Expanding the AWS Cloud: Introducing the AWS US East (Ohio) Region

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Today I am very happy to announce the opening of the new US East (Ohio) Region. The Ohio Region is the fifth AWS region in the US. It brings the worldwide total of AWS Availability Zones (AZs) to 38, and the number of regions globally to 14. The pace of expansion at AWS is accelerating, and Ohio is our third region launch this year. In the remainder of 2016 and in 2017, we will launch another four AWS regions in Canada, China, the United Kingdom, and France, adding another nine AZs to our global infrastructure footprint.

We strive to place customer feedback first in our considerations for where to open new regions. The Ohio Region is no different. Now customers who have been requesting a second US East region have more infrastructure options for running workloads, storing files, running analytics, and managing databases. The Ohio Region launches with three AZs so that customers can create high-availability environments and architect for fault tolerance and scalability. As with all AWS AZs, the AZs in Ohio each have redundant power, networking, and connectivity, which are designed to be resilient to issues in another AZ.

We are also glad to offer low transfer rates between both US East Regions. Data transfer between the Ohio Region and the Northern Virginia Region is priced the same as data transfer between AZs within either of these regions. We hope this will be helpful for customers who want to implement backup or disaster recovery architectures and need to transfer large amounts of data between these regions. It will also be useful for developers who simply want to use services in both regions and move resources back and forth between them. The Ohio Region also has a broad set of services comparable to our Northern Virginia Region, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and AWS Marketplace. Check out the Regional Products and Services page for the full list.

We’ll continue to add new infrastructure to grow our footprint and make AWS as useful as possible for all of our customers around the world. You can learn more about our growing global infrastructure footprint at https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/global-infrastructure/.

Accelerating Data: Faster and More Scalable ElastiCache for Redis

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Fast Data is an emerging industry term for information that is arriving at high volume and incredible rates, faster than traditional databases can manage. Three years ago, as part of our AWS Fast Data journey we introduced Amazon ElastiCache for Redis, a fully managed in-memory data store that operates at sub-millisecond latency. Since then we’ve introduced Amazon Kinesis for real-time streaming data, AWS Lambda for serverless processing, Apache Spark analytics on EMR, and Amazon QuickSight for high performance Business Intelligence.

While caching continues to be a dominant use of ElastiCache for Redis, we see customers increasingly use it as an in-memory NoSQL database. Developers love the blazing fast performance and in-memory capabilities provided by Redis, making it among the most popular NoSQL key-value stores. However, until now ElastiCache for Redis customers could only run single-shard Redis. This limited the workload size and write throughput to that of a single VM, or required application level sharding. Today, as a next step in our Fast Data journey, we have extended the ElastiCache for Redis service to support “Redis Cluster,” the sharding capability of Redis. Customers can now scale a single deployment to include up to 15 shards, making each Redis-compatible data store up to 3.5 terabytes in size, that operate on microsecond time scales. We also do this at very high rates: up to 4.5 million writes per second and 20 million reads per second. Each shard can include up to five read replicas to ensure high availability so that both planned and unforeseen outages of the infrastructure do not cause application outages.

Building upon Redis

There are some great examples and use cases for Redis, which you can see at companies like Hudl, which offers mobile and desktop video analytics solutions to sports teams and athletes. Hudl is using ElastiCache for Redis to provide millions of coaches and sports analysts with near real-time data feeds that they need to help drive their teams to victory. Another example is Trimble, a global leader in location services who is using ElastiCache for Redis as their primary database for workforce location, helping customers like DirecTV get the right technician to the right location as quickly and inexpensively as possible, enabling both reduced costs and increased satisfaction for their own subscribers.

Increasingly, ElastiCache for Redis has become a mission critical in-memory database for our customers whose availability, durability, performance and scale matter to their business. We have therefore been enhancing the Redis engine running on ElastiCache for the last few years using our own expertise in making enterprise infrastructure scalable and reliable. Amazon’s enhancements address many day-to-day challenges with running Redis. By utilizing techniques such as granular memory management, dynamic I/O throttling and fine grained replica synchronization, ElastiCache for Redis delivers a more robust Redis experience. It enables customers to run their Redis nodes at higher memory utilization without risking swap usage during events such as snapshotting and replica synchronization. It also offers improved synchronization of replicas under load. In addition, ElastiCache for Redis provides smoother Redis failovers by combining our Multi-AZ automated failover with streamlined synchronization of read replicas. Replicas now recover faster as they no longer need to flush their data to do a full resynchronization with the primary. All these capabilities are available to customers at no additional charge, and maintain open-source Redis compatibility.

With this launch, we augmented the client-based failover logic of Redis 3.2 with ElastiCache for Redis Multi-AZ. If a customer is running a self-managed Redis environment on EC2 instead of using ElastiCache for Redis and the primary node fails, the cluster relies on a majority of primaries to determine and execute a failover. If such a majority doesn’t exist, the cluster will go into failed state, rejecting any further reads and writes. This could lead to a major availability impact on the application, requiring human intervention to manually salvage the cluster. This does not happen with ElastiCache for Redis. ElastiCache for Redis Multi-AZ capability is built to handle any failover case for Redis Cluster with robustness and efficiency. The combination of ElastiCache for Redis with the intelligent Redis 3 clients leads to maximum performance and availability of your Redis environment. The client keeps a map of Redis nodes, which is updated in case of failover. This allows for faster failover times while minimizing latency. Alternative solutions frequently use proxy layers to achieve failover and sharding, which slow down your application by requiring requests to do double the network hops.

Redis and Fast Data

Fast data can have a transformational impact on data-driven development that is underlying a lot of the interesting things happening in the Cloud today. This enables “here-and-now” real-time processing and dashboards as well as predictions that enable smart applications. As data sizes grow and expectations move from analytics on a daily basis to analytics on a real-time basis, the need to process data quickly increases. With the latest enhancement we have made to ElastiCache for Redis, we are excited to help these customers with a more robust, high performance, highly scalable in-memory database solution.

Many of our customers share my excitement:

Interactive Intelligence, Inc. is a software company providing unified business communications solutions for call centers, including real-time reporting and analytics. “We have been eagerly awaiting ElastiCache for Redis support for Redis Cluster, and are excited to take advantage of it for easy to setup redundancy, fast failure recovery, and ultra-high scalability” said Anthony Roach, Chief Architect. “We are heavy users of ElastiCache for Redis for both caching and fast data structure storage due to its ease of management and reliability, and the addition of Redis Cluster makes it even more compelling.”

Team Internet AG is an ad tech company with a focus on domain monetization and real-time bidding. “In the last years we have moved quite a significant workload over to ElastiCache for Redis for caching and ephemeral data,” said Markus Ostertag, Head of Development. “Now with the support for Redis Cluster, we’re very happy to be able to scale out much more easily, get higher performance and better reliability for our whole Redis infrastructure.”

This is a great time to be watching the rapid development of AWS Cloud capabilities for Fast Data management and I urge you to take a few minutes to take a look at the new ElastiCache for Redis and see how you might be able to use it for your own projects.

Introducing the Alexa Prize, It’s Day One for Voice

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In the past voice interfaces were seen as gimmicks, or a nuisance for driving “hands-free.” The Amazon Echo and Alexa have completely changed that perception. Voice is now seen as potentially the most important interface to interact with the digitally connected world. From home automation to commerce, from news organizations to government agencies, from financial services to healthcare, everyone is working on the best way is to interact with their services if voice is the interface. Especially for the exciting case where voice is the only interface.

Voice makes access to digital services far more inclusive than traditional screen-based interaction, for example, an aging population may be much more comfortable interacting with voice-based systems than through tablets or keyboards.

Alexa has propelled the conversational interface forward given how natural the interactions are with Alexa-enabled devices. However, it is still Day One, and a lot of innovation is underway in this world. Given the tremendous impact of voice on how we interact with the digital world, it influences how we will build products and services that can support conversations in ways that we have never done before. As such there is also a strong need for fundamental research on these interactions, best described as “Conversational Artificial Intelligence.”

Today, we are pleased to announce the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to accelerate advancements in conversational AI. With this challenge, we aim to advance several areas of conversational AI including knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning and dialog planning. The goal is that through the innovative work of students, Alexa users will experience novel, engaging conversational experiences.  

Teams of university students around the world are invited to participate in a conversational AI challenge (see contest rules for details). The challenge is to create a socialbot, an Alexa skill that converses with users on popular topics. Social conversation can occur naturally on any topic, and teams will need to create an engaging experience while maintaining relevance and coherence throughout the interaction. For the grand challenge we ask teams to invent a socialbot smart enough to engage in a fun, high quality conversation on popular societal topics for 20 minutes.

As part of the research and judging process, millions of Alexa customers will have the opportunity to converse with the socialbots on popular topics by saying, “Alexa, let’s chat about (a topic, for example, baseball playoffs, celebrity gossip, scientific breakthroughs, etc.).” Following the conversation, Alexa users will give feedback on the experience to provide valuable input to the students for improving their socialbots. The feedback from Alexa users will also be used to help select the best socialbots to advance to the final, live judging phase.

The team with the highest-performing socialbot will win a $500,000 prize. Additionally, a prize of $1 million will be awarded to the winning team’s university if their socialbot achieves the grand challenge of conversing coherently and engagingly with humans for 20 minutes.

Teams of university students can submit applications now and the contest will conclude at AWS re:Invent in November 2017, where the winners will be announced. Up to ten teams will be sponsored by Amazon and receive a $100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services and support from the Alexa team.

Participating teams will receive special access to new Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) APIs to build their skills. Registration opened today and teams have until October 28, 2016 to submit their applications. The competition will officially start on November 14, 2016 and run until November 2017, concluding with an award ceremony to be held at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, NV.

For more information, check out the Alexa Prize page. And remember: it is still Day One!

Allez, rendez-vous à Paris – An AWS Region is coming to France!

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Today, I am very excited to announce our plans to open a new AWS Region in France! Based in the Paris area, the region will provide even lower latency and will allow users who want to store their content in datacenters in France to easily do so. The new region in France will be ready for customers to use in 2017.

Over the past 10 years, we have seen tremendous growth at AWS. As a result, we have opened 35 Availability Zones (AZs), across 13 AWS Regions worldwide. We have announced several additional regions in Canada, China, Ohio, and the United Kingdom – all expected in the coming months. We don’t plan to slow down or stop there. We are actively working to open new regions in the locations our customers need them most.

French organizations were amongst the first to use AWS when we launched in 2006. Since we opened the first AWS EU Region in Ireland in November 2007, we have seen an acceleration of companies adopting the AWS Cloud. To support our customers’ growth, their digital transformation, and to speed up their innovation and lower the cost of running their IT, we continue to build out additional European infrastructure. Our CDN and DNS network now has 18 points of presence across Europe, we have added a third AZ in Ireland, a second infrastructure region in Frankfurt and a third region in the UK (due in coming months). After the launch of the French region there will be 10 Availability Zones in Europe.

We have also expanded our presence in France over the last ten years. We have launched three points of presence, with two in Paris and one in Marseille, and also opened offices in the country, employing account managers, solutions architects, trainers, Business Development and Professional Services teams, as well as other job functions. Our teams are helping companies of all sizes, operating in various industries, such as finance, business, media, and many others, move to the cloud. As a result, more than 80 percent of companies listed on the CAC 40, the French stock market index, are now using AWS Cloud technology to speed their time-to-market, lower their costs, and support their businesses globally.

Within the thousands of businesses using AWS in France, we count enterprises such as Schneider Electric, Lafarge and Dassault Systemes as customers as well as CAC40, multinational bank, Societe Generale Group. When we first talked to Societe Generale Group about opening the AWS region, Carlos Goncalves, Head of Global Technology Services, said, "We are delighted to learn that Amazon Web Services will open a region in France. Using the AWS Cloud, and the extended services offered by the platform, is an opportunity for us to accelerate our transformation and focus on how we can better serve our clients.”

Another CAC40 company using the cloud to support its digital transformation is Veolia Water France, a subsidiary of Veolia, specialized in the distribution and the treatment of water. In the past we have had Benito Diz, ‎CIO Veolia Water France speak at our events where he has talked about how they have been able to achieve important cost reductions while improving security and agility by moving to AWS. He has said, “By moving a large part of our IT system from our old IBM mainframe to AWS, we have adopted a cloud first strategy, boosting our power of innovation. By launching a new platform to analyze the Terabytes of data collected by the sensors located in our thousands of water meter or water vats we are creating an Internet of Things (IoT) system that helps us to reduce the maintenance intervention time, anticipate the refills and have in real time the information on the key indicators (temperature, water purity, pH level ...). We couldn’t have launched this industrial IoT project without the AWS flexibility.”

In other sectors, government organizations, as well as French charities such as Les Restos du Coeur, are also adopting the AWS Cloud to innovate and better serve the citizens of France. We are also seeing a vibrant start-up community growing in the country thanks to the cloud. This is producing some very innovative and disruptive companies using AWS to launch, rapidly scale their businesses and go global, such as Aldebaran Robotics, Captain Dash, Payplug, and Leboncoin. Another of these exciting start-ups is Teads which runs video advertising for publishers and advertisers. What makes Teads interesting is the rapid growth they have been able to achieve. In four years of existence they have been able to expand their business to touch over 1.3 billion users across the web. When we informed him of the new region, Loïc Jaurès, Teads CTO told us “Without AWS we would have had to focus our time and efforts on the infrastructure instead of growing and innovating in our core business. By offloading the running of the infrastructure to AWS, today we have customers all over the US, in Asia and also in Europe. A new region will help us to better serve our French customers which have high expectations in term of content delivery such as Le Monde, Condé Nast, Les Echos, and more.”

The new European region, coupled with the existing AWS Regions in Dublin and Frankfurt, and a future one in London, will provide customers with quick, low-latency access to websites, mobile applications, games, SaaS applications, Big Data analysis, Internet of Things applications, and more.

Continue reading...

A Hungry Neighbor is an Angry Neighbor

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I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet with President Shimon Peres several times. Especially the first time, which was a 1:1 in his presidential residence, was an unforgettable experience. After I explained in 5 minutes the power of cloud for unlocking digital business building for everyone, he went on a lecture of half an hour how bringing economic prosperity to the region was crucial to achieving a long lasting peace. "A hungry neighbor is an angry neighbor".

He strongly believed peace in the Middle East was attainable, and I have no reason to doubt him. If it will happen one day it will be because of believers like him.

RIP Mr. President.

New Ways to Discover and Use Alexa Skills

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Introducing New Features That Make It Easier for Customers to Discover and Use Your Alexa Skills

Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, powers voice experiences on millions of devices, including Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV devices, and devices like Triby that use the Alexa Voice Service. One year ago, Amazon opened up Alexa to developers, enabling you to build Alexa skills with the Alexa Skills Kit and integrate Alexa into your own products with the Alexa Voice Service. Today, tens of thousands of developers are building skills for Alexa, and there are over 1,400 skills for Alexa – including Lyft and Honeywell, which were added today.

A New Experience for Discovering Skills

Today, we announced new ways for customers to discover and use the Alexa skills that developers have built, including a new voice-enablement feature and a completely redesigned Alexa app. Customers can now quickly search, discover and use skills. Starting today, customers can browse Alexa skills by categories such as “Smart Home” and “Lifestyle” in the Alexa app, apply additional search filters, and access their previously enabled skills via the “Your Skills” section.

Also available today, Alexa customers can use their voice to enable your skills: simply say “Alexa, enable NBC News” or “Alexa, enable 7 Minute Workout” and access them instantly. Customers can also find your skills with Amazon’s Skill Finder. To use Skill Finder, simply enable it via voice or in the Alexa app and say "Alexa, ask Skill Finder for the top skills."

One-Year Anniversary: ASK, AVS and The Alexa Fund

In addition to the new Alexa skill features, June 25th marked the one-year anniversary of our developer services. Last June, we introduced the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), and the Alexa Fund to help enable anyone to build the experience they wanted for Alexa. Some fun facts about the Alexa Skills Kit, Alexa Voice Service, and Alexa Fund include:

  • There are now over 1,400 Alexa skills and the catalog has grown by 50% in just over one month

  • Customers have made over 3 million requests using the top 10 most popular Alexa skills

  • Since January 2016, selection of Alexa smart home API skills has grown by more than 5x

  • There are now over 10,000 registered developers using the Alexa Voice Service to integrate Alexa into their products

  • There are tens of thousands of developers currently working on Alexa projects

  • The Alexa Fund has invested in 16 startups, with a focus on smart home and wearable products to date. Over the next year, The Alexa Fund will be expanding investments into startups that focus on robotics, developer tools, healthcare, accessibility and more

  • Some of the most popular Alexa skills are Jeopardy!, Daily Affirmation, Magic 8 Ball, Fitbit, and The Bartender

Build a Skill Today - Special Offers

Our skill templates and step-by-step guides are a valuable way to quickly learn the end-to-end process for building and publishing an Alexa skill. You can get started quickly using the flash cards skill template, fact skill template, trivia skill template, or how to skill template. Plus, if you publish a skill, you’ll receive an Alexa dev t-shirt. Quantities are limited. See Terms and Conditions

Additional Resources

For more information on getting started with devloping for Alexa, check out the following resources:

Alexa Developer Platform

Voice Design Education

In June 2015, Amazon Web Services announced that it would launch a new AWS infrastructure region in India. Today, I’m happy to announce that the Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region is generally available for use by customers worldwide.

The opportunity to revolutionize

A region in India has been highly sought after by companies around the world who want to participate in one of the most significant economic opportunities in the world – India, a rising economy that holds tremendous promise for growth, a thriving technology hub with a rich eco-system of technology talent, and more.

Rapid economic growth in India is creating several business opportunities such as distributed ledger technology with blockchains that could drive efficiencies in the real estate market, Fin-Tech innovations such as P2P mobile apps that have the power to change the social economic lives of people through financial inclusion, applying the sharing economy from cabs to other modes of transportation such as two-wheelers and tractors, telemedicine in the remote reaches of the nation with smartphone apps, or enabling the agricultural sector with on-demand diagnostics to improve farm yield, to name just a few.

The platform to revolutionize

Market innovators and change agents need a comprehensive infrastructure platform that can reliably scale on-demand. Here are the benefits of a comprehensive platform, with customer examples:

  • A connected platform to sense the business environment

Examples of continuous sensing are found in the managed cloud platform built by Rachio on AWS IoT to enable the secure interaction of its connected devices with cloud applications/other devices. In addition, Change Healthcare (previously known as Emdeon) uses Amazon SNS to handle millions of confidential client transactions daily to process claims and pharmacy requests serving over 340K physicians and 60K pharmacies in full compliance with healthcare industry regulations.  

  • Seamless ingestion of large volumes of sensed data

AdiMap uses Amazon Kinesis to process real-time streaming online ad data and job feeds, and processes them for storage in petabyte-scale Amazon Redshift warehouses to glean business insights for jobs, ad spend, or financials for mobile apps.

  • Advanced problem solving that connects big data with machine learning

BuildFax illustrates a practical use case using Amazon Machine Learning to provide roof-age and job-cost estimations for insurers and builders, with property-specific values that don’t need to rely on broad, zip code-level estimates.

  • At-scale computing and visual analysis

DNAnexus deploys its customers’ genomic pipelines on Amazon EC2 for highly complex and sensitive DNA research activities. On a more playful note, for those that are inclined to look at our serverless compute architecture, I would love to reacquaint you with Dubsmash’s innovative use of AWS Lambda.

  • A workflow engine to drive business decisions

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) used Amazon SWF as an integral part of several missions, including the MER and Carbon in the Arctic Reservoir Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE). NASA/JPL engineers used Amazon SWF and integrated the service with the Polyphony pipelines responsible for data processing of Mars images for tactical operations; expressing it with SWF requires a few simple lines of Java code together with AWS Flow Framework annotations.

Let’s build groundbreaking innovations together

I hope these short sketches illustrate our optimism in what the future holds. We sincerely believe that such capabilities permit creative expressions for unique solutions that are not only affordable but also scale reliably in order to drive meaningful benefits to the end-user or drive efficiency into business operations. For more details, see the case studies at All AWS Customer Stories.

We are excited to offer a complete portfolio of services from our foundational service stack for compute, storage, and networking to our more advanced solutions and applications. We look forward to broaden this portfolio to include additional services over the next several quarters. For more information about the services we offer in our Mumbai region, see the Region Table.

We believe in the Indian market and are investing for the long term. With the Mumbai Region, we look to better serve end-users in India. We believe that with the launch of the Mumbai Region, AWS will enable many more enterprise customers and startups in India to not just reduce the cost of their IT operations but embark on transformational innovations rapidly in critical new areas such as big data analysis, Internet of Things, and more.

We are at the cusp of a dramatic age of technology. Our Mumbai Region is enterprise grade and is open for business now. We want you to start using it today. You can learn more about our growing footprint at AWS Global Infrastructure.

Serverless Reference Architectures with AWS Lambda

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Building your applications with only managed components has become very popular, and AWS Lambda plays a crucial role in that. I see a tremendous interest in examples how to build such applications, and articles such as "The Serverless Start-Up - Down With Servers!" about teletext.io are read eagerly around the globe.

If you are looking for more examples there are the Lambda Serverless Reference Architectures that can serve as the blueprint for building your own serverless applications.

Mobile Backend Serverless Reference Architecture

The Mobile Backend reference architecture demonstrates how to use AWS Lambda along with other services to build a serverless backend for a mobile application. The specific example application provided in this repository enables users to upload photos and notes using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon API Gateway respectively. The notes are stored in Amazon DynamoDB, and are processed asynchronously using DynamoDB streams and a Lambda function to add them to an Amazon CloudSearch domain. In addition to the source code for the Lambda functions, this repository also contains a prototype iOS application that provides examples for how to use the AWS Mobile SDK for iOS to interface with the backend resources defined in the architecture.

Real-time File Processing Serverless Reference Architecture

The Real-time File Processing reference architecture is a general-purpose, event-driven, parallel data processing architecture that uses AWS Lambda. This architecture is ideal for workloads that need more than one data derivative of an object. This simple architecture is described in the "Fanout S3 Event Notifications to Multiple Endpoints" blog post on the AWS Compute Blog. This sample application demonstrates a Markdown conversion application where Lambda is used to convert Markdown files to HTML and plain text.

Web Applications Serverless Reference Architecture

By combining AWS Lambda with other AWS services, developers can build powerful web applications that automatically scale up and down and run in a highly available configuration across multiple data centers—with zero administrative effort required for scalability, backups, or multi–data center redundancy.

This example looks at using AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway to build a dynamic voting application, which receives votes via SMS, aggregates the totals into Amazon DynamoDB, and uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)to display the results in real time.

The architecture can be created with an AWS CloudFormation template.

The template does the following:

  • Creates an S3 bucket named to hold your web app.
  • Creates a DynamoDB table named VoteApp to store votes
  • Creates a DynamoDB table named VoteAppAggregates to aggregate vote totals
  • Creates a Lambda function that allows your application to receive votes
  • Creates a Lambda function that allows your application to aggregate votes
  • Creates an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role and policy to allow Lambda functions to write to Amazon CloudWatch Logs and write and query the DynamoDB tables

IoT Backend Serverless Reference Architecture

The Internet of Things (IoT) Backend reference architecture demonstrates how to use AWS Lambda in conjunction with Amazon Kinesis, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon CloudWatch to build a serverless system for ingesting and processing sensor data. By leveraging these services, you can build cost-efficient applications that can meet the massive scale required for processing the data generated by huge deployments of connected devices.

This repository contains sample code for all the Lambda functions depicted in this diagram as well as a AWS CloudFormation template for creating the functions and related resources. There is also a simple webpage that you can run locally to publish sample events and query the data from DynamodDB.

Real-time Stream Processing Serverless Reference Architecture

You can use AWS Lambda and Amazon Kinesis to process real-time streaming data for application activity tracking, transaction order processing, click stream analysis, data cleansing, metrics generation, log filtering, indexing, social media analysis, and IoT device data telemetry and metering. The architecture can be created with an AWS CloudFormation template.

The template does the following:

  • Creates a Kinesis Stream
  • Creates a DynamoDB table named stackname-EventData
  • Creates Lambda Function 1 (stackname-DDBEventProcessor) which receives records from Kinesis and writes records to the DynamoDB table
  • Creates an IAM Role and Policy to allow the event processing Lambda function read from the Kinesis Stream and write to the DynamoDB table
  • Creates an IAM user with permission to put events in the Kinesis stream together with credentials for the user to use in an API client

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Amazon Web Services

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The epoch of AWS is the launch of Amazon S3 on March 14, 2006, now almost 10 years ago. Looking back over the past 10 years, there are hundreds of lessons that we’ve learned about building and operating services that need to be secure, reliable, scalable, with predictable performance at the lowest possible cost. Given that AWS is a pioneer in building and operating these services world-wide, these lessons have been of crucial importance to our business. As we’ve said many times before, “There is no compression algorithm for experience.” With over a million active customers per month, who in turn may serve hundreds of millions of their own customers, there is no lack of opportunities to gain more experience and perhaps no better environment for continuous improvement in the way we serve our customers.

I have picked a few of these lessons to share with you in the hope that they may be of use for you as well.

1. Build evolvable systems

Almost from day one, we knew that the software we were building would not be the software that would be running a year later. The expectation was that with each order or two of magnitude, we would need to revisit and revise the architecture to make sure we could address the issues of scale.

But we couldn’t adopt the old style approach of upgrading systems through a maintenance outage, as many businesses around the world are relying on our platform for 24/7 availability. We needed to build such an architecture that we could introduce new software components without taking the service down. Marvin Theimer, Amazon Distinguished Engineer, once jokingly said that the evolution of Amazon S3 could best be described as starting off as a single engine Cessna plane, but over time the plane was upgraded to a 737, then a group of 747s, all the way to the large fleet of Airbus 380s that it is now. All the while, we were refueling in midair and moving customers from plane to plane without them even realizing it.

2. Expect the unexpected

Failures are a given and everything will eventually fail over time: from routers to hard disks, from operating systems to memory units corrupting TCP packets, from transient errors to permanent failures. This is a given, whether you are using the highest quality hardware or lowest cost components.

This becomes an even more important lesson at scale: for example, as S3 processes trillions and trillions of storage transactions, anything that has even the slightest probability of error will become realistic. Many of those failure scenarios can be anticipated beforehand, but many more are unknown at design and build time.

We needed to build systems that embrace failure as a natural occurrence even if we did not know what the failure might be. Systems need to keep running even if the “house is on fire.” It is important to be able to manage pieces that are impacted without the need to take the overall system down. We’ve developed the fundamental skill of managing the “blast radius” of a failure occurrence such that the overall health of the system can be maintained.

3. Primitives not frameworks

Pretty quickly, we started to realize that the way customers would like to use our services was a work in progress. When customers left the constraining, old world of IT hardware and datacenters behind, they started to develop systems with new and interesting usage patterns that no one had ever seen before. As such, we needed to be ultra-agile to make sure we were catering to our customers’ needs.

One of the most important mechanisms we provided was to offer customers a collection of primitives and tools, where they could pick and choose their preferred way to engage with the AWS cloud, instead of only providing one framework that they are forced to use, which includes everything and the kitchen sink. This approach has enabled our customers to become so successful, that even later generations of AWS services make use of exactly the same primitive services our customers have become accustomed to.

It is also important to realize that it is hard to predict what certain priorities are for your customers until they have the service in their hands and actually start building with it. This is why we deliver new services often with a minimal feature set and allow our customers to help drive the roadmap for extending the service with new features.

4. Automation is key

Developing software services that need to be operated is radically different from building software that needs to be shipped to customers. Managing systems at scale requires a very different mindset to ensure that we meet the reliability, performance, and scalability expectations of our customers.

A key mechanism to achieve this is to automate the management as much as possible, removing error prone, manual operations. To do this, we needed to build management APIs that control the key functionality of our operations. AWS helps its customers do this too. By decomposing your applications into essential building blocks, each with a management API, you can apply automation rules to maintain reliable and predictable performance at scale. A good litmus test has been that if you need to SSH into a server or an instance, you still have more to automate.

5. APIs are forever

This was a lesson we had already learned from our experiences with Amazon retail, but it became even more important for AWS’s API-centric business. Once customers started building their applications and systems using our APIs, changing those APIs becomes impossible, as we would be impacting our customer’s business operations if we would do so. We knew that designing APIs was a very important task as we’d only have one chance to get it right.

6. Know your resource usage

When building a financial model for a service to identify the appropriate charging model, be sure to have good data about the cost of the service and its operations, especially for running a high volume – low margin business. AWS needed to be very conscious as a service provider about our costs so that we could afford to offer our services to customers and identify areas where we could drive operational efficiencies to cut costs further, and then offer those savings back to our customers in the form of lower prices.

An example in the early days where we did not know the resources required to serve certain usage patterns was with S3: We had assumed that the storage and bandwidth were the resources we should charge for; after running for a while, we realized that the number of requests was an equally important resource. If customers have many tiny files, then storage and bandwidth don’t amount to much even if they are making millions of requests. We had to adjust our model to account for the all the dimensions of resource usage so that AWS could be a sustainable business.

7. Build security in from the ground up

Protecting your customers should always be your number one priority, and it certainly has been for AWS… from both an operational perspective as well as tools and mechanisms; it will forever be our number one investment area.

One approach that we learned quickly is that to build secure services, it is necessary to integrate security at the very beginning of service design. The security team is not a group that does validation after something has been built. They must be partners on day one to make sure that security is fundamentally rock solid from the ground up. There is no compromise when it comes to security.

8. Encryption is a first-class citizen

Encryption is a key mechanism for customers to ensure that they are in full control over who has access to their data. Ten years ago, tools and services for encryption were hard to use and it wasn’t until a few years into our operations that we learned how to best integrate encryption into our services.

It started by providing server-side encryption in S3 for compliance use cases. If you would inspect any disks in our datacenters, none of the data would be accessible. But with the launch of Amazon CloudHSM (for hardware security models) and later Amazon Key Management Service, customers could use their own keys for encryption, which removed the need for AWS to manage their keys.

For some time now, support for encryption has been integrated at the design phase of each new service. For example, in Amazon Redshift, each of the data blocks is encrypted by default with a random key and the collection of these random keys is again encrypted with a master key. The master key can be provided by customers, ensuring that they are the only ones who can decrypt and have access to their critical business data or personal identifiable information.

Encryption continues to be a high priority for our business. We will continue to make it even easier for our customers to make use of encryption so they can better protect themselves and their customers.

9. The importance of the network

AWS has come to support many different workloads; from high-volume transaction processing to video transcoding at scale, from high-performance parallel computing to massive web site traffic. Each of those workloads have unique requirements when it comes to the network.

AWS has developed a unique skill to innovate datacenter layout and operations, such that we can have flexible network infrastructure that can be adapted to meet the needs of our customers’ workloads, whatever they may be. We have learned over time that we should not be afraid to develop our own hardware solutions to ensure our customers can achieve their goals. This enables us to meet our very specific requirements, such as the ability to isolate AWS customers from each other on the network to achieve the highest levels of security.

Another successful example of how AWS-designed networking hardware and software enabled us to further improve performance for our customers was in addressing the virtualization tax on network access from virtual machines. Because network access is a shared resource, customers previously could experience significant jitter on the network at times. Developing a NIC that supported single root IO virtualization allowed us to give each VM its own hardware virtualized NIC. This lowered latency more than 2x and delivered more than 10x improvement in latency variability on the network.

10. No gatekeepers

The AWS team has delivered many services and features over time to create a very broad and deep platform for our customers. But AWS is so much more than the services that we built in-house: a very rich ecosystem exists of services delivered by our partners that extends the platform into many new directions.

For example, we have partners like Stripe offering payment services to Twilio making telephony programmable on AWS. Many of our customers are also building platforms themselves on top of AWS to serve specific vertical needs: Philips is building their Healthsuite Digital Platform for managing healthcare data, Ohpen has built a platform for retail banking on AWS, Eagle Genomics has built a genomics processing platform, and many more. What’s essential is that there are no gatekeepers on the AWS platform that tell our partners what they can and cannot do. “No gatekeepers” liberates the innovative processes and opens the door for many unexpected inventions, which are sure to follow.

I am looking forward to seeing what we learn – and AWS customers accomplish – over the next 10 years. And remember, it is still Day One ...

In November, Amazon Web Services announced that it would launch a new AWS infrastructure region in South Korea. Today, I’m happy to announce that the Asia Pacific (Seoul) Region is now generally available for use by customers worldwide.

A region in South Korea has been highly requested by companies around the world who want to take full advantage of Korea’s world-leading Internet connectivity and provide their customers with quick, low-latency access to websites, mobile applications, games, SaaS applications, and more. We’ve also been hearing many requests from Korean companies, including large enterprises like Samsung and Mirae Asset. For example, Samsung Electronic Printing used AWS to deploy its Printing Apps Center in a way that didn’t require them to invest up-front capital and kept total costs quite low. Mirae Asset Global Investments improved its web service environment and reduced annual management costs by 50% by consolidating the management of all web services, including servers, network, database, and security. We believe that with the launch of the Seoul Region, AWS will enable many more enterprise customers in Korea to reduce the cost of their IT operations and innovate faster in critical new areas such as big data analysis, Internet of Things, and more.

Many of these enterprises are assisted by our extensive partner ecosystem in Korea. The rapidly expanding AWS Partner Network (APN) in Korea includes independent software vendors (ISVs) and systems integrators (SIs) who are building innovative solutions and services around the AWS cloud. ISV partners such as Ahnlab, IGAWorks, Hancom, TMAXSoft, and Dreamline are providing a variety of software, security, and connectivity solutions that can be used in conjunction with AWS. SIs such as Vsystems, Bespin Global, Megazone, and GS Neotek are helping enterprises to migrate to AWS, deploy mission-critical applications on AWS, or are providing a full range of monitoring, automation, and management services for customers’ AWS environments. More details on these partners and solutions can be found at https://aws.amazon.com/partners/.

The Seoul Region also gives Korean gaming companies the freedom to successfully enable global services. For example, Nexon is Korea’s premier game company, operating 150 games in 150 countries, including major PC games such as FIFA Online 3, MapleStory 2, and Sudden Attack. Nexon uses AWS global infrastructure to manage its IT infrastructure more effectively, and they are now using AWS for their domestic workloads as well. With the Seoul Region now available, Nexon plans to use AWS not just for mobile games but also for latency-sensitive PC online games. All of the top 10 gaming companies in Korea use AWS, and we look forward to continuing to support their global growth and continued success.

Finally, the Seoul Region brings the benefits of the cloud much closer to home for Korean startups. In 2015, we expanded the AWS Activate program in Korea to provide startups with the resources needed to get started on AWS, such as access to guidance and 1:1 time with AWS experts as well as web-based training, self-paced labs, customer support, third-party offers, and AWS promotional credits. Through local partnerships with leading venture capitalists (VCs), accelerators, and incubators such as SparkLabs, Primer, Mashup Angels, BonAngels, TheVentures, and Futureplay, 250+ startups in Korea participated in the AWS Activate program this year, and we are excited to see what they are able to achieve with an AWS region in Korea.

You can learn more about our growing global infrastructure footprint at http://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/globalinfrastructure.