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    AWS re:Invent 2016–So Many Sessions, So Little Time

    January 9, 2017

    In November, Sungard Availability Services | Labs attended its third AWS re:Invent. As always, there were more sessions we wanted to attend than physically possible–not to mention the Hackathons, certifications exams (our senior architect Kevin took two!) and other activities. I’m sure you felt overwhelmed as well.

    To ease your pain, we pulled together a recap of our favorite sessions. Along with the recap, we’ve listed the reasons why we think these sessions are important to enterprise customers like you. Our customers come to us to solve their complex IT problems, and so we looked at the sessions through that lens. This year’s show indicated that AWS is embracing hybrid cloud as the new normal, and we know you are too. Sungard Availability Services is building enterprise-grade hybrid solutions that include access to hyperscale providers like AWS. The technology may change, but our model won’t: we aim to be the partner of choice for powering our customers’ mission-critical workloads, regardless of whether they’re colocated in our data center, on VMware, or public clouds like AWS.

    This is also the initial post in a new segment we’re hosting. We’re incredibly lucky to have found jobs that send us across the US, and sometimes the world, to various technology conferences. We’d like to start sharing our findings with you, always with our enterprise mission and customer in mind. Check back periodically for more #conferencemashups.

    Session Title: Tuesday Night Live with James Hamilton

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you:

    James Hamilton doesn’t do this talk every year, which is reason number one why you should watch it. His talk covers what AWS really looks like from an overall architecture and infrastructure point of view.  With details as to why things are done from the perspective of a guy who has had significant input in AWS’ architecture. It’s contains the most current information AWS is willing to share. And not only that, it is also extremely informative and interesting.


    Session Title: Deep Dive on Amazon Elastic File System

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: The session included a good explanation of when to use the “General Purpose” (default) and MaxIO offerings.  Also provided is a tangible explanation of what the cost will look like if you create your own shared file system manually.  This presentation also helped attendees understand why the cost of EFS is 3x the default EBS cost, which is very useful for enterprise customers since network filesystems are often utilized.

    Security & Compliance

    Session Title: 5 Security Improvements You Can Make by Using CloudWatch and AWS Rules

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This information is useful for the enterprise since security and governance, especially on a public cloud, are often a concern. The automated CIS (Center for Internet Security) tool that can be run against an account was very compelling. Here are some other interesting AWS Labs security related open source projects:

    Session Title: Get the Most from AWS KMS: Architecting Applications for High Security

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: The AWS portion of this session was a very good talk covering secure application design with KMS and best practices for using KMS. Both provided more depth and background information than is generally publically presented.

    Session Title: How to Automate Policy Validation

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This talk was presented well, had lots of energy, and you could tell the speaker was genuinely interested in the topic.  In it, the speaker covered automating policy validation with different use cases with demos for everything.

    Session Title: Become an AWS IAM Policy Ninja in 60 Minutes or Less

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: Jeff Wierer – Sr. Manager, Amazon Web Services, has performed this talk at other re:Invent’s, and it is always a really good session.  He covers beginner to moderately advanced topics, along with common pitfalls and questions he gets from AWS customers about IAM.


    Session Title: Scaling your web applications with AWS Elastic Beanstalk

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This session starts with the overview of Elastic Beanstalk on how to quickly deploy, manage and scale applications in AWS. It compares Elastic Beanstalk vs DIY (Do It Yourself) highlighting the various benefits. It also dives into the role of Elastic Beanstalk in simplifying code deployment and provisioning/managing resources, which saves time and effort in configuring AWS resources. Different methods of application deployments and automated application scaling of a reasonably complex application are demo’d. Additionally, best practices were shared on Beanstalk as well as on logs, metrics, alarms & tagging.

    Session Title: Monitoring, Hold the Infrastructure: Getting the Most from AWS Lambda

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This is a partner session by DataDog focused on AWS Lambda concepts and monitoring concepts. It also highlights how Lambda plays a role in the monitoring process. A few examples were introduced using Lambda, along with some frameworks (Serverless,Sparta) that work with Lambda. A monitoring framework solution is discussed by combining the data collected in the form of work metrics, resource metrics, and events along with the corresponding cloudwatch metrics.

    Session Title: DevOps on AWS: Advanced Continuous Delivery Techniques

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This session is basically what the title says, which is often not the case.  Extremely good content and presented well.  If interested in CD, this talk will be interesting no matter your level of experience.

    Session Title: How I learned to embrace DevOps and Configure Infrastructure at Scale

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This session makes it very relevant to traditional system admin/operational teams by showing how to leverage various automations in supporting various workloads (focusing on windows). It also delves into streamlining change management, configuration and licensing, focusing on EC2 Systems Manager and surrounding tools.


    Session Title: How Capital One Built a Voice-Based Banking Skill for Amazon Echo

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This session is focussed on Alexa skills development and of Capital One’s story of creating better voice experiences for the customers. As part of extending the open voice platform, they introduced two new tool kits named Alexa Skills Kit and Alex Voice Service. Using Alexa, they demonstrated the account setup, account linking features along with the dialogue helper tool.   

    Big Data & Analytics

    Session Title: Real-Time Data Exploration and Analytics

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This session is focussed on the Amazon Elasticsearch service. It includes a demo of receiving real-time feeds from Apache weblogs NASA data, then real-time processing through Amazon Kinesis firehose and finally delivered into the Elasticsearch service in order to build a dashboard using Kibana to display the analytic reports. Concepts, architecture, integration aspects are explained in detail, along with implementation details and best practices. Log analysis and analytics projects needing huge amount of data can leverage these services. 

    Containers, Lambda and Serverless

    Session Title: State of the Union: Containers

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: Rapid adoption of containers is taking place all over the enterprise. Customers increasingly need help in moving applications to production using different container software, cluster management, container orchestration and deep integration with AWS services.  This presentation blends and provides a broad overview of both the AWS container-based services and industry-leading container tools addressing the major use case categories (Microservices, Batch, PaaS, CI/CD).  

    Session Title: Serverless Architectural Patterns and Best Practices

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: The session helps enterprises identify potential use cases and workloads for leveraging the serverless paradigm. Different types of apps are covered: 3-tier web, batch, stream processing & Ops automation. Also helpful was the case study by BMC, an enterprise with lots of legacy code, in how they modernized their applications and added new features in security operations and compliance auditing.

    Session Title:  ↑↑↓↓←→←→ BA Lambda Start

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: Billed as Cheat Codes for Lambda, but was basically more of a best practices for Lambda, with some specific technical details. The AWS portion of this talk was rather good and the customer presentation provided solid lessons learned.

    Session Title: Application Lifecycle Management in a Serverless World

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    Why this is important to you: All about Lambda, covering many areas, from config management, CI/CD, tracing/troubleshooting, and best practices.

    Session Title: Get Technically Inspired by Container-Powered Migrations

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This talk helps push the point across that Containerized migrations versus traditional migrations make it a less monolithic undertaking. It covers migration basics and then delves into containers, migration factories and a real-world use case experience from Flux 7.


    Session Title: FINRA in the Cloud: the Big Data Enterprise

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: FINRA discussed their cloud migration, application transformation, data management, redesign of stack, cloud architecture, tools and technologies in their journey to AWS. They are dealing with volumes in the range of 20 Petabytes and 75 billion events, both real-time and continuous data transfers from many agencies. By 2018, they are expected to migrate all their portfolios to AWS and intend to shut down all their data centers meeting their promises of cost and performance with cloud realization.

    Note: Large scale data storage, management, real time processing and analytics are needs of many customers dealing with huge amounts of data and AWS services are a good consideration for both cost savings and for scalability and high performance processing needs.    

    Session Title: From Resilience to Ubiquity – #NetflixEverywhere Global Architecture

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: Very insightful talk, presented well, with lessons learned from a drastically different company than most, but some of the lessons carry over well.

    Session Title: Manage Inventory, Patching, and System Images for Your Hybrid Cloud

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This talk is very helpful for handling predominantly Windows workload-based enterprise needs in a hybrid cloud environment. Good insights are provided around AMI management/automation, monitoring and patch compliance etc.

    Session Title: Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity for Financial Institutions

    Session Link:

    Why this is important to you: This session helps bridge the gap on how critical apps in the cloud are being recovered in an automated, auditable & elastic fashion. An example of DR for a trading exchange is very helpful, providing insight into tools, methodology & process.

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