Thursday was a good day! I was heading off to the AWS Tech Summit for Developers & Architects in London with a few of my colleagues from Smart421, which I was looking forward to especially as I have a keen interest in Cloud Computing and given Smart421′s gaining AWS Solution Provider status in 2010, attending was a real win win for both myself and for Smart, and to top it all off there was promise of free Guinness at the end to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
Iain Gavin, UK Country Manager at AWS. Projected on screen from left: Richard Holland – Operations and Delivery Director, Eagle Genomics; Richard Churchill – Technical Director, Servicetick; Francis Barton – IT Development Manager, Costcutter.
Doors opened at the conference at 12pm and it was clear to see how popular the event was as the entrance hall was packed, Iain Gavin (AWS UK Account Manager) confirmed that there were over 380 attendees at the conference which was much higher than expected (usually events have 50% drop out) which I think demonstrates the industry’s growing interest and adoption of Cloud Computing.
Whilst we were all trying to find seats in the hall, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of key points that were rolling across the screen that “262 billion objects are hosted in S3″ and that “S3 handles 200,000 transactions per second” both of which took me by surprise a little, if truth be told, as whilst a lot of people are “nearing the waters edge” I hadn’t appreciated that there were that many “dipping their toes in the water”.
Anyhow, first up of the speakers was Matt Woods, one of AWS’s evangelists (the UK version of Jeff Barr), who covered off a number of the recent changes and releases to AWS such as VPC supporting NAT addressing, the launch of Cloud Formation (which allows users to spin up an entire stack – which I can see being very useful for the launch of environments ), S3 websites for supporting static web sites and offering the great SLA’s and resilience of S3, though you may need to use Cloudberry Explorer or CyberDuck to help with this as not all of these features are available via the AWS Management Console. Despite being told that they weren’t going to repeat what we had heard before, unfortunately that was what we got!
Following on from Matt Woods, was Francis Barton (IT Development Manager of CostCutter) an AWS client who talked about their experience of using AWS after quite literally stumbling across this whilst looking at Elastic Bamboo as their CI tool! After looking at what it had to offer, they could see the potential this had for helping their company that works on fine margins a way to offer such a highly scalable solution with great resilience for a reasonable cost. they have managed to move their system of Oracle App Server onto AWS EC2 instance running Apache TomCat with relative ease and have made great use of SQS and SNS as part of the solution. That said he did mention they had hit a couple of issues (which was nice a refreshing to hear about some of the real world experience) around JPA caching and connection pool fail overs with RDS, but all things they are working to resolve.
Next up was Richard Churchill (Technical Director of ServiceTick) who has developed a software solution SessionCam that records a customer’s interaction with your website, capturing loads of information, such as the actual images the customer saw, the behaviour and navigation of the customer around the site. As you can imagine, SessionCam is capturing mass of data as sending this back asynchronously, it is easy to see why they have over 450 EC2 instances running! They to are using SQS at the core of the application and taking advantage of the autoscaling offered and found that the stats you can get for SQS very useful. The other key point (I thought it was key at least) was that they had found that utilising more Micro instances had yielded a far better return on investment than using larger instances (would be great to get some stats on this from AWS’s perspective) but guess it all comes down to your application design and architecture in the end.
The final AWS customer speaker was Richard Holland (Operations and Delivery Director of Eagle Genomics), a Bio-Informatics company based in Cambridgeshire who are using AWS for exposing data to their clients for analysis, ended up being rushed do to the over run from the previous sessions, but touched on how they had used Zeus to obtain better and more intelligent load-balancing. I think the item that he touched on though that got most peoples attention that was given the sensitivity of the data they hold for their clients they had engaged AT&T and Cognizant to complete ethical hacks on AWS, both of whom failed in the attacks – something that I will be looking into more deeply as this is something comes up repeatedly when discussing the Cloud and security within it (my colleague Joseph picked up on this very point in his blog posted earlier today). See slide 12 of 13 on Richard’s slide deck, available on Slideshare.
After a quick break, we all reconvened and started the afternoon technical sessions with Matt Woods giving a presentation on “High-Availability Websites: Build Better Websites with a Concert of AWS Products” covering things such as patterns for availability and utilising S3 for Asset Hosting, and using S3 websites for hosting dynamic (client side) websites. He also covered using CloudFront for Global Edge Caching to enhance your web site. He also touched upon the extended support available now for languages such a Ruby on Rails, Scala etc.
Carlos Conde was next delivering his presentation on “Running Databases with AWS – How to Make the Right Choice for Your Use Case”. He was very insightful and offered up some architectural principles and patterns for using RDS, as well as using backs ups to creating new test instances for more “real world testing”. It was good to see what RDS brings to the table, but in my view, whilst still limited to MySQL, I think most will stick to hosting the database servers on EC2 instances – well until Oracle instances are available on RDS – still no date on this from AWS!
Finally Ianni Vamdelis delivered his talk on “Deploying Java Applications in the AWS Cloud: A Closer Look at Amazon Elastic Beanstalk” which came with the great tag line of “Easy to begin, impossible to outgrow!”. I think this was the highlight of the day for me, as this is in my current arena of work, I can see the masses of potential that this offers up, for being able to deploy your applications so easily; setting up your logging automatically in S3 for you, configuring Elastic IP’s, Health Checks and Load-balancing and all in a easily repeatable way, plus the lugin’s for Eclipse to support this are great! This surely is such a god send???!!!??? Only down side, this is not available yet in VPC :-(
All in all a good day with some great food for thought, but as seems to be case, you can’t help feel that whilst we have come a long way we are not quite there yet and still waiting for that next release / feature to become available, though I have come away more impressed than before and with a great belief that more and more work that I do will be in the Cloud.