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4 Takeaways from AWS re:Invent 2016

AWS re:Invent 2016: 4 Takeaways

Looking back on AWS re:Invent 2016, we have a great wrap up of the many announcements made during the show. Check out Alex’s great posts for all the details. Even if you weren’t able to be at the event, there are some simple takeaways for cloud students no matter where you are.

Now is the Time to Transform Yourself

As predicted, AWS has become the new normal, and Cloud skills are in short supply. AWS VP & Distinguished Engineer James Hamilton put this simple science to us during his presentation in the partner summit keynote. As the “super engineer” behind many AWS innovations, it was inspiring to hear James’ thinking. He talked about the industry shift that the cloud brings, the repeating cycles he has seen in the past, and how we now have another skill shortage as a result.  I think James was quite clear in pointing out that cloud experts are riding the crest of the wave right now. This is your time! James really brought home that there has never been a better time to be an AWS certified professional. Now is the time to kick off your certification journey! I recommend checking out James’s Tuesday Night Live presentation if you haven’t already.
AWS Certified professionals are hot property right now. Customers and partners recognize that working with certified experts is often the quickest, most effective way to benefit from the AWS platform. In addition to the career benefits of being certified, events like AWS re:Invent 2016 offer a great opportunity to learn (and you can collect loads of swag and recognition rewards). There couldn’t be a better time to get AWS certified, and the Cloud Academy team is committed to helping you get there!

AWS Experts are Made, not Born

For me, one of the highlights of AWS re:Invent 2016 was attending Mark Statham’s ARC320 – The Professional Services Architecting Best Practices Workshop. This was an event that I wasn’t going to miss. Limited to 48 certified architects for each 2 1/2 hour session, this was essentially an architecting master class led by some of the most experienced AWS professionals around.
The AWS Professional Services Team is an elite group of AWS ninjas tasked with helping partners and customers solve seemingly unsolvable issues. The AWS Professional Services team members have acquired a wealth of experience by helping customers solve real-world problems. While I was at AWS, it was a privilege to invite the AWS Professional Services Team in to help partners and customers, and I always learned something new.  
In the session, we were broken into small teams. Each team included a member of the AWS professional services team. We were given a complex business scenario to solve. It included an on-premise image processing app running on JBOSS and Oracle, volumes of stored image data, an on-premise key store, and an IDS/IPS, along with a number of other tricky design challenges. The key constraint was a 9-month end of life date for the on-premise environment. We had 90 minutes to come up with a baseline design, migration plan, and future state. No pressure…
Bringing five strangers together to problem solve was a great exercise. We broke out the network requirements from the application layer to look for quick wins/lift and shift migration that could be achieved with minimal impact to the business. Next, we had to solve some technical issues such as how to deal with curve balls such as multicast support, adding a new IDS/IPS service, authentication, and migrating the volumes of image data. Each team presented their solutions to the group, and we discussed design patterns and how each team created their solution.
As an AWS architect, the workshop was a great reminder to listen to the customer, stay open to ideas, and to stand up when you believe something to be right. I came away feeling inspired to create content that can help you build these skills and learn AWS best practices.

Embrace the Fear

The fear and trepidation of not knowing or being wrong is something we all experience from time to time. These emotions can hold us back when confronted with the new and unknown.
AWS Re:Invent 2016 was the fifth annual event. Underlying all of the amazing feature announcements this year is the hard fact that in just five short years, AWS has changed computing for good. The roles and tasks of IT management have changed. More importantly, this acceleration shows no sign of slowing down. AWS expects to release 1,000 new features in 2017; that’s double the number of new features they released in 2015.
If you think ahead two years at this velocity, it is quite possible that serverless will have become the new normal. In this “new normal”, it’s also likely that large numbers of organizations will have shifted from managing apps on Amazon EC2 to using a dynamic grid of Lambda services. Functions could be auto-deployed by AWS CodeBuild. Each matrix could be so closely monitored, and managed by AWS X-Ray that no human intervention would be required. AWS Trusted Advisor, X-ray, and Amazon Artificial Intelligence could monitor and optimize the cost of each function at a high level of granularity. This would guarantee optimal cost efficiency for the end customer. In short, it is likely that many traditional management operations will be automated and commoditized in the near future.
So, we need to park our fear of the unknown and seize the day! If you are starting from scratch with the Cloud, you’ll want to get started now. Otherwise, next year you will need to learn twice as much!
If you have already started your journey, I would recommend making certification a priority for the next three months. Certifications can help you develop and progress quickly.

It’s OK to Start Small

With AWS, learning will be an ongoing process. With 50+ services and counting, it’s tempting to feel overwhelmed before you even get started. But don’t give in. AWS is driven by customer needs, so it will only to continue to replace IT problems with easy solutions at a phenomenal pace. Just take small, frequent bites at learning more about the core AWS services and solutions. 
At Cloud Academy, we have developed our learning paths to help you focus your efforts and save time in the process.
If the whole Cloud idea is still something of a mystery to you, this is an excellent place to start. You can then follow the path, committing a small slice of time each week to learn something new. Consider it the high yield investment in your future portfolio.
If you feel you have a good grasp of Cloud Computing but are unsure of where to go next, Serverless computing is the area that you might want to explore. AWS Lambda now supports C#, which makes it available to a wider group of developers. The AWS serverless application model (SAM) is a robust framework that is helping drive maturity and adoption of serverless solutions. AWS Lambda can now be integrated with AWS CloudFormation. As a result, many of the integration challenges for deploying and linking functions together has been solved with AWS CodeBuild and AWS Step Functions.
AWS Step Functions allow you to coordinate components and tasks of distributed applications with a visual workflow. This simplifies managing serverless functions as the complexity of your application logic increases. The Step Functions service includes an editor that can map out relationships between your Lambda functions whether they are in parallel, branches, or sequences. If you like visual dev tools you will find AWS Step Functions a welcome addition.
In my opinion, the release of Dead Letter Queue Support for Lambda makes handling state, timeouts,  and exceptions easier. Previously, it wasn’t easy to send a notification with useful context when a function failed, and sending timed out tasks to a handler to be acted upon could be difficult.

Getting Started with Serverless

In his keynote at AWS re:Invent 2016, Werner Vogels highlighted the fact that the ecosystem of services around AWS compute makes it a good choice when getting into serverless applications. Getting Started with Serverless is a new Learning Path in our current pipeline that will help you grow your knowledge and build your confidence. (Stay tuned!)
In short, when it comes to cloud technologies, there is an amazing future ahead! Make sure you grab it with both hands.

Written by

Andrew is an AWS certified professional who is passionate about helping others learn how to use and gain benefit from AWS technologies. Andrew has worked for AWS and for AWS technology partners Ooyala and Adobe. His favorite Amazon leadership principle is "Customer Obsession" as everything AWS starts with the customer. Passions around work are cycling and surfing, and having a laugh about the lessons learnt trying to launch two daughters and a few start ups.

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