers’ architectures for secure and private service connection while reducing the operational burden of maintaining multiple security devices.
  7. Industry solutions to securely modernize and simplify elections: AWS announced industry solutions that securely modernize and simplify core functions necessary to run elections, including Security and Compliance, Voter Engagement, and Elections Management. With AWS, officials are empowered to focus on the core issues of conducting elections, rather than having to focus on building the underlying infrastructure to support their efforts – all in a secure, scalable, and cost-effective way. Whether you are an elections administrator, manage a political campaign, or work for a nonpartisan civic organization, Elections-as-a-Service with AWS enables rapid deployment and effortless scaling of critical systems for customers who administer, promote, and protect the electoral process.
  8. Create multiple read/write master instances across multiple Availability Zones: Amazon Aurora Multi-Master enables applications to read and write data to multiple database instances in a cluster, just as you can read across Read Replicas today. Multi-Master clusters improve Aurora’s already high availability. If one of your master instances fails, the other instances in the cluster will take over immediately, maintaining read and write availability through instance failures or even complete AZ failures, with zero application downtime. In addition to Amazon Aurora, we announced Amazon Aurora Serverless, an on-demand auto-scaling configuration for Amazon Aurora, where the database will automatically start up, shut down, and scale up or down capacity based on your application’s needs.
  9. Run containers hosted on infrastructure owned and managed by AWS: Containers are important to our customers because they provide a lightweight, consistent, portable software environment for applications to easily run and scale anywhere. Fargate is a new solution for containers, which allows customers to run Docker containers hosted on infrastructure owned and managed by AWS. The hosting infrastructure is abstracted away from the customer and they are relieved of the headaches of running Docker at scale. They can simply start/stop Docker containers with a pay-as-you-go model similar to EC2. Additionally, since Kubernetes is one of the most popular container management tools, we announced a managed Kubernetes solution, EKS. Because EKS is 100% API-compatible with Kubernetes, it allows customers to run the same container management solution on-premises and on AWS.
  10. Manage all your resources across cloud and on-premises environments: Today, there is no way to aggregate and view data without navigating across multiple different tools, which is complex and time-consuming. Customers also asked for help automating complex and repetitive tasks like keeping systems patched and compliant. AWS Systems Manager addresses this by providing a central place to view and manage AWS resources, giving customers complete visibility and control over their infrastructure operations.

In addition to these announcements, we also announced new storage, compute, and container services, and many other new features. Learn more about all of the announcements on our “What’s New with AWS” webpage.

Beyond these exciting product announcements, our public sector customers had an opportunity to participate in our Public Sector Breakfast and the Nonprofit Hackathon.

Watch the Public Sector Breakfast, featuring AWS VP of Worldwide Public Sector, Teresa Carlson. Customers joining her on stage included the Central Intelligence Agency, Thorn, California Community Colleges Technology Center, and the Economic Development Board of Bahrain. All of the speakers addressed the theme of “Endless Possibilities” and how they are tackling both current and future challenges – from building a 21st century economy and using historical data to predict future events to applying machine learning for a better student experience and leveraging artificial intelligence to defend against human trafficking.

The re:Invent Nonprofit Hackathon engaged nearly 300 attendees with participation from four nonprofit organizations: Thorn, Federation of Internet Alerts, National Fitness Foundation, and Global Giving. Thirty-seven teams designed and built applications from scratch, producing working demos in just twelve hours. The winner was a group of hackers who presented a solution for Thorn and delivered a full featured and documented serverless blacklist scanner. The service uses an extensible and event-driven check-sum blacklisting service for Amazon S3 to identity if a file contains malicious content. They wrapped the whole service in an AWS CloudFormation template for portability and simplicity of deployment.

Our public sector AWS re:Invent materials are now available online for your reference and to share with your colleagues. Please view and download here:

Stay tuned for more updates on relevant workshops, Summits, and more.