UPDATED 13:58 EDT / MARCH 31 2021

EMERGING TECH

Here are five key findings from the AWS Startup Showcase you might have missed

After more than 15 separate interviews involving 10 startup companies, a lot of ground was covered during the AWS Startup Showcase Event: Innovators in Cloud Data, produced by theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio on March 24.

The interviews focused on a wide range of key industry topics, too many to fully capture in the numerous articles generated by theCUBE as part of the event. Here are five additional findings worth mentioning, gleaned from the hours of conversation with startup entrepreneurs, AWS executives and industry analysts.

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are now key ingredients in the startup recipe.

Every company in the Showcase used some form of AI or machine learning to deliver its product or service. Uses ranged from employing AI for digital marketing in the case of Reltio Inc., to tapping into AI tools for the enhancement of its knowledge graph engine as part of Stardog Union Inc.’s offering, to incorporating edge AI in AutoGrid Systems Inc.’s energy management platform.

“If you don’t use AI now to power your applications or machine learning in some form or fashion, for sure you will be at a competitive disadvantage to everyone else,” said Jerry Chen, partner at Greylock Partners. “Cloud providers and the startups that we’re backing are making AI so accessible, so easy for developers today, that it’s really easy to use some level of machine learning in an application. If you’re not doing that, it’s like not having a website in 1999.”

Yet, beyond the near universal usage of AI and machine learning within the startup community is another important trend: It is already transforming critical uses of data in the business process. Dremio Inc. is leveraging machine learning to provide dataset recommendations for its users, WireWheel Inc. uses human-assisted machine learning to help companies comply with privacy regulations, and Amplitude Inc. is employing AI to deliver insights for 40,000 client products.

It’s not just about the fact that startups are using AI and machine learning. It’s how the products and services these firms deliver are being integrated into the business fabric and transforming major enterprises along the way.

“I think every single application will get not just reinvented, but reimagined by machine learning,” said Michael Skok, founding partner at Underscore VC. “There’s so much of what we do that is indeed managing the data to try and understand how to improve the business process.”

2. AWS is putting startups and its customers together.

It was only briefly mentioned in an interview with William Murphy, vice president of business development at BigID Inc., but the news involving an intriguing AWS initiative for startups should not be overlooked. After announcing the program in December, AWS is beginning to roll out ISV Accelerate, an initiative that aligns sales teams from the cloud giant and independent software providers or ISVs for co-selling support.

The effort will give ISVs access to a network of millions of active AWS customers, an invaluable resource for a startup. It will likely bring new customers to the cloud provider’s doorstep as well. The program is available to companies in the AWS Partner Network that provide software solutions which run on or are integrated with AWS.

“We’re part of ISV Accelerate,” Murphy said. “It’s slightly more of a lead partner organization, and we’re there because our customers are there. It’s better for the ecosystem as a whole to enable small companies like us, and we were very small when we started our relationship with them.”

3. Is it time to finally retire ‘lift and shift?’

If lift and shift means migrating all enterprise data and applications to the cloud with minimal or no changes, then the concept may be in its final days.

Without question, events of the past year have accelerated a move to the cloud for many businesses, and all indications are that trend will continue. Gartner has forecasted that worldwide public cloud end-user spending will grow 18% in this year alone.

But a combination of factors — cost, security, compliance — have led a number of organizations to think hybrid first. The largest cloud providers have listened to the customer drumbeats and responded by offering solutions that bridge on-premises and cloud infrastructures.

“Digital transformation projects are looked at from three different angles,” said Venkat Krishnamachari, co-founder and chief executive officer of MontyCloud Inc. “Cost is definitely one, security is another, and then the ongoing operational tax with respect to monitoring, governance, remediation. When they simultaneously hit, our customers look at lift and shift and say: ‘Hey, this was cheaper on-prem.’ In the long run, this will not just be cheaper in the cloud, but it can be more efficient if they do it right.”

Krishnamachari’s last five words sum up the doubtful state for wholesale lift and shift. Enterprises are discovering that migration is complicated, it affects huge amounts of the business, and it involves a lot more than just picking up a datacenter and replanting it in the cloud.

One cloud industry observer has compared lift and shift to pruning a dead tree. Another described it as “suicide.” As Krishnamachari’s remarks hint, the trend for 2021 and beyond will likely be “lift and selectively optimize.”

4. Dawn of the service mesh is upon us.

Although the service mesh has technically been around for at least a decade, it hasn’t been until recently that the concept began to attract broader enterprise interest. It is a configurable infrastructure layer for microservices that enables flexible and fast communications.

Less than a year ago, Kong Inc. introduced Kuma as an open-source service mesh. It followed that up in October with a beta version of Kong Konnect that simplified complex workflows across an API gateway, Ingress for Kubernetes, and service mesh runtimes.

The service mesh is technology worth paying attention to because the need to control and measure request traffic between apps or services is likely to grow exponentially, concurrent with the popularity of containers and microservices.

“Instead of having to individually develop and write code for security or routing logic, all of these different pieces of how those APIs will communicate with each other, we’re putting that into a single piece of software and we’re allowing that to be done in a really easy way,” said Mike Bilodeau, director of corporate development and operations at Kong. “With Kong Konnect, we’re making it even easier to do that at a microservices level of scale.”

5. The retail experience may well have been permanently and profoundly transformed through technology.

Asked how the global pandemic had affected her business, the answer from Christy Parrish, director of client success at Cordial Experience Inc., was revealing.

She described how even customers in the furniture business, a difficult market to sell online, had experienced phenomenal sales while much of the populace was in lockdown.

“We have a large group of furniture clients, and they’ve seen some incredible success retraining their customers to buy large items online,” Parrish said. “They’ve come back and invested in technology that has enabled them to build trust and build out individualized brand experiences. We trained a new generation of e-commerce buyers in the last year, we’ve taught people how to buy online.”

Indeed, the pandemic resulted in an online shopping experience that many consumers have adopted as the new normal. The challenge for Parrish and her clients will be in enticing those online customers back to the brick-and-mortar properties once the pandemic eases and people begin to feel safe mingling in enclosed spaces with other shoppers.

It is an issue that will confront many retail businesses in the months ahead. But then, Cordial, and most likely other startup companies are already hard at work at finding the answer.

Be sure to check out all of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the AWS Startup Showcase Event: Innovators in Cloud Data.

Image: Who Is Danny

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