Expertblog by: Mijndert Stuij

“I’m an AWS consultant at inQdo Cloud with a knack for DevOps and open source. I strongly believe that knowledge should be free and shared as widely as I possibly can. I love writing things like tutorials and other, hopefully insightful, articles”

Mijndert Stuij

Putting on an online show

Around this time of year half Las Vegas is usually visited by thousands of like-minded people, scattered around a few different hotels where all kinds of sessions are to be visited on every topic you can possibly think of. This year, however, AWS had to put this entire show online – an incredibly difficult thing if you ask me, one AWS doesn’t get enough credit for. Sure, there’s still some things to be desired: the session catalog is so vast, it’s hard to dig through all the content to find the actual good ones.

But apart from all the sessions, AWS also put the Play part of the conference online this time around. There’s always something for everyone – from trivia to games, DJ sets and even cooking demos.

The community also did an awesome job of putting on all kinds of events to talk about the latest features and services from AWS. Each year inQdo Cloud is a sponsor of Benelux Drinks, which was live streamed this year.

All in all, this AWS re:Invent has been really cool to experience, despite it being a lot different from the usual conference. Because of COVID-19, re:Invent has never been more accessible and the democratization of events like this is a good thing for the entire community.

Of course there were a lot of cool new services and features announced. Let’s go through our favorite ones.

1. EC2 Max instances

Powered by Mac Mini’s and the AWS Nitro hypervisor, you can now run EC2 Mac instances to build, test, package and sign Xcode applications for the Apple ecosystem.

An EC2 Mac instance features a 6-core Intel CPU, 32GB of RAM and runs on either Mojave (10.14) or Catalina (10.15). And, because it runs on Nitro, the EC2 Mac instance has access to AWS features like EBS, S3 and AWS Systems Manager, making it a first class citizen among all other EC2 instance types.

AWS has said that EC2 Mac instances with Apple’s M1 chip are already in the works and planned for 2021.

2. AWS CloudShell

AWS CloudShell is what it says on the tin: a shell in the cloud. AWS CloudShell comes with a bunch of runtimes as well as AWS CLI pre-installed. You can use it for making a slight adjustment to a configuration file, deploying a quick fix to an environment or just experimenting with some AWS services.

The AWS CloudShell comes with 1GB of storage which is available each time you open a shell within the same region, awesome for storing that Infrastructure as Code repository you’re working on. You can also install all kinds of other software you might need, since it runs Amazon Linux 2.

3. VPC Reachability Analyzer

VPC Reachability Analyzer is a service our inQdo Cloud support department will benefit greatly from. We all spent inordinate amounts of time debugging some networking issue, only to find out you forgot about a security group rule.

VPC Reachability Analyzer tries to make networking issues visible by offering an analysis of the path the network packets took.

4. AWS Lambda container image support

With AWS Lambda you run your code without thinking about servers, but if you’re invested in container tooling for the rest of your infrastructure it can be a hassle to use that same approach for use with Lambda.

In order to fix that, AWS now allows you to package and deploy container images up to 10GB in size. This way, you won’t have to create an entirely separate CI/CD process for your Lambda functions, and it’s now easier than ever to test your Lambda functions locally since the only thing you need is Docker engine.

A Lambda function that runs inside of a container image benefits from the same advantages functions packaged as a ZIP archive have. Simplicity, automatic scaling, high availability and every else still apply.

5. Amazon Elastic Container Registry Public

Since Docker Hub is now throttling anonymous pulls of container images, this recent addition to Amazon Elastic Container Registry is more than welcome.

You can now use ECR to pull, share and store public container images. ECR Public will also replicate your images across two AWS Regions for availability and to reduce download times. ECR Public also stores layers in CloudFront to improve download speeds further.

You will get 50GB of ECR Public storage for free each month. Anonymous users will be able to pull 500GB worth of container images, and if you are logged in to an AWS account that number increases to 5TB. Workloads that run on AWS will be able to get unlimited bandwidth from any region to pull container images from ECR Public.

6. Amazon Location Service

Amazon Location Service is a new service that allows you to easily integrate maps and location awareness into your application

Amazon Location Service gives you the following functionality:

  • Maps will get you map tiles to use in your application
  • Place Indexes will return places such as residential addresses and points of interest that are closests to your location to further enrich your maps
  • Trackers will allow you to track one or more devices on the map in realtime and get their location history to plot on the map
  • Geofence locations will allow you to define geographic boundaries on the map, this can also be used in conjunction with Trackers

Amazon Location Service is currently available in preview.

7. Amazon S3 Strong Read-After-Write Consistency

S3 GET, PUT and LIST operations, as well as operations that change ACLs and metadata are now strongly consistent. This means that every operation is immediately reflected back in LIST operations; what you write is what you read.

This is awesome for workloads where consistency is of great importance, for example in Big Data scenarios where a lot of write and read operations are being done on the same S3 bucket.

This functionality is available to every S3 bucket in every region at no extra charge.

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