This content is part of the Essential Guide: Developing cloud applications in the new IT era

New Amazon app development tools sweeten the pot

Amazon launched a number of services that make it easier to develop cloud apps in AWS, including Amazon API Gateway, but some warn not to get in too deep.

NEW YORK – AWS isn't content to stop at infrastructure -- now it's after its customers' application code, a prospect that tempts some, but has others wary about cloud lock-in.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) made several products generally available here at AWS Summit this week. The one that made the biggest splash is called the Amazon API Gateway, a service that can attach REST APIs, or "front doors" to users' back-end applications, circumventing the work required to create, publish, maintain, monitor and secure APIs.

This has been a pain point for customers, according to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, who introduced the gateway at the end of a keynote speech where he also disclosed general availability of AWS CodeCommit, a Git-integrated repository for application code, and CodePipeline, a workflow engine for developing, testing and deploying code. The two join CodeDeploy, a utility which performs rolling software updates on both Elastic Compute Cloud servers and on-premises machines.

AWS users imagine possibilities for the Amazon API Gateway, particularly in its integration with AWS Lambda, which performs server less infrastructure management.

"Imagine a single-page app on [the Simple Storage Service (S3)]," said Kevin Felichko, CTO of, an online auction company based in Frederick, Md. "You could have the S3 layer call your APIs, and use Lambda to run only what's necessary depending on what's being accessed."

With Lambda integration and API access to back-end apps, the Amazon 'pay-per-use' model could reach a new level of paying only for what's actually accessed by end users, Felichko speculated. The API Gateway is free up to a million API calls per month for up to 12 months, and $3.50 per million API calls received, plus the cost of data transfer out, in gigabytes. 

Other attendees said they were interested in the ability to set throttling rules, based on the number of requests per second.

"That seems very useful because it can be hard to throttle specific or abusive users," said Alex Malek, systems architect for Solutions for Progress, a public policy and technology company based in Philadelphia.

It can also be hard to do an API properly and make it secure, said Mauro Restuccia, a consultant at The Summit Group, a New York-based consulting firm that does application development for financial services businesses.

"Instead of us doing that interface to the outside world, we can just do the application," Restuccia said. "Once you are ready to expose it to the outside world, you have to tools to do it."

Amazon app developers should look before they leap

However, with added services comes added lock-in, according to some attendees at the Summit.

"Amazon is making everything bigger, getting everyone to play in their sandbox," said Ray Lowe, vice president of technology and architecture at Sirius XM Radio, Inc. "If you are all in, it will be hard to get all out."

Amazon is light-years ahead of everyone else in the market with this service, Lowe said, but a lack of alternatives can be a daunting prospect.

"When you bring a girl to the dance, you are with that girl," Lowe said. "Back in the 1990s or 2000s, everyone went with Java. If you didn't like the terms and conditions [of your vendor] you could go with another. But here, there is no other."

Amazon app development workflow tools CodeCommit, CodePipeline and CodeDeploy also fall into the potential lock-in category, according to Felichko.

With CodeCommit, Felichko said he's interested in the idea of private, encrypted code repositories, but has reservations about using it.

"But you're putting just about everything into one basket if you do that," he said. "There's some nervousness when Amazon has my code as well as my infrastructure -- what if there's an outage?"

Editorial Director Margie Semilof also contributed to this report.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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