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Greengrass extends reach of AWS functionality

Edge computing and IoT continue to infiltrate the enterprise, prompting AWS to release several services at re:Invent 2016. One service, AWS Greengrass, enables AWS Lambda functions on devices and ties together IoT and serverless technologies. Seven months after pulling back the curtains on the service, Greengrass is generally available in the US-East and US-West regions.

As enterprises invest more heavily in IoT-connected devices, they want more connectivity and compute capabilities associated with them. Greengrass delivers limited AWS programming to groups of devices, enabling them to respond to real-world circumstances, such as a faulty internet connection.

AWS Greengrass enables a device to perform functions on data and securely transmit that data to the cloud for additional analytics and storage. Developers can combine Lambda with the AWS Greengrass Core SDK to execute serverless functions locally, establish secure connections from the core device to the cloud and support MQTT messaging on devices.

The service also opens up hybrid cloud possibilities — another recent area of emphasis for AWS. Greengrass is one of few Amazon products that can run in on-premises. Greengrass can run on very lightweight or more intricate computing systems, enabling IT administrators to use the AWS programming model locally, if they choose.

Developers can access Greengrass from the AWS Management Console, API or AWS Command Line Interface, and then define and manage Greengrass groups — devices connected to each other.

In addition to Greengrass, AWS added several features and support this month, including plans for a new data center region. Here’s what you might have missed.

New AWS features and support

  • DAX also goes GA. Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX), a caching service for eventually consistent, read-heavy workloads on DynamoDB, is generally available. DAX reportedly improves DynamoDB performance up to 10 times, and it is both fully-managed and compatible with existing DynamoDB API calls, lowering the barrier for developers to roll it into their deployments. DAX is available in the US-East-1 (Northern Virginia), US-West-1 (Northern California), US-West-2 (Oregon), EU-West-1 (Ireland) and Asia Pacific-Northeast-1 (Tokyo) regions.
  • New region in Hong Kong. AWS will add a new geographic region to Hong Kong in 2018. The region, AWS’ eighth in Asia Pacific, appeals to local public and private sector clients as well as Asia-based businesses building multi-zone fault-tolerant applications. The region expands AWS’ global footprint to 20 regions; the public cloud provider will open other regions and availability zones in China, France and Sweden in 2017 and 2018.
  • Rekognition adds region, feature. Amazon Rekognition, an image recognition and management service, is available in the AWS GovCloud (US) region. A new celebrity recognition feature enables the service to identify an image of a famous person by comparing it to a global list of thousands of celebrities across politics, entertainment, business, sports and media. The feature expands facial recognition capabilities for developers, who could roll the technology into mobile applications. It keeps pace with a similar tool within the Microsoft Cognitive Services portfolio.
  • X-Ray expands latency monitoring. Two features in the AWS X-Ray service will analyze and debug distributed applications. The Visual Node and Edge latency distribution graphs, accessible in the Service Details sidebar, visualize and track latency among services; they also show current latency from the perspectives of clients, services and microservices. Developers can access the features via API call or the X-Ray console.
  • Device authentication for Amazon Workspaces. AWS’ desktop as a service offering, Amazon Workspaces, added device authentication for users in BYOD work environments. Administrators establish policies to manage devices and client access, and digital certificates grant or block access to certain operating systems.
  • AWS WAF adds more IP address control. AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF), a service that protects web-based apps from common malicious attacks, added a rate-based rules feature. Previously, security ops pros define rules for requests with certain criteria, such as IP address or the size of the request, and choose to allow, block or count those requests. Rate-based rules expand the controlled response to include a large number of requests for a particular IP address, which could signal a DDoS attack or something more benign, such as a software integration that cannot connect to the app. SecOps teams use rules to add or remove an IP address from a blacklist, set higher request rates for technology partners and set CloudWatch metrics — including alarms that can fire off AWS Lambda functions — to monitor each rule. SecOps can also combine rate-based rules with other WAF conditions to establish more sophisticated rate-based policies.
  • Additional AWS Direct Connect locations, monitoring capabilities. AWS Direct Connect, which targets hybrid clouds, establishes secure, dedicated network connections from on-premises resources to the AWS cloud — with increased bandwidth and reduced network costs compared to web-based connections. The list of available locations for AWS Direct Connect now totals 60 — with new ones across North America and Europe. This was the service’s second expansion this year. Admins also can now add Amazon CloudWatch monitoring to all locations (except China), to monitor physical connections to the cloud and set up alarms and triggers through Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS).
  • Lightsail available in nine new regions. Launched at re:Invent in 2016 in just the US-East region, AWS expanded Lightsail, its Virtual Private Server service, to nine more regions across the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific. Lightsail offers simplified servers with managed infrastructure for businesses with more basic computing needs or limited budgets.
  • CloudTrail improves API tracking. Admins use AWS CloudTrail to monitor AWS API calls, and AWS recently added to those tracking capabilities. The CloudTrail console’s API Activity History page now includes API calls to CloudWatch Events, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), DynamoDB, Cognito, Kinesis, CloudHSM and Storage Gateway. This addition centralizes API logs and removes the need to retrieve CloudWatch Events APIs from Simple Storage Service (S3) buckets.
  • EC2 Systems Manager integrates with S3. Developers can query and visualize inventory data across multiple regions and accounts with AWS’ new integration between Amazon EC2 Systems Manager and S3. Developers enable an S3 bucket to automatically collect inventory data, which eliminates the need to create custom scripts. They can then use Amazon Athena to query the data or Amazon QuickSight to visualize it.
  • Convert legacy data warehouses to AWS. The AWS Schema Conversion Tool added more support for legacy data warehouses. IT teams can now export data to Amazon Redshift from Teradata (versions 13 and above) and Oracle Data Warehouse (versions 10g and above).
  • AppStream added user management, web portals. Amazon AppStream 2.0 now enables admins to create and manage users without an identity federation tool. Admins grant user access with the User Pools tab in the AppStream console. Users log in via a web portal to choose which approved applications to use.