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. 

 

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    AWS Well Architected Framework Updates

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    A little over a year after AWS published the Well Architected Framework, it has had its first update.

    The Well Architected Framework was developed from AWS’s experiences helping organisations architect, test, develop and deploy into AWS. It allows you to asses how well your architecture is aligned with AWS Best Practices in addition to better understanding the impact of your design decisions.

    Unsurprisingly, there are no shortage of boot camps and sessions focusing on the Well Architected Framework at AWS re:Invent 2016, so we have taken a look at the changes that have been made.

    Changes to the Well Architected Framework

    The most notable change is that the number of pillars that the framework is based on has increased from four to five. Security, Reliability, Performance Efficiency & Cost Optimisation are joined by the all new Operational Excellence pillar.

    Operational Excellence focuses on an organisations ability to deliver business value. By collecting the metrics which align to business objectives, or continually delivering small changes rather than large batches of changes. As well as improving process and procedures such as:

    • testing for unexpected events
    • learning from operational events and failures
    • ensuring that your processes and documentation is up-to-date.

    How to achieve operational excellence 

    It splits the best practise areas for Operational Excellence into three:

    1. Preparation – as the old adage goes, fail to prepare: prepare to fail – and the cloud is no different. Do you have your runbooks (which define how your day to day operations should function) and your playbooks (provide guidance on how to respond to operational events) defined, up to date and tested.
    2. Operations – should be automated and thus standardised. Where changes are required they should be small, and more frequent with defined processes to track, audit, review and roll-back change. They should not require downtime and should not require manual intervention.
    3. Responses – to all events, expected or not, should be timely and automated. Not just alerting, but also mitigation, mediation, rollback and recovery. These should be as per the defined run and play books and include automated escalations to ensure the right people understand what’s happening at every stage.

    The Framework gives guidance for the tools that AWS provide to help you do this as well as the key questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your organisation against best practice.

    The updates to the AWS Well Architected Framework also included updates to the four existing pillars. Not only enhancing them them to cover operational aspects, such as security incident response but consolidating them, reducing duplications both within and across pillars.

    Nordcloud architects build and migrate systems to meet the AWS Best Practice Framework. We also provides Best Practice Audits to help you understand how your organisation is aligned to AWS Best Practices. As well as what transformation needs to happen to help you meet best practice. If you would like more information on our Best Practice Audits, we’d be happy to help.

    Find out more about the well-architected programme offered by Nordcloud here. 

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