October 12, 2015

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AWS re:Invent wrapup

AWS re:Play. Yes, the outside is a wall of FEU shipping containers. (From @Werner)
As expected, AWS re:Invent had more goodies in store for us after the

Day 1 keynotes session. Most of the excitement centered around the new product announcements from the Day 2 keynote. The major difference between the two days is that the second day contained a lot more products that were already accessible to the general public (albeit some in Beta). This meant a lot more hands-on time at re:Invent along with more details emerging on a daily basis. Thursday night was also the re:Play party featuring Zedd and possibly the world’s biggest pun about containers.

The announcements:

  • EC2 Container Registry — If you’re doing Docker work, you need somewhere to store your containers, preferably private. As with most infrastructure you can run it yourself but that’s more infrastructure servers and more points of failure. The EC2 Container Registry (AWS ECR) provides all the functionality you need and want out of a registry (including durable storage in S3 and at-rest encryption) for the low-low cost of just the storage cost of $0.10 per GB-month. Since ECR supports the Docker API, you can use ECR from anywhere (even outside of EC2).
  • Amazon Kinesis Analytics — Day 1 added the Kinesis Firehose, and Day 2 adds the ever popular analytics. With the huge amount of (theoretical) data one can push through Kinesis Streams/Firehose, the Kinesis Analytics product will allow you to run SQL-like statements against the incoming data.
  • EC2 X1 & T2.Nano — AWS is always introducing new EC2 instance types to better meet their customers needs. In the case of REALLY BIG needs, the new X1 instances will be able to provide up to 2TB of RAM and over 100 vCPU. Currently the largest instance type available is the r3.8xlarge with 244 GB of RAM and 32 vCPUs. When the X1’s come out next year, they’ll be ~4x large than the largest current instances (and probably very expensive to boot). On the opposite end was the release of the t2.nano which is 1 vCPU and 512 MB of RAM, or roughly half the size of the current t2.micro. This nano instance will be the smallest instance size available but probably in the mix to compete with Linode and Digital Oceans 512 MB smallest sizes.
  • CloudWatch Dashboard — You can always spot the TechOps group in any startup today as they’re the typically the first group with monitors on the wall, filled with graphs. There are a number of services that can pull AWS CloudWatch stats and turn them into 60” TV friendly “Information Radiators” such as Geckoboard. CloudWatch Dashboard is going to provide a very similar function for CloudWatch specific stats.
  • AWS Lambda Update — As a fan of AWS Lambda, updates to the service always are a happy time. AWS added VPC support, scheduled tasks, long run times, Python language support, custom retry logic, and versioning… all in one fell swoop. One of the most common questions relating to Lambda I’ve seen online is “How do I make Lambda do something on a regular basis?” and the answer is always “You need to trigger it from an external web-cron service”. The ability to have scheduled tasks in Lambda eliminates that issue and opens up an entirely new world of functionality. Likewise the longer run times for Lambda will allow more data processing jobs to be pushed off of EC2 and onto Lambda.
  • AWS Mobile Hub — The Mobile Hub is the first of two possibly game changing services from AWS. For a long time Amazon has advertised how you could use a number of different services together (such as Cognito, SNS, and Lambda) to provide an great mobile back-end. However now they’ve tied all the services you would need for that MBaaS and wrapped them up with a bow on top. While I’m sure there are limitations to the Mobile Hub, this will allow small startups to virtually eliminate the back-end work of getting their mobile apps live.
  • AWS IOT — The IoT Hub, like the mobile hub, is a game changer in that it’s wrapping up a number of IoT friendly services into an easy to use package. AWS also put out a number IoT specific tools that haven’t previously been AWS services. Those include: Device specific SDKs, MQTT-based device gateway w/ TLS, per-device certificates, and a rules engine. The one main “issue” that tends to get glossed over with all IoT to AWS work is that SSL/TLS is not currently possible on the most popular IoT device… the Arduino.
Each year Amazon Web Services continues to put out loads of new products and product updates. It’s astounding to watch them innovate the IaaS market. Tasks that may have previously required a half dozen specialists to accomplish (like say setting up mobile back-end service on hardware), can now be accomplished by your front-end developer in a matter of minutes. Sure, Amazon hasn’t been perfect and there have been some outages, but no one has even come close to achieving what they have over the last 10 years of the “cloud”. With each re:Invent, more people get access to more tools which let them get more done faster than ever before. I’m looking forward to taking some of these tools for a spin and showing off what cool projects I can brainstorm out of re:Invent.