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AWS Device Farm Simplifies Mobile App Testing

Customized mobile device digital marketing gets a lot easier

When marketers think digital, they think mobile, but the best way to reach people on their smartphones is an app, not a website. Still, mobile apps are a double-edged sword for companies. They deliver more users with higher engagement but are also harder and more costly to develop and . Given that mobile devices are inherently connected, the first cloud services emerged to simplify app development. Mobile backends and SDKs like Facebook Parse, Kumulos or AWS Mobile Services tackled the backend services data management, synchronization, notification and analytics. Real world ing is the la service, courtesy of the AWS Device Farm, which provides virtual access to myriad mobile devices and operating environments. Device Farm, released in July, allows developers to easily apps on hundreds of combinations of hardware and OS (with a constantly growing list) using either custom scripts or a standard AWS compatibility suite. Although the service launched targeting the most acute problem, on fragmented Android, it now supports iOS as well. But the cloud service isn’t just able to provide instant access to a multitude of devices for hardware-specific s – it also allows ing on multiple devices in parallel, which greatly cuts time.

Bootstrapping mobile development with cloud services can yield huge dividends for organizations wanting to better connect with customers, employees and partners. Not only are there more mobile than desktop users, but their usage is heavier. The average adult in the US spends almost three hours per day consuming digital content on a mobile device, 11% more than just last year. This means that businesses without a mobile strategy, don’t have any digital strategy.


The problem is that providing a richer, customized, differentiated experience requires building a custom mobile app – a task that’s made more daunting by the cornucopia of devices in use. It means supporting multiple versions of two operating systems and countless hardware variations. Although Apple users generally upgrade to the la iOS release within months, the la Android development stats show four versions with at least 13% usage. Worse yet, a 2015 OpenSignal survey of hundreds of thousands of Android devices found more than 24,000 distinct device types. Such diversity makes developing and thoroughly ing mobile apps vastly more complex than a website or PC application. One mobile app developer does QA ing on 400 different Android devices for every app – a ing nightmare that’s even worse when you consider that the mobile app release cycle is measured in weeks, not months. If ever a problem was in need of a virtualized cloud service, this is it; and AWS has delivered.


Device Farm takes an app archive (.apk file for Android or .ipa for iOS) and s it against either custom scripts or an AWS compatibility suite using a fuzz of random events. Test projects are comprised of the actual suite (Device Farm supports five scripting languages), a device pool (specific hardware and OS versions) and any predefined device state such as other installed apps, required local data and device location. Aggregate results are presented on a summary screen with details, including any screenshots, performance data and log file output, available for each device.





Device Farm doesn’t replace the need for in-field beta ing and mobile app instrumentation to measure real world usage, performance and failures, however with thorough, well-crafted suites and a diverse mix of device types, it promises to dramatically improve the end-user experience by eliminating problems that only manifest when running on actual hardware instead of an IDE simulator.

Developers can automate and schedule s using the Device Farm API or via Jenkins using the AWS plugin. Like every AWS service, pricing is usage based, where the metric is the total time for each device at $0.17 per device minute, however by judiciously selecting the device pool, it’s much cheaper than buying and configuring the actual hardware. Developers can automate and schedule s using the Device Farm API or via Jenkins using the AWS plugin. Like every AWS service, pricing is usage based, where the metric is the total time for each device at $0.17 per device minute.

Along with Mobile Services for backend infrastructure, Device Farm makes a compelling mobile app development platform, particularly for organizations already using AWS for website and app development.

To learn more about AWS Device Farm or to get started on your Digital Marketing initiatives, contact us.

-2nd Watch blog by Kurt Marko


A Deeper Look at AWS Aurora

A few months back we published a blog article titled Introducing Amazon Aurora, which described Amazon’s la RDS RDBMS engine offering Aurora.  AWS Aurora is Amazon’s own internally developed MySQL 5.6 compatible DBMS.

Let’s review what we learned from the last article:

  • MySQL “drop-in” compatibility
  • Roughly 5x performance increase over traditional MySQL
  • Moves from a monolithic to service-oriented approach
  • Dynamically expandable storage (up to 64T) with zero downtime or performance degradation
  • Data storage and IO utilization is “only pay for what you use” ($0.10/GB/mo., $0.20/million IO)
  • High performance SSD backed storage
  • Data is automatically replicated (two copies) across three availability zones
  • Uses quorum writes (4 of 6) to increase write performance
  • Self-healing instant recovery through new parallel, distributed, and asynchronous redo logs
  • Cache remains warmed across DB restarts by decoupling the cache from the DB process
  • Up to 15 read replicas for scaling reads horizontally
  • Any read replica can be promoted to the DB master nearly instantly
  • Simulation of node, disk, or networking failure for ing/HA

In addition to those, I’d like to point out a few more features of Aurora:

  • Designed for 99.99% availability
  • Automatic recovery from instance and storage failures
  • On-volume instant snapshots
  • Continuous incremental off-volume snapshots to S3
  • Automatic restriping, mirror repair, hot spot management, and encryption
  • Backups introduce zero load on the DB
  • 400x (yes TIMES, NOT PERCENT!) lowered read replica lag over MySQL
  • Much improved concurrency handling

That is a pretty impressive list of features/improvements that Aurora buys us over standard MySQL!  Even at the slight increase in Aurora’s RDS run rate, the performance gains more than offset the added run costs in typical use-cases.

So what does that list of features and enhancements translate to in the real world?  What does it ACTUALLY MEAN for the typical AWS customer?  Having worked with a fair number of DBMS platforms over the past 15+ years, I can tell you that this is a pretty significant leap forward.  The small cost increase over MySQL is nominal in light of the performance gains and added benefits.  In fact, the price-to-performance ratio (akin to horsepower-to-weight ratio for any gear heads out there) is advertised as being 4x that of standard MySQL RDS.  This means you will be able to gain similar performance on a significantly smaller instance size.  Combine that with only having to pay for the storage your database is actually consuming (not a pre-allocated chunk) and all of the new features, and choosing Aurora is nearly always going to be your best option.

You should definitely consider using Aurora to replace any of your MySQL or MySQL derivative databases (Oracle MySQL, Percona, Maria).  It’s designed using modern architectural principals, for the Cloud, and with high scalability and fault-tolerance in mind.  Whether you are currently running, or are considering running, your own MySQL DBMS solution on EC2 instances or are using RDS to manage it, you should strongly consider Aurora.  The only exception to this may be if you are using MySQL on a lower-end RDS, EC2, Docker, etc. instance due to lower performance needs and cost considerations.

Because Aurora has some specific performance requirements, it requires db.r3.large, or faster, instances.  In some cases people choose to run smaller instances for their MySQL as they have lower performance and availability needs than what Aurora provides and would prefer the cost savings.  Also, there is no way to run “Aurora” outside of RDS (as it is a platform and not simply an overhauled DBMS), which could be a consideration for those wanting to run it in a dev/ context on micro instances or containers. However, running a 5.6 compatible version of MySQL would provide application congruency between the RDS Aurora instance and the one-off (e.g. a developer’s MySQL 5.6 DB running on a Docker container).

In addition to being an instantly pluggable MySQL replacement, Aurora can be a great option for replacing high-end, expensive commercial DBMS solutions like Oracle.  Switching to Aurora could provide massive cost savings while delivering a simplified, powerful, and highly scalable solution.  The price-to-performance ratio of Aurora is really in a class by itself, and it provides all of the features and performance today’s critical business applications demand from a relational database.  Aurora gives you on-par, or even better, performance, manageability, reliability, and security for around 1/10th of the cost!

To learn how the experts at 2nd Watch can help you get the most out of your cloud database architecture, contact us today.

-Ryan Kennedy, Senior Cloud Architect


The Dream Big South Africa Journey Consummates

As we disembark from this adventure of a lifetime I reflect back on all of the amazing things we have seen and experienced over the past couple of weeks.  There is no doubt in my mind that this experience will be something we all carry with us and cherish the rest of our lives.  What a blessing to be able to go and visit such an exotic land with an entirely different culture than we are used to.  Also an incredible blessing and honour to be able to use our resources and time give back and do something that will hopefully make an impact for generations to come.  To get to meet those orphaned children and to experience and share in the joy that they have for life.  I know without a doubt a piece of our hearts will always remain in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Since “a picture is worth a thousand words” I figured I would provide a quick run-down with pictures of what we experienced…


Fishing and site seeing in the Indian Ocean


Providing a computer lab, facilities improvements, and humanitarian relief to Jehova Jireh Haven Orphanage in Alexandria


Safari tour at Addo Elephant Park and Schotia Safaris


Hunting at the GrootDrai ranch with Rufus Luttig and HuntSA


JB and Caitlin take Cape Town!


What an amazing life-changing experience we had!

–Ryan Kennedy


2W ‘dream BIG’ Update – 4


The last few days have been a whirlwind!  It has been hard to find the time to update you all on what we have accomplished, but it’s a beautiful morning and while the guys are out on a morning hunt with HuntSA, I’m sitting outside taking the opportunity to write this post.  As there are many things to discuss let’s start with Jehovah Jireh Haven Orphan Care Center.

The computer lap is completed!  Ryan and Pete built a table for the children to use while on the computers.  As you can see it’s going to get plenty of use.  Once the table and computers were set up we spoke with students from Rhodes University who will help establish and continue a computer literacy program for the kids.  Many university students said how excited they were for the computers and told us they were going to make a huge impact for these kids.  Afterwards we let in many of the kids from Jehovah Jireh to have a chance at the computers before we left.  They were already into Paint and creating new backgrounds for the computers.  All of us are excited about the opportunity these laptops will bring to the children at Jehovah Jireh.



While Pete and Ryan were busy with the computer lab, JB and I (Caitlin) spent our time with the kiddos and on smaller projects.  JB and his headbands were a complete hit.  He went through all 200 before you could blink!  I was able to do a small project of replacing their broken swings from the jungle gym.  The swings had ropes that were broken and frayed so we decided to use chain to attach some tires back onto the jungle gym.  Now the children have four tire swings and shouldn’t have to worry about them breaking with that chain! All of the children and Jehovah Jireh were beautiful and happy children who love to sing and joke!  JB quickly became known as Big Show everywhere we went.

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When it came time to say goodbye the children all stood in a circle and sang us beautiful songs. They even got me to sing a song goodbye!  It was beautiful and moved Big Show to tears!  I know many of us feel that we will return someday.



While we had to say goodbye to the kids we also had to say goodbye to our hosts in Alexandria at Golf Lodge B&B.  Thank you Jennifer and your family for taking care of all of us.  We then made our way to Addo Elephant park where we got our first experience at African Wildlife.  From there we made our way to Schotia Safaris for an overnight stay.  Schotia was amazing and we got some close encounters of rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and hippos!  The lodging was fantastic and so was the food!  From Schotia we made our way to the HuntSA ranch.  JB and I were given the opportunity to stay one night and try our hand at hunting before we head to Cape Town.  That chance paid off as I got the first hunt and first animal of the hunt!  The meat from the warthog will be donated to the orphanage!  I’ve never been hunting before in my life!  It was quite an experience!11174781_10153273901254701_8676579623087692919_n

From here Ryan and Pete will remain for the next four days for their chance to get a kudu, while JB and I head to Cape town!  More updates to follow.



Jehovah Jireh Haven Care Center

Wow.  How do I even start with the first day we had at Jehovah Jireh Haven Care Center?   It was such an amazing experience.   We had a tour of the JJH facilitie, and there were several moments that I was moved to tears.  These folks do amazing things with what they have, but after the tour I only wished I could help more.  The kids are so fun!   They immediately flock to you and start asking questions about you and your family.  Most of all, they just want to be held and have some affection.

We had the honor  and pleasure of unpacking the donations 2nd Watch brought for JJH.  Everyone was so grateful and happy.  Many mentioned how “it was like Christmas.” We then began setting up the computers and ensured they were in good shape to provide long service with little maintenence required.  We gave several students from Rhodes University enough information to begin providing the JJH  kids instruction to begin successfully operating the computers for education.

In the morning we will be shopping for supplies to fix roofs in two buildings that are leaking and causing mold issues on the ceilings as well as building a nice workstation area for the new computers.  We topped our day off with our wonderful bed and breakfast hosts, Jennifer and Brent, and our tour hosts, Rufus and Austin.  We had an amazing fish dinner from the fish we caught the previous day.   I keep asking myself how could this get any better!!

-Pete Irwin, Technical Manager


Dream Big – Day 2

Most of the group arrived late last night via flights from Spokane to Atlanta to Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. The 4am wake up was a little rough to head out fishing with Big John Charters in Port Elizabeth. What a day!

We saw the sun rise, caught a variety of Indian Ocean fish, saw a pod of dolphins, the colony of penguins that call St. Croix Island home and then topped it off with 2 battles with massive Raggy Sharks on the reef.

After cleaning up, we took the 2 hour ride to our home, The Golf Lodge B&B, for the next few days in Alexandria.  We will be helping install the computer lab at J&J Orphanage tomorrow.  The home owners, Jennifer and Brent, just prepped us for what to expect with the kids.  I think we will make them smile!

What an amazing experience thus far and we look forward to meeting the children tomorrow.

-Caitlin Collom