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AWS Lambda service tops gratitude list this Thanksgiving

Amazon Web Services made hundreds of product and feature updates in 2015, but there are a few that IT pros are most grateful for, as the end of the year approaches.

Amazon launched a number of important cloud technologies this year, but there were a handful that AWS users are...

most grateful for.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda, an event-driven computing service that abstracts server management away from users, topped everybody's minds, as they gathered around the virtual Thanksgiving table. 

"Lambda ... takes us that one step closer to serverless application handling," said Sekhar Puli, managing partner at REAN Cloud Solutions Inc., an IT consulting firm in Washington, D.C. "As a business, you don't want to be worried about the scaling of infrastructure -- cloud was one step in that direction, and Lambda takes it to a whole new level."

The combination of the Lambda service with the API Gateway was a particularly powerful one for Kevin Felichko, CTO of PropertyRoom.com Inc., an online auction company based in Frederick, Md.

"With API Gateway combined with [Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)], Lambda and DynamoDB, I can focus on building applications and not worry about server administration," Felichko said. "The API Gateway has already changed the way I am building new applications and services."

Felichko said he was especially thankful that API Gateway incorporates important features, such as versioning, caching, security and throttling.

However, the Lambda service is revolutionary enough that it may pose challenges for compliance auditors trying to keep up with the pace of new technologies.

"Our biggest concern is how auditors or compliance experts recognize serverless infrastructure and how to ensure security, or [Lambda] may not be well-adopted in enterprises," said Ben Butler, VP of business development for REAN Cloud.  

Security, database migration and more

Questions about auditors and the Lambda service aside, Amazon's security and compliance product introductions were also popular among AWS shops.

AWS made updates to secure existing services this year that are popular among users.

"Encrypted RDS ... means all of the one-off, file-system encryption I had to do for [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] is no longer needed," said Kiril Dubrovsky, senior solutions architect for G2 Technology Group, an AWS consulting and managed services firm in Boston, referring to support launched in early January for encrypting MySQL and PostgreSQL databases in the Relational Database Service (RDS) using the AWS Key Management Service.

S3 endpoints for Virtual Private Cloud deployments were also a welcome and long-awaited feature released this year, according to Adam Book, senior cloud architect for Relus Technologies LLC, a cloud consulting firm in Peachtree Corners, Ga.

"This was something we in the community were waiting for a long time as far as being able to create a secure connection to a S3 bucket, without having to go out over the Internet," Book said. "This makes pushing and pulling items from a bucket much more secure, with and without the use of encryption."

The Web Application Firewall, delivered at this year's re:Invent, and the Amazon Inspector feature, still in preview, were a big hit with Theodore Kim, senior director of software as a service operations for Jobvite Inc., a talent acquisition software maker in San Mateo, Calif.

For Kim, this represents a definitive step forward for Amazon into the security market; in the past, Amazon has offered logging, but referred users to third-party vendors for analysis. 

"Now, that's completely changed," Kim said. "It really helped us in terms of our [Service Organization Control 2] certification strategy."

Kim and his team were thankful for the AWS Database Migration Service, also introduced at this year's re:Invent conference in October and still in preview in the U.S.-East region. Jobvite has a legacy Microsoft SQL Server database it wants to convert to Amazon's MySQL variant, Aurora. But doing that conversion is difficult, as most database administrators understand one side of the equation or the other, but not both.

"A lot of the difficulties [lie] in having somebody who actually understands both sides," Kim said. "So, the migration assistant is something that we're very, very keen to have access to. We have yet to get into the preview, but we're really excited about it."

Developers go for code deployment tools

A trio of new code deployment services -- CodePipeline, CodeCommit and CodeDeploy -- caught the eye of Aater Suleman, CEO of Flux7, an Amazon consulting partner based in Austin, Texas. 

"Our favorite [new products] have been the Code services, because Flux7 is focused on helping enterprises embrace DevOps," Suleman said.

CodePipeline provides an easy-to-build, on-demand code delivery orchestration engine, while CodeCommit allows the creation of a secure code repository. CodeDeploy allows developers to create a secure code deployment mechanism within minutes, Suleman said.

"The ability to create, visualize and change the code delivery allows developers to be agile -- not just with code, but also with their workflows, as they can learn and tune them to be most efficient," Suleman said. "We have been using Code services since they were released in nearly every delivery and have received very positive feedback from our customers."

Another new product from Amazon that has developers rejoicing is AWS Kinesis Firehose.

"It dramatically eases the ability to capture streaming data from my applications at trivial cost and with a very simple setup process," said E.J. Brennan, a freelance developer in Massachusetts who works with large enterprise clients. "I was able to immediately put it into production use with minimal work, just days after it was announced."

AWS customers look to EFS on the horizon

The Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) isn't actually available yet, but made an IT pro's Thanksgiving gratitude list, nonetheless.

"Architecting and maintaining a cloud-based NFS solution with GlusterFS is just one more thing for a managed service provider to worry about," said Glenn Grant, CEO of G2 Technology Group in Boston.

Other consultants said the preview of EFS alone has been worth gaining access to so far.

"EFS ... solves the need to use third-party [network-attached storage] solutions, which require running large instances to support their connections to the Elastic Block Store or S3 file system," Book said. "I don't know when the [general availability] will be; I was just thankful to get on the preview and be able to be one of the first to experience it firsthand."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.  

Next Steps

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What new AWS products or updates caught your eye this year?
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I think people will be surprised when AWS eventually releases some usage data on the Snowball data transfer product. Just a hunch, but it's a very simple way to move large amounts of data, and the overall "service" is well thought out. 

Also think that (eventually), people will be very excited about the "shadow" capability within the IoT service, to emulate end-devices.
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Been spending alot of time lately focused on Lambda, API Gateway and IoT Gateway. Seeing a number of companies building applications on Lambda and really liking how it's simpler than using a PaaS. 
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Also nice to see Google Cloud Platform release a similar product (Google Cloud Functions) - http://siliconangle.com/blog/2016/02/10/google-plays-catch-up-as-it-rolls-out-cloud-triggers/
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The guys at the EngineersCoffee podcast have been digging into this quite a bit lately. Had a good talk with them this week - http://www.thecloudcast.net/2016/04/the-cloudcast-244-engineers-coffee-and.html

Microsoft announced their Azure Functions last week at /Build conference. 
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It’s typically hard to pick a specific service within AWS that has had the most impact on what we do because we use so many of them for so many different things. Lambda stands out in the 2015 crowd because it does have the potential to further revolutionize how we work with the cloud.
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