While much of the world is just starting to find the new rhythm of working remotely and balancing that with children and cats, AWS has continued its relentless pace of new features and enhancements to their services. What follows isn’t an exhaustive list of all the AWS announcements made during this month, but is instead a curated selection most likely to benefit enterprise thought leaders working to drive cloud adoption and efficiency within their organizations.
Some of the highlights from April include the release of a COVID-19 public data lake, Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) support for Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and AWS Fargate, Migration Acceleration Program (MAP) for Windows, dramatic read performance increases to Amazon EFS, in-region read replicas for Amazon RDS SQL Server, AWS Wizard for SAP, general availability for Cost Categories, and a new region in South Africa.
Covid-19 Public Data Lake
Data is a vital tool in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and vast quantities are being collected daily to fuel that push. To aid in the global effort, AWS has built a public data lake housing case tracking data from the New York Times and John Hopkins, along with hospital bed availability from Definitive Healthcare, and research articles from the Allen Institute for AI. The goal is that by making the data easily accessible and digestible, more experimentation is fostered leading to faster innovation on methods to combat the virus.
Additionally, AWS has launched CORD-19 Search which is fueled by data from the CORD-19 (COVID-19 Open Research Dataset) in the public data lake and powered by AWS services such as Amazon Kendra and Amazon Comprehend Medical. This tool will allow researchers faster and easier insights from over 47,000 research papers and documents using powerful natural language searches. Being able to quickly derive key insights from this trove of data will be essential in the development of treatments and vaccines.
To learn more about how to use the AWS COVID-19 data lake for analysis, click here.
Amazon EFS Support for Amazon ECS and AWS Fargate
While containerization has become a fact of life amongst organizations of all sizes, the immutable nature of containers poses a significant challenge for applications and workflows that require a persistent file storage layer. In particular, enterprise customers with legacy applications often face this challenge, where significant refactoring to remove that reliance is simply not feasible, or in where data-intensive workloads such as machine learning require large amounts of data in close proximity to the code. To help with this, AWS has just enabled support for their Amazon EFS service in Amazon ECS and AWS Fargate, allowing an AWS-native solution for a scalable shared storage layer across a container fleet. With AWS Fargate this means that even while gaining the benefit of not having to manage the underlying compute infrastructure, containers can still connect to a managed, shared file storage system for their persistent data needs. This release enables organizations to continue their containerization efforts to gain efficiency and scalability for their applications.
To learn more about the announcement, click here.
Migration Acceleration Program for Windows
MAP for Windows builds on the proven success of the AWS migration acceleration program and provides services, best practices, tools, and experience delivered by APN Partners or the AWS ProServe team to simplify and accelerate cloud adoption for Windows workloads. Having veteran assistance alongside application & IT teams as well as financial incentives addresses common concerns associated with migrations and significantly lowers barriers to entry.
Whether migrating, modernizing, or employing a mix of both in an application portfolio, AWS is making it even easier to adopt the best cloud platform for Windows-based workloads.
In-Region Read Replicas for Amazon RDS SQL Server
There is now the capability to easily define and build read replicas for Amazon RDS SQL Servers, allowing for applications to split off high volumes of read or intensive reporting queries, to those replicas, reducing the stress on the main database server. Distributed Availability Groups are used to provide this functionality, and since AWS handles the configuration and network connectivity between the replica and primary server as part of the Amazon RDS service, the operational overhead for organizations is greatly reduced, allowing teams to focus even more on creating applications and solutions that serve the needs of the organization and its customers.
To learn more about pricing details and regional availability, click here.
AWS Launch Wizard for SAP
Implementing 3rd party applications is a common challenge for enterprise users, and usually requires a lot of time and effort to determine and deploy the optimal infrastructure to power the application. AWS Launch Wizard has been built as a templated tool to guide organizations through that process of configuring and implementing the AWS resources necessary for those applications according to best practices. The wizard removes the effort of creating each individual resource, tying it to the other resources, and orchestrating the deployment of the environment. Previously available for Microsoft SQL Server Always On deployments, AWS Launch Wizard now also supports HANA-based SAP systems. Using AWS CloudFormation and AWS Systems Manager behind the scenes, and informed by the AWS Well-Architected Framework, the wizard provides a prescriptive approach to determine sizing and deployment strategies, while greatly accelerating the time in which the SAP application is ready for use.
Using the AWS Launch Wizard, a new SAP environment can be created in a production-ready state in three hours or less, allowing enterprises to move quickly to support new initiatives while having confidence in the well-tested and reliable environment they’re built on.
For more information on how it works, see the AWS Launch Wizard documentation here.
AWS Cost Categories (General Availability)
Understanding and tracking cost is a fundamental component of running workloads in the Cloud and can be a daunting endeavor with complex hyperscale applications. To aid companies in this challenge, AWS has made Cost Categories available to accurately track and assign costs to categories specific to their organization.
These categories can represent business units, projects, experiments, applications, geographies, or whatever breakdowns make sense for bundling together resource costs. The categories can span AWS accounts, and are defined by a set of rules using filters such as accounts, resource tags, and services along with operators like “Is”, “Is Not”, or “Contains”. The categories these rules define are available throughout the AWS Cost Management set of tools, including AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Budgets, and allow organizations to identify inefficiencies early on, as well as precisely plan budgets according to growth.
To start learning and using AWS Cost Categories, see the User Guide here.
New Africa Region (Cape Town)
To round out this set of April announcements, AWS has launched their first region in Africa, bringing the overall count to 23 regions. This new region, af-south-1, is in Cape Town (home of Amazon EC2!) and will allow organizations to extend their applications and tools to Africa, reduce latency for users within the continent, and address data residency or compliance requirements. The new region has the standard three Availability Zones which allows users to build resilient and highly available solutions and comes equipped with a large selection of AWS services to power those solutions.
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