re:Invent Helps AWS Climb Higher in the Cloud

Amazon held their annual developer conference, AWS re:Invent.

re:Invent is focused on AWS (Amazon Web Services), Amazon’s set of cloud-based tools for software developers and IT professionals.

This year’s re:Invent was packed with new announcements. With both Google and Microsoft entering the cloud arena, these updates are sure to build hype for the platform and overshadow competitors’ growth.

Jeff Couch, Chief Services Officer at UberOps, a friend of Cuttlesoft and certified AWS Partner, was there on the scene. Read his account of the event below, and continue on for our recap of the latest in AWS news.

From the Convention Floor

“The size and scope of AWS and re:Invent are staggering,” says Couch. “32 thousand people able to attend, learn, and collaborate was amazing. On the topic of learning, ‘Tuesday Night Live night with James Hamilton’ was a fantastic talk which really highlights some of the reasons AWS has such a strong leadership position in cloud computing. Continual learning is an underlying topic for all the service introductions, as there were more than 1,000 services and/or enhancements announced by AWS in the past year. So the conclusion is to continually learn or fall behind. Certification is a large push for AWS, and they continue to expand the subject matter areas, announcing three new certification specialties.”

“Continual learning is an underlying topic for all the service introductions, as there were more than 1,000 services and/or enhancements announced by AWS in the past year. So the conclusion is to continually learn or fall behind.”

Jeff Couch, Chief Services Officer, UberOps

“Of the new services introduced, I am most interested in Athena and AWS Glue as they apply to our work with enterprise data integration architectures and patterns in the cloud. Of note for many application developers, however, were the release of Alexa-based language processing and machine learning for embedding in software or hardware applications.”

“AWS re:Invent is 100% about learning. The sessions I attended on enterprise architectures, design patterns, and cost optimization were phenomenal. I also bookmark sessions that I could not attend due to conflict and watch the recorded sessions that are now available on YouTube.”

Keep reading for a closer look at some of the new features and upgrades announced at AWS re:Invent.

AWS: Cloud Growth is Sky-High

Google and Microsoft were mentioned as competitors above, but in truth, the cloud computing market is more of a one-man show. Amazon’s AWS completely eclipses both Google Cloud and Microsoft’s Azure in terms of use by developers, revenue, and growth. According to TechCrunch, AWS is 14 times bigger than all of their competitors’ products combined and is seeing a steady 55% YoY (Year Over Year) growth. This is mostly because, as it stands, AWS is the most feature-rich cloud environment by far, with over 1,000 distinct capabilities. Low and scalable pricing options also attract many developers.

With the new features announced at re:Invent, we predict that AWS will continue to outshine competitors. Instead trying to cover every single announcement from this year’s event (there are a lot), below are outlines of some of the new updates that will impact the technology we use regularly ourselves.

AI and Conversational Interface with Lex

One of the hottest software trends in 2016 has been artificial intelligence and “conversational interface” (more on that here). While Amazon is behind in letting developers harness the power of deep learning and AI, that will soon change as they move to productize Lex, the AI engine powering their popular Alexa home assistant.

Lex, and other tools like Polly (Amazon’s voice recognition engine) and Rekognition (their image recognition service) will let developers create conversational interfaces for their applications and devices, democratizing their deep learning and AI tools for all to use at a low cost.

As tools for AI and chat-based UI become more available to developers, we expect to see a wave of AI-driven and conversational apps in the near future.

Config + EC2

Amazon’s AWS EC2 is a cloud computing tool that many developers, including our own, use to get dynamic, expandable computing power with a price scale that works for everyone. The biggest benefit is that it allows for rapid expansion; EC2 can quickly (and automatically) scale up virtual servers to handle traffic from 100 users to 100,000 and beyond.

Now, EC2 will be integrated with AWS Config, which lets developers handle cloud compliance, auditing, and security. Config is a useful tool for cloud administrators, and will let developers more easily manage EC2 servers. Since Config will allow administrators to handle a variety of tasks within AWS, we expect this to be a popular tool.

Lightsail VPS

Virtual Private Servers (VPS) allow developers to easily create applications hosted from the cloud. Until now, the leading VPS provider has been DigitalOcean, a cloud startup that offers low-cost VPS. Now, Amazon will provide VPS in its suite of AWS features through their new Lightsail product, meaning that many developers will likely switch to the low-cost and readily-accessible feature inside of AWS, that many already use.

With competitive pricing, a hungry market for VPS, and thousands of developers already working in the AWS environment, we expect Lightsail to be a popular option (if not a “DigitalOcean killer”).

X-Ray

This addition is targeted directly at application developers like ourselves and provides a new way to identify and diagnose problems within user apps. More specifically, AWS X-Ray “helps developers analyze and debug production, distributed applications, such as those built using a microservices architecture.”

X-Ray allows developers to troubleshoot performance issues by giving them an end-to-end look at user flow, providing a visualized “map” of an app and where network bottlenecks occur. Modelling the way a user would walk through an application, it allows developers to pinpoint problems and take action.

Blox

Meant to bolster the capabilities of AWS’ EC2 Container Service for Docker, AWS Blox is a set of open-source tools to let developers customize and manage virtual containers. This means that developers “build, run, and scale Docker-based applications” within the AWS infrastructure.

Blox uses REST APIs update developers on the status of their container clusters and “is targeted at developers that want to build custom schedulers or processes that need the current state of resources in the ECS cluster and developers that want to take action based on cluster events.” Blox is all open-source, and you can contribute, if you’d like, by visiting the Blox Github repository.

 

You may also like: SaaS Trends for 2016

 

Snowmobile

For organizations with huge amounts of data (we’re talking terabytes on terabytes), cloud uploads via the internet are not feasible, as it can take months for the data to fully transfer. That’s where AWS Snowballs and now Snowmobiles come in. AWS already uses Snowball boxes, 100TB storage units that can be shipped to enterprises and then back to datacenters for much faster transfers than are possible via standard network connections.

Now, for those with at least an exabyte of data, Amazon will literally send a semi-truck (aptly named “the Snowmobile”) filled with Snowball boxes. Snowmobiles will now come to you to help upload huge amounts of info at high speeds, after which they will drive the Snowballs back to AWS datacenters to put it all on the cloud.

Lambda Improvements

Amazon’s Lambda, a relatively new, groundbreaking service that allows for serverless computing through AWS, received a few improvements as part of re:Invent this year. These include support for the C# programming language, a new capability called AWS Step Functions, and use with the AWS CloudFront CDN (content distribution network).

Targeting agile developers, AWS Step Functions allow users to quickly create distributed applications using microservices, providing a “graphical console to arrange and visualize the components of your application as a series of steps.”

Lambda@Edge is the CloudFront integration – it lets developers run JavaScript on servers at any of Amazons’s Edge locations, leading to better performance for a variety of apps around the globe.

Amazon is also adding Dead Letter Queue (DLQ) support to Lambda. DLQ support is AWS recognizing that Lambda is becoming a go-to solution for developers everywhere, and it shows that they’re going to continue investing in and growing Lambda.

Shield (DDoS) Protection

After 2016’s massive DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on Dyn that brought down half the web, companies are worried about how they can better protect their services from attacks. AWS Shield is a newly-free Amazon product designed to provide a bit of peace of mind for companies whose services are vulnerable to DDoS attacks. AWS Shield Standard is free, and provides always-on monitoring and “automatic inline mitigations” that keep your site running.

For more advanced security needs there is AWS Shield Advanced, a new suite of tools and support lines that help Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), the CloudFront CDN, and Amazon Route 53 DNS (domain name service) customers detect and mitigate attacks. It uses AWS WAF (web application firewall) to give your app advanced protection against malicious traffic and other attacks.

AWS Batch

In an attempt to replace the Hadoop open-source framework for processing large amounts of data, Amazon has introduced a preview version of AWS Batch. Developers will now be able to run batch processing solely through AWS tools, eliminating the need for cloud-managed Hadoop.

The benefit is that AWS Batch can automatically provision computing resources through EC2 and can manage compute resources to process data at a lower cost. Batch can be used at no additional cost, developers will only pay for the computing resources that are used.

Price Reductions

A couple of weeks before the re:Invent conference, Amazon announced a few small but impactful price reductions on some key AWS services that will lower costs for developers and the companies they serve. By knocking a few cents off of their S3 and Glacier per-gigabyte pricing, organizations that use a lot of computing power will be getting a significant discount in 2017.

For a full list of AWS’ pricing updates, check out this page.

Phew!

As you can see, this year’s re:Invent was a big one; this overview doesn’t even begin to cover everything that was announced or revealed. Amazon appears to be moving at a breakneck pace to keep ahead of looming competition from Google and Microsoft, building and releasing features as soon as they become feasible.

This is one reason why so many developers trust AWS. They are constantly iterating, building new features, and supporting new technologies. With all of the new functionality and integrations announced at re:Invent 2016, it’s apparent that AWS will continue to be the one-stop-shop for cloud services moving into 2017.

Need help setting up your enterprise for the cloud? Want to learn how AWS can improve your company’s IT? Let us know.

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