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AWS re:Invent Daily Recap – Wednesday

AWS re:Invent 2016 day 2 is in the books. Attendees took part in AWS and Partner-led technical sessions, bootcamps, and GameDay and had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of Consulting and Technology Partners at reinvent:Central (the Partner & Solutions Expo).

Summit Keynote
Things started off with the re:Invent Keynote by AWS CEO Andy Jassy, and per the usual, he did not disappoint. We learned about the Four Superpowers that AWS gives organizations… Supersonic Speed, X-Ray Vision, Immortality, and Flight. and we heard success stories around this from several major corporations.  Speakers from GE, Motorola, Workday, FINRA and McDonalds joined the Keynote and told their success stories as they relate to AWS and these Four Superpowers.  We also heard from Patrick Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, and Jassy about the new partnership between AWS and VMware.  They discussed the alliance and the strategic and technical benefits that it will provide their customers.  Gelsinger notably quipped: “Your CIOs capital budget for DR should be zero.  DR should entirely be in the cloud.”

New Announcements
The Summit Keynote showcased a number of new and expanded services to the AWS lineup:

  • New C5 EC2 Instance Family:  Next Generation Compute Optimized Instances with Intel Skylake processors
  • New I3 EC2 Instance Family:  Next Generation I/O Intensive Instances
  • New R4 EC2 Instance Family:  Next Generation Memory Optimized Instances
  • New F1 EC2 Instance Family:  Compute instances with a Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs)
  • Updates to the T2 EC2 Instance Family:  Low-Cost Instances with Burstable Performance
    • xlarge with 16GiB (2x more) memory and 2 vCPU
    • 2xlarge with 32GiB Memory (4x more) and 2vCPU
  • Addition of Elastic GPUs to all EC2 instance types
  • PostgreSQL support for RDS Aurora
  • Amazon Athena:  Provides serverless interactive queries for data stored in S3 using Standard SQL
  • Amazon Rekognition:  Image recognition service that enables applications to easily recognize, search, and understand image details
  • Amazon Polly:  Text to speech service with 47 voices and 27 languages
  • Amazon LEX:  Natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition service (It’s what’s inside Alexa.)

Jassy unveiled the four new EC2 instance families – three of which are the la iterations on previous generations – listed above as well as the expansion of the T2 line. and types. The completely new EC2 instance family was the F1 class.  F1 instances offer programmable hardware via an FPGA which allows for writing custom code that executes directly on the FPGA speeding up the processing time for discrete tasks. We also learned that AWS is adding Elastic GPUs as an option (handled much like an EBS volume) that will be available to attach to any EC2 instance to boost graphics processing performance.

Amazon Athena was announced today and should be a welcomed addition for anyone looking to turn their S3 data into a data-warehouse/lake instantaneously without incurring the costs associated with a Redshift cluster, infrastructure, or other data-warehousing platform.  Athena provides serverless interactive queries for data stored in S3 using Standard SQL.  This is a truly awesome new service for building a data-warehouse inexpensively.

Perhaps one of the biggest announcements of the day came as it was announced that AWS will be releasing PostgreSQL support for Aurora.  This will definitely help Aurora continue to reshape the face of how enterprise class databases are deployed in the cloud.  Speaking of Aurora reshaping database deployment in the cloud, Jassy mentioned that since its launch Aurora is the fasting-growing service AWS has ever released with 14k+ migrations to date.

The launch of the Amazon AI platform was another major announcement made yesterday.  Leveraging the IP and tooling they have developed internally, AWS will be releasing three new services under this new AI platform aimed at providing AI services to the masses.  The first is Amazon Rekognition and provides an image detection and recognition engine.  The next is Amazon Polly, which provides a text-to-speech engine (in 47 languages with 24 voices).  The last is Amazon LEX, which is a natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition engine, which operates at the core of the Amazon Alexa platform.  This is just another great example of Amazon providing internal tools and services they have developed and bringing them to a global marketplace due to customer demand.

Some of these new features are in “preview” or “developer” access mode and haven’t been released for general availability yet. You can find more information about all of these services and more, on the AWS APN blog: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/apn/. For a really great detailed breakdown of the Keynote check out our blog post from yesterday: http://2ndwatch.com/blog/8-things-we-learned-from-andy-jassys-2016-reinvent-keynote/

There was a flurry of activity on the re:Invent Central expo floor, and traffic to the 2nd Watch booth was no exception.  New customers were met, partnerships were discussed and all kinds of cloud expertise was disseminated to the masses.

Sessions and Events
The Agenda was chock-full of interesting and useful events, session, and demos in addition to the Keynote Address.  Events like the Alexa Skill Con, Certification Lounge provided an all-day option for honing skills and gaining AWS certification.  Some, like the live demo “Creating an AWS Data Lake on S3,” highlighted the newly-announced AWS services and features.  There were also several physical fun activities over at The Park, like Hangry Humans, Mini golf, Mechanical Bull Riding and a Batting cage for attendees to get outside for some fresh air and remain active.

After hours kicked off with the re:Invent 2016 Pub Crawl featuring a number of great restaurants and pubs. The night was finished off with a bang at the annual 2nd Watch re:Invent After Party.

Come see us today at Booth #825 for your free limited edition t-shirt and a chance to win a Segway!

-Ryan Kennedy, Principal Cloud Automation Architect

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8 things We Learned From Andy Jassy’s 2016 re:Invent Keynote

What a difference a year can make at AWS.  In Andy Jassy’s AWS re:Invent 2015 Keynote address, which lasted just shy of 2 hours, he gave us some pretty stunning financial growth statistics and detailed the seven freedoms AWS provides its customers including; the freedom to build unfettered, to get the real value from your data, to get data into or out of the cloud easily, freedom from bad database relationships, freedom to migrate, freedom to secure your cake and eat it to, and freedom to say yes.

This year, in a presentation that lasted almost two and a half hours, Andy updated us on key corporate and re:Invent statistics, discussed the “4 Superpowers” AWS endows upon their customers and, along the way, introduced many significant new products and features that are sure to change the game moving forward. Here are the key things you can take away from this presentation:

  1. AWS continues its exponential growth and commitment to its customers

The participant headcount at re:Invent this year increased to over 32,000 (up from 19,000 in 2015), Live Stream viewership increased from 38,000 in 2015 to over 50,000 and breakout session increased from 248 to over 400 this year.  In that same time AWS has grown its business from a mere $7B run rate to over $13B and is by far the fas growing large scale technology company in the world. According to Gartner, AWS has several times the compute capacity of the next 14 cloud providers combined.  With their continued investment in new features and technologies it is safe to say this lead will remain well into the future.

  1. IT Professionals Need Even More Compute Options

Agility and speed are two of the main drivers compelling companies to move to the cloud (along with cost savings of course). AWS provides the most comprehensive line of products and deep functionality which enables companies to leverage the cloud to quickly adopt the cloud and speed new products and services to market.  Andy emphasized AWS core strategy of having more than one data center in each region to provide customers the resiliency they require and that they continue to launch new products and add new features to existing products in order to make the cloud even more valuable.

AWS has more compute products than anyone else in the market but that is not stopping them from expanding their offering.  Today AWS announced the following four new EC2 instance families:

  • T2 Family: Low-Cost Instances with Burstable Performance
    • xlarge with 16GiB (2x more) memory and 2 vCPU
    • 2xlarge with 32GiB Memory (4x more) and 2vCPU
  • New R4 Family: Next Generation Memory Optimized Instances
    • 88GiB memory (2x more) DDR4 (2x faster) L3 cache (1.8x larger) and 64 vCPUs (2x more)
  • New I3 Family: Next Generation I/O Intensive Instances
    • 3 million IOPs (9x more) 4.88GiB (2x more) 15 2TB MVMe SSD (2.3x more) and 64 vCPUs (2x more)
  • New C5 Family: Next Generation Compute Optimized Instances with Intel Skylake processors
    • 72 vCPUs (2x more), Skylake processor (2x greater performance), 12Gbps to EBS (3X greater throughput) and 144GiB memory (2.4x more)
  • New F1 family (Developer Preview): Instances with access to a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) which can be utilized to more quickly and efficiently execute code for application specific workloads like seismic data, genomics, and financial analysis to name just a few. With the new F1 instances users can now run custom logic on EC2 bringing custom hardware acceleration to anyone.

In addition to these new compute products AWS announced Elastic GPUs for EC2 in sizes from 1 GiB up to 8 GiBs to allow you to attach and use graphics GPUs with an EC2 instance in the same way as an EBS Volumes.  Another great new compute product announced today was Lightsail, which is in effect a Virtual Private Sever (VPS) made easy.  Lightsail truly revolutionizes VPS by making the deployment a simple three step process for as little as $5 per month.  Simply select your image, select your size, and pick a name and AWS does the rest (Launch VM, Attach SSD Storage, Manage IAM, Create Security Groups, setup DNS and create a Static IP) in the background. Now setting up a VPS is about as simple as it can get.

To quote Andy, “We love Ourselves Some Compute”, and it really shows with these new products.

  1. Companies Need Better Analytics, and AWS Can Deliver

The ability to understand your customers and business grows more critical every day.  AWS has a broad set of products including Amazon EMR, Elasticsearch, Kinesis, Redshift, QuickSite and Machine Learning. To compliment this comprehensive line of products AWS announced the launch of Amazon Athena. Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. This enables companies to query data without having to move data out of S3 or set up any infrastructure. You get fast results and pay only for the queries you run.

Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning are clearly advancing how computers are solving intuitive problems. The challenge with AI and Deep Learning has always been that it takes very skilled team to actually make use of these technologies.   AWS is working to bring the power of AI and Deep Learning to all developers through the release of the Amazon AI Services: Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Polly, and Amazon LEX.

  • Amazon Rekognition is an image recognition service that enables applications to easily recognize, search, and understand image details.
  • Amazon Polly is a new text to speech service with 47 voices and 27 languages.
  • Amazon LEX (It’s what’s inside Alexa) is a natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition service powered by deep learning which enable programmers to build natural conversational interactions in voice and text.
  1. It’s hard for Enterprises to Stay Relevant and Grow

Only 12 of the companies in the first Fortune 500 list are still there today.  To remain relevant and continue growing, enterprises need to be able to quickly capitalize on new technologies.  The ones that do not will most likely face extinction in the future.  Andy highlighted Workday, GE, Motorola, FINRA, and McDonald as companies who have used the cloud to either build or transform their business. Workday is a $1.5B company built from the ground up in the cloud.  GE has moved 9,000 applications to AWS.  Motorola is reinventing themselves as a communications platform using AWS services.  FINRA is a financial market surveillance company using big data analytics and elastic compute at a massive scale to surveil, analyze, and protect financial markets for the SEC.  FINRA chose AWS over traditional data centers not only for the cost savings, tooling, and elastic capabilities they provide but also sited security that is better than traditional private data-centers as being a major factor.  McDonalds POS system with two hundred thousand registers is now running on AWS.  Each of these companies can now bring new products and services to market faster and can easily scale to meet future demands.

  1. Companies Need to Move Away from Customer Hostile Databases

We have all heard or experienced horror stories of old world databases.  With their proprietary designs, lock-in pricing strategies, and punitive licensing agreements these databases have been at best a challenge for many customers. AWS has built a strategy to make open databases easier, more reliable, and faster to use with offerings that include MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and Aurora. Aurora provides the speed and availability of commercial databases with the cost-effectiveness of open source and has become their fas growing service ever (with 14k+ migrations to date).  And as of today Aurora now includes PostgreSQL support. The combination of these products make it much easier to move away from old world databases.

  1. Choosing between On Premise to Cloud is No Longer a Binary Decision

AWS is making it easier to deploy hybrid IT infrastructure.  Six weeks ago they announced a partnership with VMware to enable companies to run the same VMware software on AWS that they run in their data centers. This allows companies to use their existing VMware tools and seamlessly migrate workloads to and from the cloud greatly increasing flexibility while using the tools they are familiar with.

  1. IoT is About to Change in Dramatic Fashion

IoT devices typically have very limited resources on board.  To process information, the data has to be transported back to an on-premise or cloud datacenter.  This increases latency and bandwidth costs while exposing customers to potential connectivity disruptions. To address these issues, AWS announced Greengrass which embeds Lambda compute (and other AWS services) in connective devices to provide local compute, messaging, and data caching.  Soon Greengrass will be available on all Intel and Qualcomm IoT chips as well as Canonical and Annapurnalabs software.

  1. Your Gonna Need a Bigger Truck

Last year AWS launched Snowball a petabyte-scale data transport solution that uses secure appliances to transfer large amounts of data into and out of the AWS cloud. This product has been a huge success and after listening to users, they are expanding the service.  Today AWS announce AWS Snowball Edge providing 100Tb of storage, on-board computing and clustering capabilities, an S3 endpoint and Greengrass inside.

But what about exabyte-scale data?…  Believe it or not, enterprises are now faced with moving exabytes of data from on-premise storage to AWS.  Moving that much data to the cloud using a 10Gbps dedicated connection would take 26 years.  What to do?  Use the newly released AWS Snowmobile!  Snowmobile is a dedicated semi truck tractor trailer (yes they even drove one on stage) for data transfer. This 45 foot long rugged container and truck can be connected via fiber directly to your datacenter to collect your data then transported to AWS for upload 100 petabytes at a time taking an exabyte migration from 26 years down to 6 months.

In Closing…

AWS is not only the clear leader in the cloud space, but they continue to listen to customers and adapt their product portfolio to meet the ever changing needs of the business world.  With up to a thousand new products and features launched each year, you can be sure they will continue to adapt and remain the leader in this space for many decades to come.

-Tim Hill, Product / Program Manager

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AWS re:Invent Daily Recap – Tuesday

AWS kicked off its 2016 re:Invent conference in Las Vegas yesterday. Attendees took part in AWS and Partner-led technical sessions, bootcamps and a GameDay, and had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of Consulting and Technology Partners in the Partner & Solutions Expo.

The conference began with The Global Partner keynote, including an overview and some imonials from a wide range of partners and highlighting how AWS has evolved its business and the business of its customers. Terry Wise, Vice President of Global Alliances, Ecosystem and Channels at AWS, was joined by a number of guests throughout the keynote, including James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer of AWS, Adam Japhet, Head of Technology Services Architecture & Design, as well as many others. A wide gamut of topics were covered from a few technology partners, but the overall AWS sentiment was, “Our customers are doing cool things” and “Partners are doing very innovating things on behalf of their customers.”

Yesterday’s evening activities included an event in which James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer at AWS, gave us a peek into what makes up AWS infrastructure. It was a very enlightening view into the world of highly-scalable, highly-resilient distributed systems and the concerns you have to think about when building the world’s best platform as a service.

Announcements came in droves from the Partner Keynote.

  • AWS Service Delivery Program, which is designed to help you showcase your firm’s proven expertise and customer success in different AWS services (and in which 2nd Watch achieved Partner status for Amazon Aurora, Redshift, CloudFront and DMS).
  • AWS Public Sector Program, which recognizes APN Partners with solutions and experience delivering government, education, and nonprofit customer missions globally.
  • AWS IoT Competency recognizes industry-leading AWS Consulting and Technology Partners that provide proven technology and/or implementation capabilities for a variety of use cases including (though not limited to) intelligent factories, smart cities, energy, automotive, transportation, and healthcare.
  • AWS Financial Services Competency, which helps customers identify and connect with industry-leading Consulting and Technology APN Partners with solutions for banking and payments, capital markets, and insurance (and which 2nd Watch has also earned).
  • AWS Partner Solutions Finder (PSF), a new web-based tool meant to help customers easily filter, find, and connect with APN Partners to meet specific business needs.
  • VMware Cloud on AWS Partner Program that will be launched in 2017. The program will provide support for APN Partners that help customers deploy and operate VMware workloads on AWS.

You can find more information about all of these services on the AWS APN blog. https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/apn/

2nd Watch presented breakout session “Lift and Evolve: Saving Money in the Cloud is Easy, Making Money Takes Help” The expert lineup included:

  • Chris Resch, EVP, Cloud Solutions
  • Christopher Nolan, Director of Product
  • Ryan Kennedy, Principal Automation Architect

In this session we looked at the cloud migration process trusted by hundreds of clients, as well as how to cope with the process and people components that are so important to enable agility, while focusing heavily on the technology. The technology showcased enables management of hundreds of AWS Accounts, hundreds of workloads, thousands of instances, and hundreds of business partners around the globe. The configuration management system has Puppet at the core and relies on over a dozen core and emerging AWS products across accounts, availability zones and regions. This complex and globally-available system ensures workloads in AWS meet corporate policies but also allows for rapid scale of both consumer and enterprise workloads.

Attendees were able to select from a plethora of breakout sessions. I want to highlight a couple of the sessions of the day that I thought were truly spectacular:

The first, hosted by Sony, dealt with breaking the bandwidth barrier in highly-available, low latency applications. They went into detail about the price we pay for network and computational overhead when store state. Dustin Pham and Alexander Filipchik made a good explanation of soft state and their innovative use of sticky sessions on ELBs for use with building indexes in Lucene.

The second was hosted by Riot games. Sean Maloney of Riot gave an excellent overview of their journey to deploying containerized infrastructure using Terraform. Riot really wanted to give total ownership of the application to their developers and was uncompromising in making that happen in a logical, safe and well-architected manner that abides by some of their key tenets.

The turnout at this year’s conference has been absolutely amazing. At last count there were about 33,000 people in attendance, making this the biggest re:Invent yet. It also looks to be the most exciting, and things are just getting started. Check back tomorrow morning for Wednesday’s conference recap.

-Lars Cromley, Sr Product Manager

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Win a Custom Segway Mini Pro at AWS re:Invent

Want to leave Vegas a winner? Visit 2nd Watch in booth #825 at AWS re:Invent to pick up your limited-edition t-shirt and enter our social media con for your chance to win a custom Segway Mini Pro. Just post a selfie in your shirt and follow and tag @2ndWatch on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. The best photo will be chosen each day to win!

Plus, try your luck in our money machine booth – many will enter, many will leave richer.

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The Top 5 Things to Avoid at AWS re:Invent 2016

The fifth annual AWS re:Invent is right around the corner, taking place November 28-December 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Designed for AWS customers, enthusiasts and even cloud computing newcomers, the nearly week-long conference is a great source of information and education for attendees of all skill levels. AWS re:Invent is THE place to connect, engage and discuss current AWS products and services via breakout sessions ranging from introductory and advanced to expert as well as to hear the la news and announcements from key AWS executives, partners and customers. This year’s agenda offers a full additional day of content, boot camps, hands-on labs, workshops and the re:Source Mini Con—a full-day technical deep dive into topics such as Big Data, Containers, IoT, Machine Learning, Security Services, and Serverless Computing.

2nd Watch is proud to be a 2016 Platinum Sponsor and attend AWS re:Invent for the fifth consecutive year. As an AWS Premier Partner with four re:Invent conferences under our belts, we have a unique insight into what attendees can expect at re:Invent 2016.  With that, our seasoned re:Invent alumni have compiled a list of the Top Five Things to Avoid at re:Invent 2016.

1. Avoid the long lines at Registration (and at the Swag Counter!)

In previous years, the re:Invent Registration Desk was open at the Venetian on Monday & Tuesday only. This year, registration is open starting Sunday evening from 6pm-8pm, giving attendees a few extra hours to check in and secure their conference badges. In addition to the extra two hours on Sunday evening, AWS is opening registration to attendees at two new locations—The Mirage and Encore—and will remain open all week.  Of course, you can’t attend any part of re:Invent until you have your conference badge so be sure you check into Registration as early as possible.  This will also ensure that you get the size shirt you want from the Swag Counter!

Expert Tip:  This year, AWS has added an additional level of security and will be printing each attendee’s photograph onto their badge.  Don’t be “that guy or gal” that holds up the registration line because you have to have your photo taken on site.  Take a few minutes to upload your photo prior to re:Invent here.  BONUS: By uploading your own photo, you make sure to put your best face forward for the week.

2. Avoid Arriving Without a Plan:

The worst thing you can do at re:Invent is show up without a plan for how you will spend your week in Vegas—that includes the breakout sessions you want to attend.  With two new venues and a total of over 400 sessions (twice as many as 2015), more hands-on labs, boot camps and one-on-one engagement opportunities, AWS re:Invent 2016 offers more breadth and depth and more chances to learn from the experts than ever before.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the AWS Session Planner and start selecting the sessions that matter most to you.  For the first time, AWS is offering reserved seating for breakout sessions, which means you have the chance to build a fully-customized conference calendar.  Take advantage of this benefit by adding sessions to your re:Invent calendar now.  By doing so, you will automatically have a seat reserved in your name and you can rest easy knowing you get to attend the sessions that are most important to you.

If you need some scheduling inspiration, 2nd Watch is presenting “Lift and Evolve: Saving Money in the Cloud is Easy, Making Money Takes Help” on Tuesday, 11/29. Part of the Enterprise & Migration track, this one-hour breakout session story will dive deep into the technology that allows The Coca-Cola Company to manage hundreds of AWS Accounts, hundreds of workloads, thousands of instances, and hundreds of business partners around the globe. Find it in the session catalogue by searching for “ENT206,” then be sure to add it to your AWS re:Invent calendar to reserve your seat.

Expert Tip: Be sure to download the AWS re:Invent Mobile App. The mobile app will be available approximately two weeks prior to re:Invent for iOS and Android only. For Windows phone users, there will be a mobile web version available.

The mobile app will hold your re:Invent schedule, maps from venue to venue, all other activities and reminders and will definitely help with your overall conference experience.

Lastly, when it comes to session planning, be sure to keep in mind that breakout sessions are being offered at all three venues—The Venetian, The Mirage, and Encore.  Allowing enough time to get from session to session will be key.  This year, AWS has added 30 minute breaks between sessions, but given there will be nearly 30,000 people expected at re:Invent this year, escalators, elevators and hallways are most certainly going to be difficult to navigate. As long as you don’t stop at the casino floor to your luck, you should still make it to the next session in ample time. Here are the estimated walking times between venues to help you plan accordingly:

  • Venetian to Mirage: 20-minute walk
  • Venetian to Encore: 15-minute walk
  • Encore to Mirage: 20-minute walk

For additional information about the AWS re:Invent agenda or to customize your attendee experience, visit https://reinvent.awsevents.com.

3. Avoid Sleeping In, Being Late or Skipping Out Entirely

With so many learning and networking opportunities, it’s easy to get caught up in exciting—yet exhaustive—days full of breakout sessions, hands-on labs, training sessions and of course, after-hours activities and parties.  Only you know how to make the most of your time at re:Invent, but if we can offer some advice…be sure to get plenty of sleep and avoid sleeping in, getting to sessions late or worse…skipping out on morning sessions entirely.  Especially when it comes to the keynote sessions on Wednesday and Thursday morning!

AWS CEO, Andy Jassy, will present the Wednesday morning keynote, while Amazon CTO, Werner Vogels, will present on Thursday morning.  Both Keynotes will be full of exciting product announcements, enhancements and feature additions as well as cool technical content and enterprise customer success stories.  Don’t be the last to know because you inadvertently over slept and/or partied a little too hard the night before!

Customers don’t need to reserve a seat in either of the keynotes, however, there is a cap on the number of attendees who can watch the keynote in the keynote hall. Keynotes are offered on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to get there early.

Expert Tip: If you don’t want to wait in line to sit in the keynote hall, AWS will have many options for watching the keynote in overflow rooms. If you’re still groggy from the previous night’s events, the overflow rooms are an ideal place where you can watch the keynote with a bloody mary, mimosa or coffee.

4. Avoid Being Anti-Social

AWS re:Invent is one of the best locations to network and connect with like-minded peers and cloud experts, discover new partner offerings and, of course, let loose at the quirky after-hours experiences, attendee parties, and partner-sponsored events.

Avoid being anti-social by taking advantage of the many opportunities to network with others and meet new people. AWS has some great activities planned for conference goers including the famed Totonka wing eating con, Welcome Reception, Partner Pub Crawl, Harley Ride, re:Play Party and new this year, the re:Invent 5k Run.

Expert Tip: Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards.  With so many people to meet, opportunities to connect with peers and experts, and after-hours parties to attend, you’ll want to make sure to pack extra cards to avoid running out early in the week.  When you receive a business card from someone else, try to immediately take a photo of it with your smartphone and save it to a photo album dedicated solely to networking.  This will ensure that you have the details stored somewhere should you happen to misplace an important contact’s business card.

5. Avoid Forgetting to Pack That All-Too-Important Item

Whether you’re staying at The Venetian, Mirage, Encore or other property, your hotel room will be your home away from home for nearly an entire week.  Of course, every hotel will have in-room amenities and travel essentials, but inevitably, we all will forget that one important item that we won’t be able to live without, especially for an entire week.  Our experts have pulled together a check list to help you pack for your trip and ensure you have all the comforts of home and office during your week in Vegas.

Your Favorite Toiletries:

Not everyone is in love with the in-room toiletries that hotels have to offer in each of their suites. If you have a favorite, be sure to bring it. Here is a quick list to ensure you don’t forget something:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Shave Cream
  • After Shave
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Floss
  • Hair Styling Products (if that’s your thing)
  • Contact Case & Solution
  • Spare Pair of Contacts
  • Cologne/Perfume/Body Spray

First Aid:

Whether your headache or hangover cure calls for Aspirin, Ibuprophen or something stronger, it’s a good idea to pack your preferred treatment along with any other first aid remedies and prescription medications you might need. Band Aids, blister protectors and anti-histamines are also recommended.

Chapstick & Lotion:

It is the desert, after all, and with dry air circulating throughout the venues, your skin (including your lips) is bound to dry out.  We recommend bringing medicated chapstick and fragrance-free lotion (fragrances in most lotions can often dry out your skin even more!) and keeping a spare with you at all times.

Breath Mints and/or Mint-flavored Gum:

No explanation necessary.

Business cards:

This is a repeat from one of our other tips but an important one to remember, so we don’t mind mentioning it again.

Chargers & Battery Packs:

Nothing is worse than being in between sessions with a 10% cell phone or laptop battery and realizing you left your chargers back in your room. We recommend bringing at least two phone chargers and two laptop chargers: One for your room and one for the backpack or briefcase you’ll be carrying throughout the conference.  Additionally, while there will be several charging stations throughout re:Invent (and outlets on most every wall), it’s a good idea to bring a battery pack with several hours of charging time just in case you can’t find an open spot to plug in.

Water Bottle:

You will definitely want to stay hydrated throughout the week, and the tiny cups offered at the water stations just won’t quench your thirst quite the way you will need them to.  It’s a good idea to pack a water bottle (we recommend one that can hold 17 oz) so that you avoid having to refill often and have plenty of thirst-quenching liquid to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

Comfortable shoes:

Your shoes will be your saving grace by the end of each day, so be sure to bring a pair or two that you feel comfortable walking several thousands of steps in.

Appropriate Attire:

While business casual attire is often recommended at re:Invent, there can be many interpretations of what is appropriate.  Our advice is to pack clothing that you would feel confident wearing should you run into your boss or someone you wish to impress.  Jeans are perfectly acceptable in either case, but make sure to use good judgement overall when selecting your attire for sessions, dinners and parties you plan to attend.

Cash:

In addition to needing cash for meals on the go, bar tabs or that faux diamond-encrusted figurine you’ve been eyeing in the gift shop, you’ll want to bring a little extra cash if you plan to your luck at any of the casinos.  There are ATMs on the casino floors, but they typically charge a service fee in the amount of $3-$5 in addition to your bank’s own service fees.

Notebook & Pen/Pencil:

It’s always a good idea to bring a good ole’ fashioned notebook with you to your sessions.  Not only is it a fail-proof way to capture the handy tips and tricks you’ll be learning, it’s also the quie.  Think about it – if 100 people in your breakout session were all taking notes on a laptop, it would be pretty distracting.  Be bold. Be respectful. Be the guy/gal that uses paper and a pen.

A Few Final Thoughts

Whether this is your first trip to AWS re:Invent or you’re a seasoned re:Invent pro, you’re sure to walk away with an increased knowledge of how cloud computing can better help your business, tips and tricks for navigating new AWS products and features, and a week’s worth of memories that will last a lifetime.  We hope you make the most of your re:Invent 2016 experience and take advantage of the incredible education and networking opportunities that AWS has in store this year.

Last but certainly not least, we hope you take a moment during your busy week to visit the 2nd Watch Cloud Solutions Center located at booth #825 in the Expo Hall where you can explore 2nd Watch’s Managed Cloud Services, pick up a cool 2nd Watch t-shirt and find out how you can win one of two Segway Mini Pros.  We’re excited to attend our fifth AWS re:Invent and look forward to seeing you there!

-Katie Ellis, Marketing Manager

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Benchmarking Amazon Aurora

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are the clear leaders in the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) space. The competition between these players drives innovation and results in customers receiving more benefits and better business outcomes over older technologies. The database as a service space is a massive opportunity for customers to gain more in terms of performance, scalability, and high-availability without the overhead or long-term contracts from traditional solutions.

At 2nd Watch we see a lot of customers who want to utilize database as a service to get better performance without the overhead or having all the hassles of traditional database products.  In that, we watch all three Cloud Service Providers very closely, their services and run benchmark comparisons on their products. In our opinion, Amazon Aurora is probably the best-performing database as a service platform that we’ve seen to date, while still being very cost-effective for the performance benefits.

Amazon Aurora is AWS’s fully-managed MySQL-compatible relational database service. Aurora was built to provide commercial-grade performance and availability, while being as easy to use and as cost-effective as an open source engine. Naturally, a lot of people are interested in Aurora’s performance, and a number of people have tried to benchmark it. Benchmarking accurately is not always easy to do, and it’s why you see different results from various benchmarks.  We’ve helped many of our customers benchmark Aurora to understand how it would perform to meet their needs, and in many cases we have migrated, or are actively working on migrating, customers to Aurora.

Recently, Google benchmarked their own Cloud SQL data against Amazon Aurora. Since a number of our customers use Aurora, we were interested in digging in to take a deeper look at their findings.

The chart below shows the benchmark results published by Google.

Graph 1

Original Source: Google. See: https://cloudplatform.googleblog.com/2016/08/Cloud-SQL-Second-Generation-performance-and-feature-deep-dive.html

In their blog post about this comparison, the blog claims that 1) Cloud SQL performs better at low thread counts and 2) customers do not use a lot of threads, so the results at higher thread counts do not matter. Our experience is that the latter claim is not true, especially as we look at our enterprise customers.  So, we questioned our results from previous benchmarking. Therefore, we decided to benchmark things again to see if our results would fall in line with Google’s results. Below you can see an overlay of our data on top of their original graph. Since we do not have the original results from Google’s , an overlay is the best we can do for comparison.

To perform our own benchmarks, we used Terraform to stand up a VPC, our instances of Aurora, and the hosts from which we’d run the sysbench s, all within the same Availability Zone.  We used the same settings and commands as outlined in the Google blog post to against our results.  We shared our results with the Aurora team at AWS, and they confirmed that they saw very similar results when they ed Aurora with sysbench in a configuration similar to ours.

Full data from our s, R scripts, and automation to stand up the infrastructure can be found on github.

Here is a summary of our observations on this study:

1.The data for Aurora’s performance is incorrect

This data does not match the Aurora performance we see when we run the ourselves. Without any special tuning, we saw higher performance results for Aurora. Without the original data from the s Google conducted it is difficult to say why their results differ. All we can say is that, from our ing, Aurora does appear to be more performant and is clearly the database of choice, especially when dealing with higher thread counts.

2nd Watch overlay in purple:

Graph 2

Results from our s on Aurora:

Both studies agree that Aurora has a significant performance advantage above a certain thread count. Google’s shows the previous release of Aurora having an advantage at 16 threads or more (Cloud SQL starts higher but then drops below Aurora). Our shows the la version of Aurora having an advantage at 8 threads, with results between the two databases being fairly comparable at 4 or fewer threads.

2.The study makes a claim that customers don’t need many threads

Google is suggesting that you should only focus on the results with lower thread counts. Their blog post says that Cloud SQL “performed better than Aurora when active thread count is low, as is typical for many web applications.” The claim that low thread counts are typical for web applications (and thus what people should focus on) is inaccurate. There are a large number of AWS customers who run applications using Aurora, and it is very common for them to run with hundreds of threads (and many customers choose to run with thousands). As we mentioned previously, both our study and Google’s study show that Aurora has an advantage at higher thread counts.

There are a number of areas where Amazon improved on the performance of MySQL when developing Aurora. One of them was taking advantage of high thread counts to deliver better performance. With Aurora, customers with higher thread counts will typically see a large performance advantage over MySQL and Cloud SQL.

3.Aurora’s largest instance outperforms Cloud SQL’s largest instance by 3X

Google’s benchmark was done on an r3.4XL, which is only half the size of Aurora’s largest instance (the r3.8XL). We understand that this study used Cloud SQL’s largest machine and that they were trying to compare to a comparable Aurora instance size. But a customer is more likely to run a workload like the one in Google’s benchmark on Aurora’s largest machine, the r3.8XL, because the 8XL’s larger cache would improve performance. We ran the with Aurora’s r3.8XL instance, and the results were more than 3X higher than Cloud SQL’s performance. It was a struggle to fit Aurora’s r3.8XL performance on the same scale.

Aurora on r3.8xlarge (scale adjusted):

Graph 3

A few more things to consider

We’ve already pointed out Aurora’s performance advantage, which is evident in both studies. Aurora has a number of other advantages over Google Cloud SQL. One example is scalability. We showed earlier that Aurora’s largest instance exceeds the performance of Cloud SQL’s largest instance by 3X in this benchmark. Aurora can scale up to handle more storage (64 TB for Aurora vs 10 TB for Cloud SQL). Aurora supports up to 15 low-latency read replicas that have very low replica lag. Aurora replica lag is typically only a few milliseconds, whereas traditional binlog-based replication, which is used by MySQL and Cloud SQL, can result in replica lag on the order of seconds or even minutes. Aurora allows up to 15 replicas that can act as failover targets without impacting the performance of the primary instance, whereas Cloud SQL allows only one failover target. Another advantage is that Aurora has extremely fast crash recovery, as its log-structured storage system does not require the replay of redo logs after a database crash.

Benchmarking Aurora

If you’re interested in benchmarking Aurora, check out AWS’s Aurora benchmarking guide here.

If you’re thinking about benchmarking Aurora yourself, there are two common errors to watch out for. First, make sure you put the database and the client in the same Availability Zone or you will pay a latency and throughput penalty. This is what customers actually do when they use Aurora in production. Second, make sure that the client instance driving traffic to Aurora has enhanced networking enabled. The benchmarking guide mentioned above has instructions for how to do that.

Making good use of benchmarking data is tricky. You’re trying to build or migrate your application and you want to understand how your new database is likely to behave, now and in the future. There’s no magic benchmark that will exactly match your production workload, but you need to make a decision anyway. What should you do?

Here’s some general advice we try to follow for our own projects as well.

  1. Plan for success by ing at scale: The last thing you want to do is make design choices that hurt you when your application starts to really take off. That’s when you want to celebrate with your team and build the next great feature, not attempt an emergency database migration. Think about how your workload might change as your application grows (higher thread counts, more data, higher TPS, more tables…) and build that into your s.
  2. Choose benchmarking s that align to your application: Do you expect your data set to fit in memory or will your database be disk-bound? Will your traffic pattern be spiky? Write-heavy? You can find a large number of benchmarks for any major technology. Try to identify a set of s that are as close as possible to your real-world application. Don’t just accept the first benchmarking study you find. If you can re-run your actual production workload as a , even better.
  3. Know that your benchmarks are not the real world and plan for that: The best benchmarking study you run will be, at best, slightly wrong (not the same as the real world). Make a note of the assumptions you made in your and keep an eye on your database in production. Watch for signs that your production workload is moving into uned areas and adjust your s accordingly.
  4. Get help: The best way to get expert advice is to see an expert. Cloud technology is complex and not something you should seek guidance on from partners who are “generalists.” To Aurora at your company, visit us at www.2ndwatch.com.

 

-Chris Nolan, Director of Product & Lars Cromley, Sr. Product Manager

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