Thoughts on re:Invent 2019
Amazon Web Services' annual flagship conference took place again early in December this year, in the customary location of Las Vegas.
While we're regular attendees of the AWS Global Summits held in London, getting over to Vegas is quite a trip - so this year we settled for following the live streamed sessions and consuming the myriad product updates and news coming out of the conference.
We also joined the AWS User Group North Meetup group on 6th December for the live screening of Dr Werner Vogel's keynote. This is (usually) the highlight of the event for us, as Vogel's role as Chief Technology Officer of Amazon means he is normally the one to make the most exciting technology update reveals.
Unfortunately I found Vogels' Keynote somewhat underwhelming, as this time he didn't make any technology annoucements that really tickled our interest.
Vogels began with a lengthy and detailed presentation of AWS Nitro, their virtualisation platform which underpins their EC2 compute offering and allows them to provide better, faster and more reliable instances.
Later on in Vogels' keynote, he discussed the current status of Industry 4.0, the area of the fourth industrial revolution which concerns automation, digital transformation, IOT & Telematics, AI/ML and general cloud adoption in industry.
Dr Vogels made the point that we're not there yet - Industry 4.0 is not yet a reality due to ageing manufacturing infrastructure and lack of data and cloud information support in the vast majority of manufacturing machines. He case studied Amazon's own physical infrastructure of fullfilment centres and logistics and how they eat their own dog food with AWS to maximise their optimisation opportunities. Going on to discuss examples of modernising manufacturing, Dr Vogels introduced Martin Hoffman of Volkswagen AG who gave an interesting overview of how their cloud platform integrates with production and operations, plus with their customer-facing applications.
This was an interesting section for me, given our interest in Digital Transformation and in helping businesses develop bespoke web-based software to drive their operations. We've recently been engaged by a manufacturer to build an AWS serverless application which consumes telematics data onto a web-based platform, so we understand the challenges of Cloud adoption in these areas.
AWS annoucements during re:Invent 2019
While we didn't get any big tech reveals within Vogel's Keynote, there were a load of feature announcements provided in the daily updates.
For us, one of the most exciting aspects of re:Invent is the deluge of new features, products and services that AWS announce during the conference.
While many of the new products & features are in beta, they hint at exciting new opportunities and ways to enhance the applications we develop using new cloud services.
When designing bespoke web and mobile apps we like to evaluate the current technology landscape and use the most appropriate and cost-effective solution - so keeping up to date with new AWS features is part of our weekly routine. re:Invent is basicially Christmas day for AWS Cloud annoucements!
Our favourite annoucements from re:Invent 2019 were:
HTTP API's for Amazon API Gateway
API Gateway is a supremely powerful but complex beast. We use Amazon Gateway for many of our web and cloud-based applications and it's not the easiest development process.
AWS have now announced their new HTTP APIs, which should allow easier deployment of an API that powers web or mobile applications, together with cheaper running costs. It comes with authentication support including OAuth2 and native CORS support.
The HTTP API is only in preview right now, but by the sound it we'll be using this heavily once it's in production.
Amazon RDS Proxy with Lambda
We're massive fans of AWS serverless architecture using Lambda and DynamoDB. But our web development background means we're experienced relational database developers, using MySQL databases for many of the web applications we create.
Lambda has never really played nicely with AWS's Relational Database Service (RDS), with requirements for co-location within a VPC and NAT gateways.
This announcement for the RDS proxy promises the ability to easily interact with a MySQL database in RDS from a Lambda function, using Node.js, with no need for VPC co-location.
This is a really exciting update, and widens the opportunities for us to combine our love of application microservices with a central relational application database.
The RDS Proxy feature is currently in preview and only available in limited regions, but we'll be spinning up some infrastructure in EU West 1 to become familiar with this new service.
AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) Access Analyzer
This free service can be enabled within your AWS account to continuously monitor and analyse permissions granted on policies for resources such as S3 buckets, KMS keys, AWS IAM roles, and AWS Lambda functions. AWS describe this feature as:
Using IAM Access Analyzer, customers can proactively address any resource policies that violate their security and governance best practices around resource sharing and protect their resources from unintended access.
The findings of the tool can be exported for audit and compliance purposes. Usefully, it also picks up details of cross-account access to ensure you're giving access to the right external IAM users.
We've still got a lot of catching up to do on the other recordings of breakout sessions and other feature annoucements, but we're already excited to experiment with the new features we've highlighted.
It seemed that this year all the technological announcements were made away from the Keynote speeches, marking either a change in style for the Keynotes (particularly Werner's), or simply that there aren't any big reveals to be made right now. After the dramatic expansion in services over the last few years, we're probably overdue a period of consolidation where we see incremental updates.