Carry on up the Amazon
By Mark DurrandNov 18th 2015
If I’m honest, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Enterprise Summit in London was a little bit of a sales conference, with Andy Jassy, the Senior VP for Amazon Web Services, talking up the numbers that demonstrate the growth and dominant position of AWS. Not that some of those numbers weren’t impressive – Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) usage up 95% year on year, Simple Storage Service (S3) up 120% for the same period. Perhaps the most startling stat was one from Gartner that stated that AWS is 10 times the size of the next 14 cloud providers combined. A personal view is that the cloud war is over. However, we probably knew this already so perhaps the most interesting parts of the conference were the new products that Amazon have rolled out in the past couple of months and that’s what I’ll focus on in this post. I’ll talk about how we might use these new products at TotallyMoney.com.
New database direction
A bunch of database-themed products and services were spoken about and the most exciting of these was Amazon Aurora. It’s an MySQL-compatible, relational database, available on Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), and the claim is five times the performance of MySQL at 10% of the cost of traditional enterprise databases. It seems like a no-brainer. If we can save money and get better performance then we’ll be doing this immediately.
At TotallyMoney.com most of our databases are not MySQL (we have some, mostly for WordPress but we’re steadily getting rid of those) so the appeal of Aurora may appear limited, but Amazon offer another tool that may allow us to take advantage. The AWS Schema Conversion Tool helps to convert your database schema between, for example, a Microsoft SQL Server and an Aurora RDS cluster. It’s meant to migrate everything – views, stored procs, triggers, functions – to the new schema. I have a degree of scepticism about this but it’s certainly something we’ll be looking at. If we could convert all of our databases to Aurora then there could be real cost savings.
Moving away from data slightly, Amazon have introduced some very interesting new business intelligence tools. At TotallyMoney.com we’ve been using RedShift for some time and have a lot of internal reporting running off that. Amazon QuickSight looks to be something that could be very useful to us. It appears to hook into AWS data stores very easily and we heard that the first visualisation could be produced within 60 seconds as a result. I’d hope to be trailing that before the end of the year.
Compliance is a pretty mundane subject and one that people often bristle at, however, at TotallyMoney.com it is a vital part of our business. When I started using AWS, perhaps seven years ago now, compliance was a challenge to say the least. Trying to persuade a bank that this cloud thing was safe was often difficult. Amazon has made great strides in this area with various certifications and there were more announcements today. AWS Config with the associated notifications looks like an easy and powerful means of ensuring your environment remains in the correct state and Inspector could be a great help in demonstrating best practice, particularly when paired with CloudTrail for evidence.
Those are the things I think we’ll use at TotallyMoney.com, but there were a couple of other interesting announcements that we probably won’t use in our business. There is support for the Internet of Things with services to connect and manage devices at any scale and deal with the data being produced by them. Interesting, but not really applicable to us. Similarly there was a satisfyingly, low-tech solution to the problem of loading very large amounts of data. Typically that would be constrained by bandwidth so Amazon have developed Snowball which will be available early in 2016. It’s a tamper-resistant, highly secure plastic box that contains at least 50TB of storage. You put your data on it and post it to Amazon for immediate upload. The tagline was “never underestimate the bandwidth of a DHL truck”.