In this post, FundApps Developer Operations Engineer Dave Blooman recaps his time at Amazon's Re:Invent 2016 conference in Las Vegas.
Dave's video diary
I recently went to the annual conference in Las Vegas held by Amazon Web Services, AWS re:Invent. This conference has over 30,000 attendees with hundreds of technical sessions spanning five days.
There were three key takeaways for me, which I think are not just important for startups using the cloud, but in particular, Fintechs.
AWS FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
AWS have slowly been making it possible to write code, commit it and deploy, but the build step was often missing. CodeBuild solves that problem, essentially making a continuous integration server for all your building/compiling needs. It isn't fully featured like TeamCity or Circle CI, but it has a lot of the basics there for you to just get on with it. This approach is great for companies looking to start infrastructure on demand, but also keep all code in the AWS family of products.
AWS has also released a few new services that will make it easy to debug your existing applications. X-ray is the stand out here. In a nut shell, this is a Zipkin alternative which is the leader in distributed tracing. X-ray offers the benefits of being tied directly into the AWS SDK, so adding tracing into your applications should easier than ever, once it is supported fully by AWS (right now it is in preview).
Finally, if you weren't watching the live stream, you missed when AWS drove a truck into the hall. Snowmobile is AWS's attempt to get you to give up on the datacenter, for good. By being able to call AWS and have them come and pick up your data, the migration to AWS has never been simpler. There are probably fewer start ups now who have massive data issues that aren't in some way on the cloud, but those finance companies that still on there own tin will probably want to consider this the last blocker to going all in on AWS.
ANALYTICS ARE IN THE CLOUD
With the launch of AWS Athena, AWS have shown a commitment to pushing analytics on the cloud to a new place. Athena is a very interesting proposition; it isn't based on a new idea, but it adds to the suite of services that AWS already offer. These are Elastic Map Reduce, Elasticsearch, Kinesis and QuickSight.
Athena allows for fast searching of terabytes of data stored in AWS S3 using an SQL-like interface. As S3 has become cheaper and cheaper, it is all too easy to put data in without thinking about the structure or the potential for analysis. With Athena, exporting data from databases for historical usage is a real possibility.
SERVERLESS IS KING
Containers and serverless have been two technologies that have caused a huge shift in computing over the past 2 years. AWS has lead the way in serverless with AWS Lambda, the execution layer for its serverless offering. Of course, there are many services that AWS sell that have been serverless for years: the execution layer and the way it combines with existing services has made Amazon the market leader in this new field though.
By adding a new way to govern the way Lambda functions run, AWS has now made it possible to build complex systems entirely in Lambda with a state machine. This new service is called Step Functions. It's simple to use and has the potential for building applications in the cloud like never before.
If you are building an API, you may decide to use Lambda functions as the backend combined with API Gateway (the API service from Amazon). It makes it possible to create a REST API (with most of the options you need) in minutes, backing onto an existing API, functions or a service somewhere running on EC2. Amazon have now made it possible to sell your API to other AWS users, which could promote a new market in building API's without getting involved in payment processing.
If you look at how many services that AWS have launched that don't require you to run EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute), you can start to see the post-server era is in full swing.
While re:Invent is just a conference, it sets the tone for the other cloud providers and the companies that use AWS. Every other vendor is behind AWS, but catch up quickly, so AWS must continue to push for innovation.
AWS released more features and services in 2016 than any other year, so if that rate continues, 2017 should be an exciting year for Fintechs on the cloud and AWS.