5 Announcements from re:Invent you can't ignore

Werner Vogels just finished up the Day 3 re:Invent keynote presentation, and this may be the most excited I've ever been for AWS announcements in a long time. Previously we've seen a lot of weird and specific products being introduced, but this year AWS topped off quite a few improvements to existing products and workflows. Here's the ones I'm most interested in

Step Functions

Think of this as a developers version of IFTTT on steroids. If you're working with multi-step data processing, with conditional logic in the middle, you'll want this. Step functions give you a visual way to connect multiple Lambda functions together, based on events that come into your system. It'll be a great way to visually manage processing pipelines, and I can't wait to get started. Best of all, it'll be available for all today.

Amazon Lex

It's "What's inside Alexa" get it?

All joking aside, this is a huge step forward in conversational AI. Alexa is a great toy, but with the opening up of the underlying API for parsing text, and converting speech into text, as well as text back into speech, this could get interesting. I'm already pondering over the many ways I could use this to improve search, and even automate some helpdesk style systems. Want an expert system built for you? This is the way to go.


Can anyone say "bye bye newrelic"? A better, and more detailed version of Application Performance Monitoring, with built in ways to help you automatically identify bottlenecks such as low performance on DDB tables due to needing to raise throughput. It seems focused on HTTP-based services, but we'll see once it fully comes out if it can handle any Lambda task, including integration with Step Functions. X-Ray may be the coolest developer tool released by AWS.

Amazon Greengrass

There's currently only one Greenglass hardware client, and it's from Amazon, the Snowball Edge. It'll be expensive to run that, but essentially the idea is that you're not locked into needing to use Amazon to develop for Lambda. This could have HUGE implications as it's essentially letting you run Lambda functions from any endpoint. Combine this with Lambda@Edge, which lets you run Lambda functions on CloudFront endpoints, and we're talking about a huge push forward in the serverless community.

I'm mostly looking forward to seeing how well this can help with Local development. Yes, there are OS tools like "serverless-local", but this is an official AWS client, and could even be used to help with Hybrid cloud environments. Now Serverless computing doesn't necessarily mean serverless. Perhaps we should change this to "Function-based" computing.

A slight side-note here is that Amazon is also updating their IoT button, with double the battery life. You can get the current generation essentially for free ($19.99 with a $20 amazon credit back to you).

AWS Batch

A large percentage of operations that happen on AWS services are indeed "Batch operations", not things that depend on user input, or even need to be done in real-time, but instead are long operations such as "parse this content", or "encode this video", or even "notify anyone watching for this type of news story".

These are Batch operations, and are best handled with SQS with job processors running on EC2, or ECS instances. Many companies have taken advantage of the AWS Spot Marketplace to buy cheaper instances that aren't being used by AWS, since their processing doesn't need to be real-time. This is where AWS Batch will come in handy, combining Spot Marketplace along with a quick-to-build pipeline and SQS automatically so jobs will get done based on how much you're willing to spend and how quickly it needs to be done. Is the best option to wait until instances drop to 1¢/hour and spin up 5,000 of them? If so, batch can handle that.

What can you do now?

There's still a lot to be determined by a lot of these announcements, since most are still in preview, but if you want to get started right-away you can dive into Step Functions, Athena, Polly, and CodeBuild now.


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