Friday, April 19, 2013

AWS summit NYC, day 1

I attended AWS summit NYC on Wednesday and Thursday. As an academician, this was a little unconventional conference for me to attend. I regularly attend ACM, IEEE research conferences on focused areas (wireless networks, distributed systems, self-stabilization), but I wanted to go out of my comfort zone to learn about the problems AWS and the AWS ecosystem are working on. Today AWS is leading the cloud computing market, and the AWS infrastructure and platform is an amazing feat of engineering, to say the least. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, has not received a fraction of the genius CEO status alloted to Steve Jobs, but by all accounts Jeff Bezos is not any less deserving. (Read Steve Yegge's platforms rants to see how in 2002 Amazon started an enormous concerted effort for building up its platforms to become what they are today.)

I arrived at 2pm on Wednesday to attend the "cloud kata for start-ups". The name sounds exciting, right? And, they promised powerpoint free presentations! Wonderful, right Unfortunately the presentations still turned out to be canned and dry, for the most part. Instead of powerpoint slides, the speakers dashed through pre-recorded screencast videos, and I experienced the screencast version of death-by-bulletpoint. The problem with screencast videos is it has the potential to combine the very-fast pace of powerpoint presentations while lacking the structure "potentially" provided by powerpoint. The session contents also did not have much to do with the startups and their needs. As a result I got underwhelmed, but fortunately, this turned out to be a false alarm. Werner Vogels, Amazon VP & CTO, wowed people with his keynote the next day, giving an energetic and concise-to-the-point presentation. Day 2 was a blast, and I had a lot of fun. I will post my day 2 notes soon. Read on for my short day 1 notes.

The presentations in the cloud-kata for start-ups session ended up giving short introductions to several AWS services. Some of these are as follows. Elastic cache service adds a scalable and configurable cache layer between your database and applications. Cloud formation service provides a templating service where you can start cloud former, generate a template for your AWS system deployment configuration (e.g., a simple LAMP and elastic load balancer front-end cluster) and store the template on AWS S3. Later you can replicate the same deployment in another region with one command using this template. Opsworks, a very recent service from AWS, provides help for operation management and building workflows. In Opsworks, you can use chef recipes, custom json, add layers (phplayer, MySQL layer), arrange behavior for highload periods, and specify additional machines coming up at certain times of day to help. Finally, AWS Redshift provides a fast, powerful, and fully managed petabyte-scale data warehouse service in the cloud. It offers you fast query performance for very large datasets using SQL-based tools.

Some startups that based their operations on AWS also presented in the session as well. Datadog presented a web-based AWS monitoring tool, which provides monitoring and simple analytics of Nagios alerts as a service. Sumall presented their "analytics for small business", which aims to make getting and visualizing data easy. Sumall gathers data from the business's Google-analytics, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook pages in order to analyze if there are relationships with sales and these social networks activity related to the company. Lastly, Codecademy provides an interactive website to enable interactive learning of programming languages.

After the session finished at 5:30pm, I walked to Google NYC  to visit a student of mine who joined there after PhD. The walk was very nice, due to the beautiful spring weather in NYC. Google had bought a very large building in Manhattan, probably costed them a lot of money. The inside decor was also very modern, with a lot of open space for the developers to relax and mingle. Probably that also costed a fortune.

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