Constellation Insights

AWS unveils new services for containers, security: Amazon Web Services is making a flood of announcements this week during its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, and one of the most promising is Fargate, a service that allows customers to deploy application containers at scale without needing to manage the underlying infrastructure. While container orchestration technologies such as Amazon ECS and Kubernetes provide deployment and management help, they can only go so far, and that's Fargate's selling point. Here's how AWS evangelist Randell Hunt describes it in a blog post:

To put it simply, Fargate is like EC2 but instead of giving you a virtual machine you get a container. It’s a technology that allows you to use containers as a fundamental compute primitive without having to manage the underlying instances. All you need to do is build your container image, specify the CPU and memory requirements, define your networking and IAM policies, and launch. With Fargate, you have flexible configuration options to closely match your application needs and you’re billed with per-second granularity.

AWS is also adding support for Kubernetes in Amazon ECS, in a long-awaited move. Kubernetes is an open-source project that originated at Google and has grown in popularity quickly.

Another significant AWS announcement concerns GuardDuty, a new managed threat detection service that can be turned on easily through AWS's management console. GuardDuty runs separately from customers' instances, so there's no performance hit or local agents required.

GuardDuty uses machine learning to spot anomalous events among API calls and network activities. It incorporates homegrown AWS technology and also integrates with third-party products. In AWS's view, GuardDuty is a must as customers scale up their cloud usage:

Identifying and assessing anomalous behavior across multiple accounts, networks, and instances at this scale can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. ... Customers also have to collect API access and network flow logs and correlate them with threat intelligence sources, applying algorithms to identify anomalies based on known threats. And, often, as soon as the algorithms are well-tuned, the threats evolve and the algorithm requires rework. ... Amazon GuardDuty generates anomaly alerts that are tailored to each customer’s AWS use, and AWS continuously updates the threat intelligence sources Amazon GuardDuty employs.

General Electric, one of AWS's marquee customers, has activated GuardDuty across the thousands of applications it has running on AWS. It took "a matter of hours" to deploy GuardDuty across GE's AWS landscape, GE global chief information and security officer Nasrin Rezai said in a statement.

POV: GuardDuty received supportive comments from top security officials at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Netflix as well. This week, AWS also announced customer wins with the National Football League, the Walt Disney Company, Expedia and Turner. While re:Invent is packed wall-to-wall with technical content and product announcements, for a provider like AWS, high-profile customer references send clear signals of validation to the broader market and decision-makers higher up the chain.

Constellation analysts Doug Henschen and Holger Mueller are in attendance at re:Invent. You can follow their coverage here on Constellation's website, as well as on Twitter at @DHenschen and @holgermu.

Blockchain startups launch Interoperability Alliance: A trio of startups is hoping to drum up support for the Blockchain Interoperability Alliance, a new group aimed at developing standards that foster easier and broader adoption of blockchains. Here is the value proposition as outlined by the group:

The group, which consists of Wanchain, Aion and ICON, isn't hoping to establish consensus on a single blockchain protocol, which would be impossible given the proliferation of types, particularly for cryptocurriencies. Rather, the goal is to figure out ways for different protocols to communicate seamlessly.

POV: While it appears to have a fairly modest beginning, the Alliance's goals are on target. "Though the fundamental reason for blockchain lies in the authentication of the decentralization of business processes to support the any-to-any transactions that lie at the heart of ubiquitous digital business, one of the principal barriers lies in gaining some ‘centralized agreement’ from participants," says Constellation VP and principal analyst Andy Mulholland. "Currently, multiple alliances and companies are working to provide commercial solutions, but though all use similar core technology, and go under the title of blockchain, there are substantial differences. Any move that brings these various alliances together and starts a move towards some consolidation is to be welcomed."

Legacy Watch

Doctor denied license over her refusal to use computer: Electronic medical records are a booming business, but one 84-year-old doctor in New Hampshire who keeps handwritten patient records is bucking the tide, to the point she no longer has a license to practice medicine. CNN has the details:

Why? "Because electronic medicine is for the system, not for the patients," said the 84-year-old, who is originally from Poland. "The system is destroying human relations between the doctor and the patient."

Konopka's refusal to keep electronic records, though, has played a part in a judge denying her request to regain her license to practice, which she voluntarily surrendered in October after allegations of misconduct were brought against her, according to the judge's ruling.

The allegations against Konopka started in October 2014 when a complaint brought to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine accused her of "improper prescribing practices" regarding a child patient, according to the state. After an investigation into the allegation, the board reprimanded Konopka in May.

Konopka, who denies misconduct, signed a voluntary surrender of license in September, in which she agreed to give up her license effective October 13, allowing her time to "provide scheduled and emergency treatment," according to the surrender.

POV: Konopka filed dozens of affidavits from patients speaking in her support with the court, but to no avail so far. Elsewhere in the CNN story, she describes herself as an "enemy of the system" that the establishment is trying to "destroy." Konopka had been seeing about 20 patients per week at her solo office, charging them $50. One told CNN that her other doctors "had their heads shoved into their computers" while Konopka gave her full attention.

But there are other, important wrinkles to Konopka's story. Due to her lack of computer literacy, she is unable to access the state's online system for monitoring the prescription of opiod-based drugs. Given the United States' longstanding opoid abuse epidemic, Konopka's inability—or unwillingness—to comply is obviously problematic.

While it's not clear how Konopka's situation will play out, it does raise some interesting points in an era where technology is continually transforming the way we work and receive services. Is she is a Luddite refusing to modernize at her patients' expense (and in violation of law)? Does her insistence that computers have depersonalized medicine—even as they introduce efficiency—have merit?