Welcome to 2020 (all be it a bit belated) and the first AWS Weekly Wrap-up for 2020. For those of you who followed my weekly updates last year, welcome back. For those of are new to these weekly posts, I like to take time each week to review the recent announcements from Amazon Web Services and outline the ones that my customers appear interested in.

As always, This list is a summary of the recent releases and announcements made by AWS and is far from exhaustive. I simply try to summarise the dozens of weekly announcements to those most sought after by our customers. If your interested in taking a look at all of AWS’s recent announcements, you can follow the “What’s New” section of their website (available here). If you would like to talk to somebody about how you might be able to leverage some of these new technologies and services, please feel free to reach out using the contact link at the top of the page.

Given that this is my first update for the year, There are quite many services to take a look at, including:

  • Workload Shares in AWS Well-Architected Tool
  • Spot instances can now be stopped and started similar to On-Demand instances
  • Amazon Elastic File System introduces EFS Access Points
  • Device Farm announces Desktop Browser Testing using Selenium
  • Connect Now Supports Amazon Lex in the Sydney Region

Introducing Workload Shares in AWS Well-Architected Tool

First cab off the rank for the year is the change made to the Well-Architected tool. For those people who may not have heard, the Well-Architected Tool helps you review the state of your workloads and compares them to the latest AWS architectural best practices. It’s free to use and we leverage it at Kloud when conducting reviews for our customers. The painful thing about the Well-Architected tool was that it only supported reviewing workloads within a single account. This meant that for most customers you’d end up with lots of results scattered across your AWS organization, and potentially the same finding in multiple places. This new feature allows you to centralise your findings into a single location, thereby allowing for easier tracking of high-risk items. Sharing a workload is a relatively simple process and the instructions are laid out in the User Guide available here. you can also find the official announcement on the AWS website.

For those who may not be aware, Kloud also conducts Well-Architected Reviews for our customers. These are typically week-long engagements where we can work with your team to ensure you are leveraging best practices across your environment. Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in speaking to somebody about getting a Well-Architected review conducted on your workload.

Amazon EC2 Spot instances can now be stopped and started similar to On-Demand instances

Even with the recent release of Saving Plans, EC2 Spot instances still remain the cheapest way to purchase your EC2 workloads. However, with these large savings (up to 92% when compared to On-Demand), come some limitations and potential drawbacks. AWS has however just removed a big one, now enabling you to stop your EBS back Spot-instances rather than terminating them. This new feature opens some interesting options for managing in-flight data. Until now, data had to be loaded into an ec2 spot instance every time it was started… adding time and compute cycles to your processing. However, with this new announcement, data can persist between restarts allowing for workloads to quickly pick up where they left off. This, in turn, allows the workload to complete its job quicker, further reducing the cost of running the workload.

This primary design note around this new feature is that it will only work for EBS-backed instances (for obvious reasons). This means that existing Spot Instance workloads may need to be re-configured should they want to leverage this new functionality. If you are interested, the official announcement can be found here, and details on how to leverage the new spot instance requests are available in the EC2 User Guide (available here).

Amazon Elastic File System introduces EFS Access Points

Next in line for this weeks wrap-up is the introduction of Access Points for Elastic File System. Access Points are application-specific entry points into an EFS file system that make it easier to manage application access to shared datasets. Access points can enforce a user identity, including the user’s POSIX groups, for all file system requests that are made through the access point. This opens up a whole new way of securing and managing access to your NFS environments. For those who followed the announcements from Re: invent, this is similar to the idea of S3 Access Points. We will be releasing an upcoming article on how you can leverage EFS access Points in your next project so keep an eye out for in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can take a look at the official announcement here.

For those interested in using EFS Access Points in your next project, Danilo Poccia’s Blog articles on the AWS website (available here) is a great starting point.

AWS Device Farm announces Desktop Browser Testing using Selenium

Device Farm is an application testing services that you can use to test and interact with your Android, IOS, and web applications. This has been a helpful service for mobile application developers as AWS use real phones and tablets to conduct these tests. With this new announcement, AWS now provides the ability to leverage Device Farm to execute tests using Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers. By writing your tests in Selenium, you can then leverage device farm to validate your web application. Device Farm can also generate videos, action logs and webDriver logs of the testing session to enable quick identification and resolution of issues.

This is a really interesting product and opens up several interesting possibilities when it comes to enhancing your CI/CD pipelines. We will be writing some articles in the coming weeks on this topic, so be sure to keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, you can take a look at the official announcement here.

Amazon Connect Now Supports Amazon Lex in the Asia Pacific (Sydney) AWS Region

This one is short, sweet and simple. Amazon Connect now supports Amazon Lex in the Sydney region. For those of you who have been reading my articles for a while now know how much of a fan I am when it comes to Amazon Connect. With this recent announcement, we can start leveraging the chatbot capabilities of Amazon Lex while still being able to run our Contact Centre within Australia. In light of this release, I will be starting a new tutorial series starting next week on how to get the most out of your Amazon Connect environment and will be leveraging Amazon Lex to provide Chatbot capabilities. In the meantime, you can take a look at the official announcement here.

AWS Health enables aggregation of health events across AWS Organizations

And last, but not least for this week’s wrap-up is the announcement that you can now centrally aggregate your AWS Health events in your AWS Organization. I’ve written about AWS Organizations several times on this site as it’s the cornerstone of a multi-account strategy for your AWS environment. AWS Health provides ongoing visibility into the state of your AWS resources, services and accounts. Until now, each team within your organization could only get a view of the health of the resources within a specific AWS account. While this isn’t a problem for distributed teams, it can cause issues when it comes to centralised compliance, security and auditing requirements. The new AWS Health Organizational view allows teams to get a single overview of all operational issues, scheduled maintenance and account notifications. This new functionality is available vis the existing AWS Health API with 7 new methods available. If you’d be interested in seeing an article on how to leverage the AWS Health API, please leave a comment below.

And that will do it for our AWS update for Wednesday the 22nd of January 2020. Also, continue to keep an eye out for our continuing series on Amplify, and an updated series on Amazon Connect. We post updates every Wednesday as well as detailed tutorials and deep dives on products throughout the week. In the meantime, If you’d like to see something on the Kloud blog, please feel free to comment below.

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