It is another exciting day for Smart421 with the news that we have been confirmed as the first UK enterprise to be confirmed on the Amazon Partner Network (APN) as an Advanced Consulting Partner by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

AWS Logo Advanced Consulting Partner Dark

What does it really mean for Smart421 and our Customers?

In some ways, partner ‘labels’ are often seen as just that, labels, and can be given out like confetti. However, for Advanced Consulting Partner status, we had to put up some substantive evidence of various AWS capabilities including Customer references, minimum of $10,000 a month AWS billings, minimum of Business level AWS support (previously called Gold) and at least 10 trained AWS staff.

So before the cynics have a pop either at the program or at us, or both, I can reveal it does require proven AWS capabilities. That will sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’ so to speak :-)

Does it change anything for us? – well yes and no…..

In terms of Operations, we already have a great relationship with AWS (since 2010 as an AWS Solution Provider and since 2012 also as an AWS Direct Connect Solution Provider) with access to a range of valuable contact points, from technical contacts through to Sales and up into Senior Management in the UK and USA. From my perspective as AWS Practice Manager, the existing relationship means regular face-to-face monthly meetings with our technical contacts in AWS, access to the product teams including ‘gurus’ based in Seattle, involvement in beta trials for new features etc. so the APN will just help reinforce those good relationships.

Perhaps the biggest change will be the impact of membership of the APN for our Customers. We are now able to be able to leverage a wealth of AWS resources on our Customers behalf. This translates into concrete deliverables as straightforward as documentation right through to support from technical architects during delivery engagements. It adds up to an improved level of confidence for our Customers that our proven AWS capabilities are fully backed by AWS and its rapidly growing global eco-system.

It means far more than a partner label to us and our Customers….

Main entrance at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London

Same famous entrance shared by Werner Vogels and Tony Blair. AWS Summit and the Iraq Inquiry were both held at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London

Smart421 attended the AWS Summit 2011 on Tues 14 June at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London and I wanted to share some ‘soundbites’ that caught my attention.

I guess there are a succession of these that are deliberately trotted out at events like this but all the same they are worth repeating, and I’m sure I will trot these out myself in the coming months :-).

Hopefully I will have time to share some of the other information that I gleaned from the ‘Base Camp’ track that I followed during the event, and the 7 key themes that Werner Vogels ( CTO – and yes he was there!) sees driving the Cloud, on a subsequent blog post.


Anyway here are a few beauties!

  • From Nov 2010 all web traffic is now being served from EC2 instances – talk about ‘eat you own dog food!’
  • A large media company has 1500 VM’s of which 5% are currently in the Cloud and the rest on-premise – by 2013 the figure will be 50% in the Cloud – wow big transition, and yes he did mention some internal pain points!
  • Same media company pushing out speculative websites that may or may not attract interest (i.e. go viral or die) – traditional on-premise time/cost model = 7 days to build & $75.40 a day to run VERSUS  Cloud (presumably AWS eek) = 3 hours to build & $27.60 a day to run =========== no brainer!
  • Agility using AWS was demonstrated by a software house (don’t worry I won’t mention their name here – pah) – in the last 7 days 41 developers, 882 commits, 400 deploys for 40 projects – that’s a deployment every 5 mins apparently, and in my book that’s also bragging for braggings sake :-) – good going guys.
  • And finally AWS themselves still see all that has been done so far as DAY 1 – jeez that is scary and can’t wait for DAY 2……..

:: Stop Press ::
Check out the blogs by Robin Meehan on this and other subjects, please click here.

Nearly a month behind original indications from the AWS Oracle guys but Oracle RDS is here (released 23rd May).

Below are some quick calculations for a months continuous usage (excluding storage) in EU Ireland for the On Demand model. You will see the cost doubles each time you in theory double the power :-)

On Demand (License Included) High Mem/Extra Large DB Instance $699.36 per month
  High Mem/Double Extra Large DB Instance $1,398.72 per month
  High Mem/Quadruple Extra Large DB instance $2,797.44 per month
On Demand (BYOL) High Mem/Extra Large DB Instance $550.56 per month
  High Mem/Double Extra Large DB Instance $1,101.12 per month
  High Mem/Quadruple Extra Large DB instance $2,202.24 per month

The Reserved model still remains significantly cheaper over a year period – $305.05 per month as opposed to $699.36 but with upfront year 1 cost of $1,850 – so year 1 costs £5510.48 for reserved as opposed to $8392.32 for on demand for the example of high mem/extra large instance.

Some of our Customers have been keen to see progress on the AWS-Oracle roadmap and whilst any progress will always be welcome news, one of the key observations on ‘first-glance’ of the Oracle RDS service is that there is a multi-AZ option but that the only current available selection is ‘No’ – this is not the case for the MySQL RDS service. This will be a limiting factor particularly for our enterprise Customers when considering a highly resilient/highly available database solution. Some digging is required into this but it is likely to be a consequence of the underlying AWS architecture and the ‘new ways’ of thinking in terms of having a ‘shared nothing’ architecture – this currently prevents mutli-node Oracle RAC implementations on AWS.

Based on the recent AWS outage  (see previous blog posting here) and the re-enforced message to implement your solution across AZ’s to ensure high resilience/availability, then this Oracle release may not be enough to impress enterprise-level Customers – it may be a case of  continuing to ‘watch this space’ on the progress along the AWS-Oracle roadmap……

It’s been a while since I have attended one of these so I went with an element of excited anticipation…honest :-)

In truth it was good to have a day away from the office and client site to refresh my view on as many Websphere related topics that I could cram into one day. Another important facet of attending the event was to ‘man’ the Smart421 marketing stand in between the various sessions with one of our Lead Consultant colleagues as part of our long-standing commitment and relationship with the WUG. This is always a bit of a daunting prospect but I saw it as a way of ‘dip-sticking’ the current IT temperature gauge – I was kind of expecting some stumbling conversations around the Cloud but there were more conversations around SOA…….a debate for another time but perhaps SOA is still more real for many organisations at the moment as they continue to experience the pain of their SOA journeys. 

The breadth of the sessions available is a real attraction of one of these events and to me adequately justifies any time and cost of attending one these events. We weren’t disappointed by the topics up for discussion. I went to 4 sessions consisting of:

  • Business Process Management: Collaborate, Iterate, Refine, Validate – by Waverney Croson, Consulting IT Specialist, IBM
  • Java 6 Unleashed: Tuning the IBM JVM – presented by Chris Bailey, IBM Java Technology Center, Hurlsey Lab
  • Learning from Other People’s SOA Experiences – presented by John Moe, Head of Integration Services, Tori Global
  • Websphere Message Broker V7 Introduction and New Features – presently by Dave Page, IBM Consulting IT Specialist

All the presentations I attended were well prepared and well presented but the one that in the end stood out for me was the ‘Learning from Other People’s SOA experiences’. There has been much debate on the subject of SOA generally and there has been much discussion amongst our consultants in Smart421; where it is today, where it is heading and how it relates to the emergence of the Cloud. Anyway back to the presentation……the slides rolled through but there were a few gems that I thought were worth repeating. The presenter clearly had lived and breathed this stuff and had also been burnt by it; his opening gambit was ‘its not easy’!. He stated that many large organisations had good messaging architectures (hub and spoke) and that moving to a SOA architecture (n layer) wasn’t necessarily a natural next step; “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. Some reasonable advice was to begin your SOA evolution in small chunks; stay with the core capability of the product you are using to help avoid vendor lock-in around some obscure functionality only available in that product. He did say that the products in this area were far more mature than a few years ago but his strong advice was always to use vendor support to help you through the evolution process. He mentioned that the original implementations of most the products in this area were embarrassingly poor and this did remind me of some work with a client some time ago (circa. 2006) on an early enterprise version of one of these products – it would have been overly generous to even suggest this was ready for ‘beta’ trialing. Some of the other challenges he mentioned were around the adoption of service-based development practices and that organisations entering their SOA evolution should initially look to use agile methodologies to deliver services where tight control could be maintained; when the processes were more mature this could go to a waterfall methodology and off shored. The definition he used for determining SOA maturity was one around reuse; a rough figure of 30-40% reuse of services would represent a mature SOA architecture.

An interesting debate was around governance and it was made clear that this was one of the key barriers to success. This developed into an interesting discussion about versioning of services; this has been raised before on a client site and I was expecting a concise and polished answer but there wasn’t one. The answer given was that there wasn’t a tool out there to help with effective versioning of production services and typically the service would be split into 2 separate production services. He justified this by saying that as soon as a service goes live it effectively becomes legacy and there should be an acceptance that it will be difficult to change due to the potential impacts on consuming platforms. This is certainly something I have seen in practice but I wasn’t expecting that to be the norm!

The session that I was eager to attend based on the original order of the day’s events was the Business Process Management (BPM). I see a lot of need within organisations to manage their processes more efficiently and realise the cost savings that just a few key improvements can often bring. The presentation didn’t disappoint but I was left trying to work out how an organisation could effectively adopt such an array of tools in this area. It may be a reflection of some of the clients I have worked with but it seems to me to require such a large amount of transformation within an organisation to perhaps make it too big a shift to bite off in one go. Maybe the answer is in the question in terms of concentrating on implementing the products/tooling (let’s ignore the cost and vendor lock-in issues for the purposes of this discussion) and target a particular problematic or high-value process and just deliver it. If the delivery is successful (and of course it should be because you will have heavily weighted the first implementation in your favour) then get the recognition and buy-in from other areas and rollout the adoption of the tool and the other requisite skills, training etc. across more and more of your organisation. Perhaps to convince me, I need to attend a ‘Learning from Other People’s BPM experiences’ next time :-)


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