Leveraging AWS Greengrass for Edge IoT Solutions

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There is a growing demand for intelligent edge solutions that not only collect data, but also control on-premise equipment at industrial customer sites. Historically such solutions have often been based on low-level custom firmware that has required technical specialists to develop and maintain.

AWS Greengrass has significantly lowered the barrier for edge IoT development by extending familiar cloud technologies to the edge. Cloud architects and cloud application developers can use their existing knowledge of serverless development and programming languages they already master. In many cases the same exact code can be run both in the cloud and at the edge as a Greengrass Lambda application. This has proven very useful for use cases like KPI algorithms and diagnostic logic that need to be executed both centrally in the cloud and in distributed fashion on the equipment located at the edge.

Building blocks for IoT

It’s important to keep in mind that Amazon usually offers the building blocks for making applications, not the actual end-user applications. This also applies to Greengrass and AWS IoT in general. You get an extensive set of features for building IoT applications, but you still need to put them together into an application that solves the business case requirements. Amazon calls this eliminating the “undifferentiated heavy lifting”. Application developers don’t have to deal with low level issues like scaling databases or designing communication protocols which have already been solved in general. Instead they can focus on implementing the business-specific features and logic relevant to the use case.

In fact, as the AWS IoT platform has evolved in recent years, the need custom databases has been almost completely eliminated. AWS IoT Device Management provides a flexible way to organize IoT devices into groups and hierarchies. Custom metadata can be attached to the devices, enabling indexing and searching. You no longer start a project by designing database tables from scratch, but instead you first look at what AWS IoT already offers you out-of-the-box.

The same principle applies to business logic. In many cases there is no need to write custom code, because AWS IoT’s MQTT based messaging platform offers simpler ways to filter, route and process data. This is particularly important for datalake solutions, because the amount of data processed can be quite large. If you can completely omit custom code, you don’t have to worry about scaling it. The best datalake solutions simply connect a few services like AWS IoT, Kinesis Firehose and Amazon S3 together, and the data is automatically collected into S3 buckets regardless of its size and bandwidth.

Business logic at the Edge

In the case of Greengrass edge solutions you still usually need Lambda functions to implement business logic. Greengrass contains functionality for topic-based MQTT routing, but to process the contents of MQTT messages, some code is needed. However, the implementation can be just a few lines of code to execute the required algorithm as a Lambda function. Developers don’t have to worry about building containers, opening network connections or configuring security settings. Greengrass takes care of all the details of deploying the Lambda function.

It’s worth noting though that larger customers usually prefer to build a customized management system on top of AWS IoT and Greengrass. There are lots of exposed details and moving parts when dealing with “raw” AWS IoT devices and Greengrass deployments. When a lightweight business-specific management layer is built on top of them, end-users can deal with familiar concepts and ignore most unnecessary details. Power users can still access the underlying technologies simply by using the AWS Console.

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    Cloud Computing News #5: AI, IoT and cloud in manufacturing

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    This week we focus on how AI, IoT and cloud computing are transforming manufacturing.

    Cloud Computing Will Drive Manufacturing Growth

    Manufacturing.net lists 10 ways cloud computing will drive manufacturing growth during this year:

    1. Quality gains greater value company-wide when a cloud-based application is used to track, analyse and report quality status by center and product.
    2. Manufacturing cycle times are accelerated through the greater insights available with cloud-based manufacturing intelligence systems.
    3. Insights into overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) get stronger using cloud-based platforms to capture, track and analyse the health of the equipment.
    4. Automating compliance and reporting saves valuable time.
    5. Real-time tracking and traceability become easier to achieve with cloud based applications.
    6. APIs let help scale manufacturing strategies faster than ever.
    7. Cloud-based systems enable higher supply chain performance. 
    8. Order cycle times and rework are reduced.
    9. Integrating teams’ functions increases new product introduction success. 
    10. Perfect order performance is tracked across multiple production centers for the first time.

    Read more in manufacturing.net

    Machine learning in manufacturing

    According to CIO Review, the challenge with machine learning in manufacturing is not always just the machines. Machine learning in IoT has focused on optimizing at the machine level but now it’s time for manufacturers, to unlock the true poten­tial of machine learn­ing, start looking at network-wide efficiency.

    By opening up the entire network’s worth of data to these network-based algorithms we can unlock an endless amount of previously unattainable opportunities:

    1. With the move to network-based machine learning algorithms, engineers will have the ability to determine the optimal workflow based on the next stage of the manufacturing process.
    2. Machine-learning algorithms can reduce labor costs and improve the work-life balance of plant employees. 
    3. Manufacturers will be able to more effectively move to a multi-modal facility production model where the capacity of each plant is optimized to increase the efficiency of the entire network.
    4. By sharing data across the network, manufacturing plants can optimize capacity.
    5. In the future, the algorithms will be able to provide the ability to schedule for purpose to optimize cost and delivery and to meet the demand.

    Read more in CIO Review

    Introducing IOT into manufacturing

    According to Global Manufacturing, IoT offers manufacturers many potential benefits in product innovation, but it also brings challenges, particularly around the increased dependency on software:

    1. Compliance: Manufacturers developing IoT-based products must demonstrate compliance due to critical safety and security demands. In order to do this, development organisations must be able to trace and even have an audit trail for all the changes involved in a product lifecycle.
    2. Diversity and number of contributors, who may be spread across different locations or time-zones and working with different platforms or systems.  Similarly, over-the-air updates, also exacerbate the need for control and managing complex dependency issues at scale and over long periods of time.
    3. Need to balance speed to market, innovation and flexibility, against the need for reliability, software quality and compliance, all in an environment that is more complex and involving many more components.

    Because of these challenges, increasing number of manufacturing companies revise how they approach development projects. More of them are moving away from traditional processes like Waterfall, towards Agile, Continuous Delivery and DevOps or hybrids of more than one.  These new ways of working also help empower internal teams, while simultaneously providing the rigour and control that management requires.

    In addition to new methodology, this change requires the right supporting tools. Many existing tools may no longer be fit for purpose, though equally many have also evolved to meet the specific requirements of IoT. Building the right foundation of tools, methodologies and corporate thinking in place is essential to success.

    Read more in Global Manufacturing

    Data driven solutions and devops at Nordcloud

    Our data driven solutions and DevOps will make an impact on your business with better control and valuable business insight with IoT, modern data platforms and advanced analytics based on machine learning. How can we help you take your business to the next level? 

    Get in Touch.

    Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









      Cloud Computing News #4: IoT in the Cloud

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      This week we focus on IoT in the cloud.

       

      AWS IOT platform is great for startups

      IoT for all lists 7 reasons why start up companies like iRobot, GoPro, and Under Armour have chosen AWS IoT platform:

      1. Starting with AWS IOT is easy: The AWS IoT platform connects IoT devices to the cloud and allows them to securely interact with each other and various IoT applications.
      2.  High IoT security: Amazon doesn’t spare resources to protect its customers’ data, devices, and communication.
      3. AWS cherises and cultivates startup culture: AWS has helped multiple IoT startups get off the ground and startups are a valuable category of Amazon’s target audience.
      4. Serverless approach and AWS Lambda are right for startups: startups can reduce the cost of building prototypes and add agility to the development process as well as build a highly customizable and flexible, serverless back end that is highly automated.
      5. AWS IoT Analytics paired with AI and Machine LearningAWS IoT Analytics and Amazon Kinesis Analytics answer to high demand for data-analytic capacities in IoT.
      6. Amazon partners with a broad network of IoT device manufacturers, IoT device startups, and IoT software providers.
      7. The range of AWS products and services: the top provider of cloud services has a range of solutions tailored for major customer categories, including startups.

      Read more in IoT for all

       

      IoT – 5 predictions for 2019 and their impact

      Forbes makes five IoT predictions for 2019:

      1. Growth across the board: IoT market and connectivity statistics show numbers mostly in the billions (check the article below)
      2. Manufacturing and healthcare – deeper penetration: Market analysts predict the number of connected devices in the manufacturing industry will double between 2017 and 2020.
      3. Increased security at all end points: Increase in end point security solutions to prevent data loss and give insights into network health and threat protection.
      4. Smart areas or smart neighborhoods in cities. Smart sensors around the neighborhood will record everything from walking routes, shared car use, sewage flow, and temperature choice 24/7.
      5. Smart cars – increased market penetration for IoT: Diagnostic information, connected apps, voice search, current traffic information, and more to come.

      Read more on these predictions in Forbes

       

      IoT is growing at an exponential rate

      According to Forbes IoT is one of the most-researched emerging markets globally. The magazine lists 10 charts on the explosive growth of IoT adoption and market.

      Here below a few teasers, check all charts in Forbes.

      1. According to Statista, by 2020, Discrete Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics and Utilities industries are projected to spend $40B each on IoT platforms, systems, and services.
      2. McKinsey predicts the IoT market will be worth $581B for ICT-based spend alone by 2020, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 7 and 15%.
      3. Smart Cities (23%), Connected Industry (17%) and Connected Buildings (12%) are the top three IoT projects in progress (IoT Analytics).
      4. GE found that Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications are relied on by 64% power and energy (utilities) companies to succeed with their digital transformation initiatives.
      5. Industrial products lead all industries in IoT adoption at 45% with an additional 22% planning in 12 months, according to Forrester.
      6. Harley Davidson reduced its build-to-order cycle by a factor of 36 and grew overall profitability by 3% to 4% by shifting production to a fully IoT-enabled plant according to Deloitte.

       

      Philips is tapping into the IoT market with AWS

      According to the NetworkWorld, IDC forecasts the IoT market will reach $1.29 trillion by 2020. Philips is turning toothbrushes and MRI machines into IoT devices to tap this market and to keep patients more healthy and the machines running more smoothly.

      “We’re transforming from mainly a device-focused business to a health technology company focused on the health continuum of care and service”, says Dale Wiggins, VP and General Manager of the Philips HealthSuite Digital Platform. “By connecting our devices and modalities in the hospital or consumer environment, it provides more data that can be used to benefit our customers.”

      Philips relies on a combination of AWS services and tools, including the company’s IoT platform, Amazon’s CloudWatch and Cloud Formation. Philips uses predictive algorithms and data analysis tools to monitor activity, identify trends and report abnormal behavior.

      Read more in NetworkWorld

       

      DATA DRIVEN SOLUTIONS AT NORDCLOUD

      Our data driven solutions will make an impact on your business with better control and valuable business insight with IoT, modern data platforms and advanced analytics based on machine learning. How can we help you take your business to the next level? 

       

       

       

      Get in Touch.

      Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









        Cloud Computing News #2: Digital transformation in the cloud

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        This week we focus on digital transformation and IT transformation in the cloud.

         

        Campbell’s Drives IT Transformation on Azure

        Campbell Soup Co has partnered with Microsoft to modernize Campbell’s IT platform through the Azure cloud by streamlining workflows and driving efficiencies.

        “Campbell’s migration to Azure will increase our flexibility, agility and resiliency,” said Francisco Fraga, Campbell Soup’s CIO. “Azure will give us the ability to respond quickly to evolving business needs, introduce new solutions, and support our 24/7, always-on architecture. The Microsoft cloud is a proven, reliable and highly secure platform.”

        The Microsoft solution will provide additional benefits, including increased security, compliance and information protection. The move to Azure will allow Campbell to re-architect its data warehousing capabilities to be able to support the company’s data and analytics needs.

        Read the full article here

        Nordcloud is also Microsoft Gold Cloud Partner and Microsoft Azure Expert Managed Services Provider. Accelerate operations by moving IT to the public cloud with our solutions, you can find them here.

         

        Walmart Picked Microsoft To Accelerate Digital Transformation in the cloud

        According to Forbes, Walmart has signed a 5-year strategic partnership with Microsoft to accelerate digital transformation. This is an extension of an existing relationship between Walmart and Microsoft.

        This new agreement will see the companies collaborating on machine learnings, AI and data-platform solutions that span customer-facing projects as well as those aimed at optimizing internal operations.

        3 focus ares of the partnership are:

        1. Digital transformation:  Walmart will have the full range of Microsoft cloud solutions, move hundreds of existing applications to cloud-native architectures, migrate of a significant portion of walmart.com and samsclub.com to Azure to grow and enhance the online customer experience.
        2. Innovation: Walmart will build a global IoT platform on Azure.
        3. Changing way of working at Walmart: Walmart is investing in its people with a phased rollout of Microsoft 365.

        More on Walmart´s digital transformation in Forbes.

        Read also our blog post on how to accelerate digital transformation with culture and cloud here.

        Our data driven solutions that will make an impact on your business you can find here.

         

        Gartner identifies 6 barriers to becoming a digital business

        According to a recent survey by Gartner, companies embracing digital transformation are finding that digital business is not as simple as buying the latest technology but requires changes in systems and culture.

        Gartner lists six barriers that CIOs must overcome to transform their business:

        1. A Change-Resisting Culture. Digital innovation requires collaborative cross-functional and self-directed teams that are not afraid of uncertain outcomes.
        2. Limited Sharing and Collaboration. Issues of ownership and control of processes, information and systems make people reluctant to share their knowledge. But it is not necessary to have everyone on board in the early stages.
        3. The Business Isn’t Ready. When a CIO wants to kick-off a transformation, they find that the business doesn’t have the resources or skills needed.
        4. The Talent Gap. Markus Blosch, research vice president at Gartner, says: “There are two approaches to breach the talent gap — upskill and bimodal.”
        5. The Current Practices Don’t Support the Talent. Highly structured and slow traditional processes don’t work for digital.
        6. Change Isn’t Easy. Gartner advocates adopting a platform-based strategy which supports continuous change.

        Read more about the survey on Gartner Newsroom.

        Read also our blog post on how to support cloud and digital transformation here.

        Get in Touch.

        Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









          How Amazon’s IoT platform controls things without servers

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          Amazon’s IoT platform is a framework for connecting smart devices to the cloud. It aims to make the basic processes of collecting data and controlling devices as simple as possible. AWS IoT is a fully managed service, which means the customer doesn’t have to worry about configuring servers or updating operating systems. The platform simply exposes a set of APIs and automatically scales from a single device to millions of devices.

          I recently wrote an article (in Finnish) in my personal blog about using AWS IoT for home automation. AWS IoT is not exactly designed for this purpose, but if you are tech savvy enough, it can be used for it. The pricing is currently set at $5 per million messages, which lasts a long time when you’re only dealing with a couple of devices sending occasional messages.

          The home automation experiment provides a convenient context for discussing the basic concepts of AWS IoT. In the next few sections, I will refer to the elements of a simple home system that detects human presence in rooms and turns on the lights if it happens at a certain time of the day. All the devices are connected to the Amazon cloud via public Internet.

          Device Registration

          The first step in most IoT projects is to register the devices (also called “things”) into a centrally managed database. AWS IoT provides this database for free and lets you add any number of devices in it. The registration is important because each device also gets its own SSL/TLS certificate and private key, which are used for authentication and encryption. The devices can only be connected to AWS IoT by using their certificates and private keys.

          The AWS IoT device registry also works as a simple asset management database. It lets you attach attributes to devices and maintain information such as customer IDs. The device registry can later be queried based on these attribute values. For example, you can find all devices belonging to a specific customer ID. The attributes are optional, so they can just be ignored if they’re not needed.

          In the home automation experiment, two devices were added to the registry: A wireless human presence detector and a Philips Hue light control bridge.

          Data Collection

          Almost any IoT scenario involves collecting device data. Amazon provides the AWS IoT Device SDK for connecting devices to the IoT platform. The SDK is typically used to develop a small application that runs on the device (or on a gateway connected to the device) and transmits data to the cloud.

          There are two ways to deliver data to the AWS IoT platform. The first one is to send raw MQTT messages, which are usually small JSON objects. You can then setup AWS IoT rules to forward these messages to other Amazon cloud services for further processing. In the home automation scenario, a rule specifies that all messages received under the topic “presence-detected” should be forwarded to an Amazon Lambda microservice, which then decides what to do with the information.

          The other way is to use Thing Shadows, which are built into the AWS IoT platform. Every registered device has a “shadow” which contains its latest reported state. The state is stored as a JSON document, which can contain 8 kilobytes worth of fields and values. This makes it easy and cost-effective to store the current state of any device in the cloud, without requiring an external database. For instance, a device equipped with a thermometer might regularly report its current state as a JSON object that looks like this: {“temperature”:22}.

          Moreover, It’s important to understand that Thing Shadows cannot be used as a general-purpose database. You can only look up a single Thing Shadow at a time, and it will only contain the current state. Indeed, you will need a separate database if you want to analyze historical time series of data. However, keep in mind that Amazon offers a wide range of databases you can easily connect to AWS IoT, by forwarding Thing Shadow updates to services like DynamoDB or Kinesis. This seamless integration between all Amazon cloud services is one of the key advantages of AWS IoT.

          Data Analysis and Decision Making

          Since Amazon already offers a wide range of data analysis services, the AWS IoT platform itself doesn’t include any new tools for analyzing data. Existing analysis services include products like Redshift, Elastic MapReduce, Amazon Machine Learning and various others. Device data is typically collected into S3 buckets using Kinesis Firehose and then processed by these services.

          Device data can also be forwarded to Amazon Lambda microservices for real-time decision making. A JavaScript function will be executed every time a data point is received. This is suitable for the home automation scenario, where a single IoT message is sent whenever presence is detected in a room. The JavaScript function considers various factors, such as the current time of day, and decides whether to turn the lights on.

          In addition to existing solutions, Amazon has announced an upcoming product called Kinesis Analytics. It will enable real-time analytics of streaming IoT data, similar to Apache Storm. This means that data can be analyzed on-the-fly without storing it in a database. For instance, you could maintain a rolling average of values and react to it instead of individual data points.

          Device Control

          The AWS IoT platform can control devices in the same two ways it collects data. The first way is to send raw MQTT messages directly to devices. Devices will react to the messages when they receive them. The problem with this approach is that devices might sometimes have network or electricity issues, which may cause the loss of some control messages.

          Thing Shadows provide a more reliable way to have devices enter a desired state. A Thing Shadow will remember the new desired state and keep retrying until the device has acknowledged it.

          In the home automation scenario, when presence is detected, the desired state of a lamp is set to {“light”:true}. When the lamp receives this desired state, it turns on the light and reports its current state back to AWS IoT as {“light”:true}. Once the reported state is the same as the desired state, the Thing Shadow of the lamp is known to be in sync.

          User Interfaces and Data Visualization

          You may use the AWS IoT Console to manually control devices by modifying their desired state. The console will show the current state and update it on the screen as it changes. This is, of course, a very low-level way to control lighting since you need to log in as a cloud administrator and then manually edit the JSON documents.

          Then again, a better way is to build a web application that integrates to AWS IoT and offers a friendly user interface for controlling things. AWS provides rich infrastructure options for developing integrated mobile and web applications. Amazon API Gateway and Lambda are typically used to build a backend API that lets applications access IoT data. The data itself may be stored in a database like DynamoDB or Postgres. The access can be limited to authenticated users only using Amazon Cognito or a custom IAM solution.

          For data visualization purposes, Amazon has recently announced an upcoming product called Amazon QuickSight, which will integrate with other Amazon services and databases. There are also many third-party solutions available through the AWS Marketplace. If any of these options doesn’t fit the use case well, a custom solution can always be developed as part of a web application.

          My Findings

          AWS IoT is a fast and easy way to get started on the Internet of Things. All the scenarios discussed in this article are based on managed cloud services. This means that you never have to maintain your own servers or worry about scaling.

          For small-scale projects the operating costs are negligible. For larger scale projects, the costs will depend on the amount and frequency of the data being transferred. There are no fixed monthly or hourly fees, which makes personal experimentation at home very convenient.

          Get in Touch.

          Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









            How to accelerate digital transformation with culture, APIs, and cloud

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            Digital transformation is constantly changing the way businesses and consumers interact with each other. In the simplest scenario, digitalisation is implemented by mapping a “physical” information process to a digital counterpart, aiming to produce the service more quickly and at a lower cost to customers. However, the greatest opportunity for using digitalisation is in business innovations that could disrupt the market. This may lead to a significant competitive advantage and should be the main objective for all companies going digital.

            We will briefly explain how to unleash the potential of digital transformation for your business, enabling you to cut costs and lead times for your future innovation projects.

            Develop a culture of experimentation

            To begin harnessing the benefits of digital business opportunities, your company will need to set up an innovation process including idea gathering, validation and creation of prototypes. The customer should be involved with the innovation process to enable constant feedback and validation. Doing so leads to continuous refinement of the product and a better match with customer expectations. Since the input from the market may be constantly shifting the final objective of the project, agile methodologies of software development should be chosen over waterfall models.

            The ability to validate concepts, as well as dismiss those that do not resonate with your customers, will quickly maximize the number of ideas that can be experimented with, and therefore increase the probability of focusing on initiatives that are more likely to succeed. Using this method of working will put your business in a competitive position in relation to your competitors.

            An example of this culture can be taken from the gaming industry, where Supercell dismissed fourteen potential projects in the process of creating its four blockbuster games. Only a small proportion of the projects started were ultimately developed into a finished product and launched to the public.

            APIfy your business to accelerate innovation

            To accelerate digital innovation, ensure that your internal business applications and processes are available externally via an easy to use but secure API. Loose coupling of your internal business data with external customer-facing applications reduces costs and accelerates innovation by preventing the need to repeatedly connect the source application to your external application to update recent changes.

            Not only do APIs improve productivity for creating new applications, but they may also enable customer, community or partner-driven application development initiatives, allowing third parties to build innovative applications on top of your own data. These third-party applications can lead to improved sales of your core offering and better customer satisfaction with minimal investments. In addition to the improved sales of your core offering, APIs may open new business opportunities via monetization of the data provided by the APIs.

            In the context of APIs, remember that developers are your customers. For successful API adoption, optimal developer experience, i.e. capability to find, understand and utilize the API, is crucial.

            Focus on value-adding work with the cloud

            Modern cloud platforms offer infrastructure (as a service) but also building blocks (Platform as a Service) that enable developers to focus on the development of the actual service, whilst leaving the infrastructure work to the cloud provider.

            In addition to traditional IT services such as storage and databases, cloud platforms also provide a large portfolio of more sophisticated services, including Internet of Things, data processing, and analysis; all at the click of a button. Such platforms enable development of high-end data-intensive solutions, with minimal up-front investment or commitment, minimal development effort and minimal delays.

            Cloud platforms are the perfect environment in which to develop and maintain applications from concept to production, as they offer both the flexibility required in the prototyping phase and the scalability and durability required by production systems.

            Get in Touch.

            Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









              ARCHITECTURE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY GENERATION – THIS TIME, RE:IMAGINED

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              Much like the last 5 years at re:Invent, we were treated on the Thursday to a keynote by Werner Vogels, speaking at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It’s a huge space and the production values that AWS brings to their keynotes (coupled with the 16,800 capacity) made for an electric start to the morning.

              Vogels started the keynote by reflecting on the keynotes he has delivered over the last 5 years. During his first ever keynote back in 2012, Vogels discussed 21st-century architecture. He provided 4 guiding commandments: Controllable, Resilient, Adaptive, and Data Driven. He returned to this theme by calling this particular keynote ’21st Century Architectures, re:Imagined’

               

              It was made clear from the start that, unlike previous years, there would be relatively few announcements. He was true to his word, and instead focussed on just a few key themes. Vogels took time to thank AWS’s customers, reflecting that in the beginning, they knew they had to be collaborative to succeed. They wanted to build a collection of ‘nimble’ tools which could be assembled to build what customers needed. AWS listen to customer feedback, launching services that are rock solid, then working with customers to set the roadmap and development priorities.

              AWS want to help you build services for the future, and a lot of the announcements this week are enabled by developments in technology that have come about in the last 2-3 years.

               

              Voice As A Control System

              One of the themes Vogels spoke about was IoT and allowing whole environments to become accessible. Every device has the ability to become an input or output device, but with so many out there, it’s good to consider how we interact with all of them and their systems. Vogels believes that digital interfaces of the future will be human-centric, and the things that we as humans use to communicate will become the inputs to systems. The first of these will be the voice as it’s the most natural and easiest interaction.

              Once you can use your voice to control systems, Vogel suggested people won’t look back, from surgeons operating theatre equipment, to simply controlling the lighting or heating in your house, it will unlock digital systems for everyone.

              To demonstrate this point, Vogels talked about the International Rice Research Institute who provide rice farmers advice on how much and which fertiliser to put on their crops based on their years of research. Consumption of this information was very low until they invested in a voice interface. Farmers can call, select from one of 27 dialects, and provide information on their land and crop conditions. They then use voice recognition and machine learning to read back to the farmer which fertilizer they need.

              This was building up to the announcement of Alexa Business, a service that ‘makes it easier for you to introduce Alexa to your organization, providing the tools you need to set-up and manage Alexa enabled devices, enroll users, and assign skills at scale’

               

              Ensure You Are Well Architected

              The next theme of the keynote was architecture. Typically, systems have three planes: Admin, Control, and Data. (Vogels suggested architecture that extensive was difficult to visualise on marketing slides!) The AWS Well Architected Framework was launched two years ago and has grown from a single document to five pillars across five documents with two ‘lenses’. It guides the user on how to architect for specific use cases, (currently HPC and Serverless). The framework is included in AWS certifications and AWS regularly run boot camps and ‘Well Architected Reviews’ for its customers.

               

              Dance Like No One Is Watching, Encrypt Like Everyone Is

              This particular section had a strong focus on security and availability. On security, Vogels recapped everything you need to ensure you are doing, from implementing a strong identity foundation to automating security best practices. The need to encrypt everything was also highlighted and security has become a problem for all. Developers are now seen to be the new security team and everything needs to be remembered. For example, ensuring the security of the CI/CD pipeline, as well as ensuring security within the pipeline.

              Development has also changed over time, meaning you need to be more security aware. It’s more collaborative, there are more languages, and more services and teams are combining. To help out, AWS have launched Cloud9a cloud-based IDE, including a code editor, debugger, and a terminal pre-packaged with essential tools (JavaScript, PHP, Python), to allow you to write, run and debug your code, so you don’t need to set-up your development environments to start new projects.

               

              Everything Will Fail. All The Time

              Availability, reliability, and resilience were discussed, from the basics, (hard dependencies reduce availability, redundant dependencies increase availability) to the best practices of Distributed Systems, through to deployment automation and testing. Nora Jones (Netflix), gave the example of using Chaos Engineering and how they do this at Netflix.

              Vogels highlighted that available systems cost more and therefore it becomes a business decision whether to easily run something in a single availability zone, but only achieve 99% of uptime. If you want to increase this you need to distribute your services across multiple availability zones or even regions. DynamoDB Global Tables, for example, help you to do this, becoming the ultimate tool in reliability design. Although this has little to do with AWS (and more to do with decisions made within organisations), AWS can make this much easier for you. This brings us nicely onto the final part of the keynote – letting AWS do the ‘heavy lifting’ through its managed services.

              Galls Law says, “A complex system that worked is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked”. AWS allows you to keep your systems simple by providing nimble services which you can assemble to build what you need. If you run your own RDBMS, you have to take care of the control and data planes. If you run on AWS, AWS manages the control plane. AWS Managed Services are designed for AWS to control the complex and hard to manage moving parts. making it simpler for you. This was demonstrated by Abby Fuller speaking about containers on AWS, and how Amazon Fargate can help you to make your environment much more simple. AWS will continue to release managed services over the next year.

               

              Serverless

              Serverless was something that couldn’t possibly be missed out of this keynote, with it being the ultimate AWS Managed Service. There is no server management, has flexible scaling, high availability, and no idle capacity. Here are the final (Lambda) product announcements

              In addition, the AWS Serverless Application Repository was also announcedallowing users to discover collections of serverless apps and easily deploy these into your account in a few clicks. You can also publish your own apps to share with the community, allowing you to easily consume their 3rd party Lambda functions and apply them to your environments.

               

              If you would like to understand how Nordcloud can help you take advantage of AWS Managed Services, help discuss whether your environment is well architected for, or discuss any other of the releases made this week, please get in touch. 

               

              Get in Touch.

              Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









                Day 2 at Re:Invent – Builders & Musicians Come Together

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                When Werner Vogels makes bold statements, expectations are set high. So when Vogel’s tweeted 15 minutes before the start of re:Invent’s day 2 keynote, we had to wonder what was coming.

                And how right we were. The close to 3 hours spent in the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas was an experience in itself.

                Andy Jassy opened the keynote with a long list of customers and partners, alongside the latest business figures. AWS are currently running at an 18 billion run rate with an incredible 42% YoY growth. With millions of active customers – defined as accounts that have used AWS in the last 30 days – the platform is by far the most used on the planet.

                As per Gartner’s 2016 Worldwide Market Segment Share analysis, the company (successfully led by Jassy), has achieved a 44.1% market share in 2016, up from 39% in 2015, more than everyone else combined. This became easily noticeable when AWS displayed an entire catalogue of new services throughout the keynote. The general stance Jassy took this year was that AWS are trying to serve their customers exactly what they asked for in terms of new products. The mission of AWS is nothing short of fixing the IT industry in favour of the end-users and customers.

                The first on stage was a live ‘house’ band, performing a segment of ‘Everything is Everything’ by Lauryn Hill, the chorus rhyming with ‘after winter must come spring’. Presumably, AWS was referring to the world of IT still being in a kind of eternal ‘winter’. The concept we also heard here was that AWS would not stop building their portfolio and that they want to offer all the tools their ‘builders’ and customers need.

                AWS used Jassy’s keynote for some big announcements (of course, set to music), with themes across the following areas:

                • Compute
                • Database
                • Data Analytics
                • Machine Learning and
                • IoT

                The Compute Revolution Goes On

                Starting in the compute services area, an overview of the vast number of compute instance types and families were shown, with special emphasis given to the Elastic GPU options. There were a few announcements also made on the Tuesday night, including Bare Metal InstancesStreamlined Access to Spot Capacity & Hibernationmaking it easier for you to get up to 90% of savings on normal pricing. There was also M5 instances which offer better-priced performance than their predecessors, and H1 instances offering fast and dense storage for Big Data applications.

                However, with the arrival of Kubernetes in the industry, it was the release of the Elastic Kubernetes that was the most eagerly anticipated. Not only have AWS recognised that their customers wanted Kubernetes on AWS, but they also realise that there’s a lot of manual labour involved in maintaining and managing the servers that run ECS & EKS.

                To solve this particular problem, AWS announced AWS Fargate, a fully managed service for both ECS & EKS meaning no more server management and therefore increasing the ROI in running containers on the platform. This is available for ECS now and will be available for EKS in early 2018.

                Having started with servers and containers, Jassy then moved on to the next logical evolution of infrastructure services: Serverless. With a 300% usage growth, it’s fair to say that if you’re not running something on Lambda yet, you will be soon. Jassy reiterated that AWS are building services that integrate with the rest of the AWS platform to ensure that builders don’t have to compromise. They want to make progress and get things done fast. Ultimately, this is what AWS compute will mean to the world: faster results. Look out for a dedicated EKS blog post coming soon!

                Database Freedom

                The next section of the keynote must have had some of AWS’s lawyers on the edge of their seats, and also the founder of a certain database vendor… AWS seem to have a clear goal to put an end to the historically painful ‘lock-in’ some customers experience, referring frequently to ‘database freedom’. There’s a lot of cool things happening with databases at the moment, and many of the great services and solutions shown at re:Invent are built using AWS database services. Out of all of these, Aurora is by far growing the fastest, and actually is the fastest growing service in the entire history of AWS.

                People love Aurora because it can scale out for millions of reads per second. It can also autoscale new read replicas and offers seamless recovery from reading replica failures. People want to be able to do this faster, which is why AWS launched a new Aurora features, Auto Multi-Master. This allows for zero application downtime due to any write node failure (previously, AWS suggested this took around 30 seconds), and zero downtime due to an availability zone failure. During 2018 AWS will also introduce the ability to have multi-region masters – this will allow customers to easily scale their applications across regions have a single, consistent data source.

                Lastly, and certainly not least, was the announcement of Aurora Serverless. which is an on-demand, auto-scaling, Serverless version of Aurora. The users pay by the second – an unbelievably powerful feature for many use cases.

                Finally, Jassy turned its focus point to DynamoDB service, which scaled to ~12.9 million requests per second at its peak during the last Amazon Prime Day. Just let that sink in for a moment! The DynamoDB service is used by a huge number of major global companies, powering mission-critical workloads of all kinds. The reason for this is, from our perspective, is the fact that it’s very easy to access and use as a service. What was announced today was the new feature DynamoDB Global Tables. This enables users to build high performance, globally distributed applications.

                The final database feature released for DynamoDB was managed back-up & restore, allowing for on-demand backups, point-in-time recovery (in the past 35 days), allowing backups for data archival or regulatory requirements to be taken of hundreds of TB with no interruption.

                Jassy wrapped up the database section of his keynote by announcing Amazon Neptune, a fully managed graph database which will make it easy to build and run applications that work with highly connected data sets.

                Analytics

                Next Jassy turned to Analytics, commenting that people want to be using S3 as their data lake. Athena allows for easy querying of structured data within S3, however, most analytics jobs involve processing only a subset of the data stored within S3 objects and Athena requires the whole object to the processed. To ease the pain, AWS released S3 Select – allowing for applications, (including Athena) to retrieve a subset of data from an S3 object using simple SQL expressions – AWS claim drastic performance increases – possibly up to 400% performance.

                Many of our customers are required by regulation to store logs for up to 7 years and as such ship them to Glacier to reduce the cost of storage. This becomes problematic if you need to query this data though. How great would it be if this could become part of your data lake? Jassy asked, before announcing Glacier Select. Glacier Select allows for queries to be run directly on data stored in Glacier, extending your data lake into Glacier while reducing your storage costs.

                Machine Learning

                The house band introduced Machine Learning with ‘Let it Rain’ from Eric Clapton. Dr Matt Woods made an appearance and highlighted how important machine learning is to Amazon itself. The company uses a lot of it, from personal recommendations on Amazon.com to Fulfillment automation & inventory in its warehouses.

                Jassy highlighted that AWS only invests in building technology that its customers need, (and, remember Amazon.com is a customer!) not because it is cool, or it is funky. Jassy described three tiers of Machine Learning: Frameworks and Interfaces, Platform Services & Application Services.

                At the Frameworks and Interfaces tier emphasis was placed on the broad range of frameworks that could be used on AWS, recognising that one shoe does not fit every foot and the best results come when using the correct tool for the job. Moving to the Platform Services tier, Jassy highlighted that most companies do not have to expect machine learning practitioners (yet) – it is after all a complex beast. To make this easy for developers, Amazon SageMaker was announced – a fully-managed service that enables data scientists and developers to quickly and easily build, train, and deploy machine learning models at any scale.

                Also at the platform tier, AWS launched DeepLens, a deep learning enabled wireless video camera designed to help developers grow their machine learning skills. This integrates directly with SageMaker giving developers an end-to-end solution to learn, develop and test machine learning applications. DeepLens will ship in early 2018, available on Amazon.com for $249.

                The machine learning announcements did not stop there! As Jassy moved into the Application Services tier AWS launched:

                IoT

                Finally, Jassy turned to IoT – identifying five ‘frontiers’ each with its own release, either available now, or in early 2018:

                1. Getting into the game – IoT One Click (in Preview) will make it easy for simple devices to trigger AWS Lambda functions that execute a specific action.
                2. Device Management – AWS IoT Device Management will provide fleet management of connected devices, including the onboarding, organisation, monitor and remote management through a devices lifetime.
                3. IoT Security – AWS IoT Device Defender (early 2018) will provide security management to your fleet of IoT devices, including auditing to ensure your fleet meets best practice.
                4. IoT Analytics – AWS IoT Analytics, making it easy to cleanse, process, enrich, store, and analyze IoT data at scale.
                5. Smaller Devices – Amazon FreeRTOS, an operating system for microcontrollers.

                Over the next weeks and days, the Nordcloud team will be diving deeper into these new announcements, (including our first thoughts after getting our hands on the new releases) We’ll also publish our thoughts and how they can benefit you.

                It should be noted that, compared to previous years, AWS are announcing more outside the keynotes, in sessions and on their Twitch Channel and so there are many new releases which are not gaining the attention they might deserve. Examples include T2 UnlimitedInter-Region VPC Peering and Launch Templates for EC2 – as always the best place to keep up-to-date is the AWS ‘whats new‘ page.

                If you would like to discuss how any of today’s announcements could benefit your business, please get in touch.

                Get in Touch.

                Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.









                  Market leaders always push the envelope

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                  In this blog post, I will be picking up on what my colleague Sandip discussed in his latest blog post, ‘Innovating by Making a Difference’. Based on that, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about how Nordcloud Germany have managed to stay on top of the industry for the last year or two. It’s been about focussing on the right things at the right time. For example, we haven’t worked in the Private Cloud space, and we haven’t been involved in the SaaS world of productivity, collaboration or CRM. We have stayed focussed purely on leading Public Cloud platforms; AWS, Azure & Google to deliver full-stack consultancy and services.

                  At Nordcloud, we’re able to keep our customers – not just ourselves – on top of the game, by understanding everything we can, identifying the most valuable for our customers and then adopting the latest services of each of the providers. These are, for example, services around containers, (Kubernetes for instance), and serverless (Lambda), and also the Internet of Things and Machine Learning. Our work with companies of all industries and sizes is the foundation of being able to filter the different technologies for what matters the most. In this sense, our customers are those who teach us how to help them best and we can then pick the best technologies to do just that.

                  We were recently screened by the leading Cloud market analyst in Germany against how we deliver state of the art managed Cloud services. Check out CRISP’s perspective here (in German). 

                  We’re proud to be recognised as a leading provider in the Cloud consulting and service industry, who stands out amongst a vast number of peers in the market. If there is one thing we have realised throughout the years – both as a company and as individuals – it’s that you shouldn’t stop innovating and questioning. To stay on top, it’s not enough to just do the basics well. You have to keep going forward and step beyond your comfort zone at all times. At the same time, you shouldn’t be running after each new hype, but picking your game wisely and then building up expertise and concepts around that area.

                  Get in Touch.

                  Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.