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Real world lessons from AWS re:Invent 2015

Bernard Golden | Oct. 21, 2015
Amazon Web Services’ signature conference continues to show how customers both large and small are solving their real IT challenges, which is one of the reasons it’s evolved into a must-attend conference.

The biggest announcement, to my mind, was its IoT Service, which is actually an aggregate of a number of capabilities. AWS has partnered with several chip manufacturers to provide integrated device registration and security, which reduces the burden on individual device developers. The service can securely connect devices to the backend endpoints. And it makes it easy to connect applications endpoints to other AWS services like DynamoDB, Kinesis, and Lambda. And it can support all this at scale – billions of devices and trillions of messages. Most people, even those who are IoT enthusiasts, vastly underestimate the coming deluge of connected devices and data. The IoT service clearly indicates that AWS recognizes what’s needed and is building out a cloud service to support those future requirements. 

And the technology ecosystem is responding. The re:Invent program was chock-a-block with sessions describing how users are building innovative solutions on top of AWS. And these solutions are well past using AWS as a low-friction IaaS platform that delivers virtual machines quickly. 

For example, I attended one session that described how one company built out an OTT (over-the-top) video service on AWS. The application didn’t even use EC2, but instead used Lambda, the Elastic Transcoding Service, DynamoDB, S3, and other services. The kicker? The company that built the service is Verizon – which offers its own cloud. The big difference, though, is that if the group building the application tried to use the Verizon cloud they would have had to install and manage all the software components and then manage scale and resiliency. By leveraging AWS, all of those services were pre-configured and ready to go, allowing the application group to focus on business logic. 

The ecosystem adjustment is even occurring in the vendor space. While at re:Invent, I met with an interesting storage startup called ClearSky, helmed by Ellen Rubin, who founded (and sold to Verizon) a cloud application migration company called Cloudswitch. ClearSky has rethought the question of where data should be located, given the scale and low-cost of AWS S3 and the latency issues of sending data across a lengthy network (this, as you’ll note, is what accounts for data gravity). 

ClearSky places a small device on premise for quick access to “hot” data, and places “cold” data up in S3. However, the fact is that cold data can become hot, or at least tepid, which requires low-latency access. So ClearSky places storage in local metro areas, where data that is likely to be needed can be placed in readiness for retrieval to the on-premise data center. Naturally, there is a ton of smart software shuttling the data back and forth among the tiers, pre-fetching data that may be needed shortly. 


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