AWS Summit London 2015

Yesterday, the development team returned to the London AWS Summit to enjoy a day of talks and sessions on exciting new AWS features.
But this time we were joined by over 3000 attendees, up a 1000 from last year!

The dev team.

The dev team (in low-light).

The summit followed the same format as last year, opening with a keynote given by Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon.com, and, again, sprinkled with customer stories throughout. There were no surprises here, really, except perhaps for Vogels who was wearing all black but for his Armin van Buuren t-shirt. What a raver.

AWS continues to grow and innovate at an impressive rate with now over a million active users worldwide, and adding 516 new features in 2014 compared with 280 in the previous year. There is no doubt that AWS continues to lead the way in providing and innovating in Cloud services.

"Cloud is just soooo normal"

“Cloud is just soooo normal”

After the keynote, we broke for lunch before jumping into the afternoon sessions.

As for the sessions, we were excited to hear about several of the newly announced services, including the EC2 Container Service (ECS), the Lambda service, and the Amazon Machine Learning service.

ECS provides a service for running Docker containers at scale. Containers, in simple terms, provide shippable lightweight virtualisation. The underlying technology of ECS is very exciting, in fact this is something we’ve been developing out ourselves, based on Docker, Apache Mesos, Marathon and Chronos. We are very interested to see how the service progresses.

Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly given Dockers meteoric rise to prominence, it appeared most of the summit attendees also wanted to attend the ECS session, and the room filled to the bream rather quickly. We actually struggled to get to the session building level due to a severe bottleneck at the escalators. It’s a shame the ExCel centre does not have the elastic scaling capabilities of AWS.

Instead we split and attended sessions on Virtual Private Clouds and the Lambda service.

VPC offer a service for logically isolating parts of your virtual network, in order to have complete control over the virtual network environments. This includes the creation of subnets, and control over routing tables and network gateways. VPC is not something that we use, but we’re looking into it, particularly since some EC2 instance types are only available in VPCs.

Lambda is another interesting service, allowing the execution of code in response to triggers/ events while managing the underlying compute resources. Lambda is an interesting bit of glue for AWS services, for example triggering some background process when new data arrives in an S3 bucket. According to a customer speaker, Lambda is used behind the BBC iPlayer.

We ended the day with two back-to-back sessions on the Elastic File System (EFS) and Amazon Machine Learning (AML) services.

EFS brings a fourth type of storage to the AWS storage suite: objects (S3); blocks (EBS); archiving (Glacier) and now networked file systems (EFS). It’s a managed service, of course, and can grow and shrink automatically. It looks to drastically simplify the process of using shared network file storage in applications. Not something that we use, but we definitely thinking about use-cases now.

Finally, we attended a session on the Amazon Machine Learning service. AML is Amazon’s foray into machine learning-as-a-service. We do some machine learning here at Sandtable, so we were interested to find out more, and catch a demo of the service!

AML is interesting because it is attempts to lower the barrier to entry for creating predictive apps (e.g. for making recommendations; or fraud detection) for developers, rather than for machine learning experts and data scientists. The service looks easy to use and, as expected, integrates well with AWS data sources: S3, Redshift, and RDS.

But we wonder whether it is too simple? Machine learning, like statistics, is remarkably easy to get wrong. This is the first release, of course; we’re keen to follow its progress.

Overall, another worthwhile day out. Thanks again to Amazon and all the sponsors!

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