AWS Announcements at a Glance: The Highlights from AWS in July 2021

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July has been a busy month for many of us, with parts of the world starting to experience a relaxation of pandemic guidelines, there have been family reunions, weddings, and road trips to take part in, the beginnings of travel for work and pleasure, as well as the usual summer fun of the beach, or pools, or hikes in the mountains; all of this while we continue to look for ways to improve and expand our businesses, searching for tools and services that can help us hone the edge we have over our competitors. With the latter in mind, we look at some of the announcements made by AWS this month: services to help us better maintain the high availability of our applications, EBS volumes to provide SAN capabilities that allow us to place ever growing and intensive workloads in the cloud, data lake implementations designed specifically for the health care industry’s strict compliance needs, and the birthday of the oldest AWS service thrown in for good measure. As usual, we’re focusing on the announcements that are most useful to thought leaders within enterprises, as they look to leverage the cloud and improve efficiency in their organizations.

Amazon SQS Turns 15!

Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) is such an integral component of our AWS infrastructure that we tend to take it for granted. In a beta release in 2004, it was the first AWS infrastructure service to be publicly released, with its official production release following in 2006. Over the years Amazon SQS has added many features to its original 8KB message spec; FIFO support, larger and larger payloads, increased monitoring, and more granular metrics, as well as the ubiquitous optimizations to pricing that AWS is well known for. In its 15 years, Amazon SQS has allowed countless companies to decouple their applications as they migrate to AWS or build all new systems using microservices architectures. Happy birthday Amazon SQS, enjoy your cake, and we look forward to all the new features and improvements in the years ahead!

Amazon Route53 Application Recovery Controller

Another big announcement this month was the launch of the Amazon Route53 Application Recovery Controller, a bit of a mouthful as a service name, but something that’s bound to become integral in assessing how applications respond to failure, as well as providing controls for recovery in the event failure does occur.

The Application Recovery Controller has two main components, a readiness check that monitors the status of both the active deployment of the application as well as the recovery deployment, and routing control to transfer traffic to the healthy replica in the event of failure.

Readiness checks evaluate the configuration of the resources, capacity, and network policies that make up your application environment, ensuring that recovery replica groups are always capable of taking over in the event of failure; these include checking configurations of auto-scaling groups, EBS volumes, and RDS instances, but also ensuring that regions where your replicas exist have the capacity to meet the demands of your active deployment.

Routing controls allow you to define how traffic is redirected when failure occurs, as well as defining what constitutes a failure – allowing for measurements such as increases in latency or errors. Routing controls also include safety rules to help eliminate common issues such as flapping.

Amazon Route53 Application Recovery Controller is an exciting new capability that will help organizations with extremely high availability requirements to attain those targets and have confidence in their ability to weather failure.

More information on the Amazon Route53 Application Recovery Controller can be found here.

Amazon HealthLake

Last year, AWS announced Amazon HealthLake during re:Invent. Amazon HealthLake, as its name would suggest, is a data lake implementation with the medical industry in mind. Amazon HealthLake is built with HIPAA compliance in mind, enforcing encryption at rest through AWS KMS as well as protecting the data in transit with TLS. The deployment of Amazon HealthLake fully utilizes managed AWS infrastructure, meaning that organizations can spend more of their time focusing on their data, rather than the typical operational overhead required to manage all the systems involved in a data lake, compliant or otherwise.

Data is stored in FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource) format, a standard for data exchange published by HL7. Both structured and unstructured data is supported, and a variety of validated connectors are included, allowing for easy conversion to FHIR and ingestion into the Amazon HealthLake.

By using Amazon HealthLake, organizations looking to analyze large amounts of medical data can do so with minimal operational overhead, while leveraging AWS to help maintain industry security standards to protect sensitive client records. These records are passed through natural language processing to extract key data within and allow it to be surfaced in your analytics, where it can inform improvements such as facilities efficiency or quality of patient care.

Check out the Amazon HealthLake page for more details.

EBS io2 Block Express Volumes

Another service that was announced during last year’s re:Invent is EBS io2 Block Express volumes. These are cloud-based SANs, created with intensive workloads such as Oracle, SQL Server or HANA; allowing for volumes as large as 64 TiB, and with max IOPS of 256,000, these are sure to become mainstays for the mission-critical applications of Enterprise organizations. These volumes support Multi Attach, allowing them to be connected to multiple EC2 instances, making it easier to design and implement highly available solutions for those important workloads.

Currently io2 Block Express volumes are available on r5b EC2 instances, AWS’ next-gen memory optimized instances, powered by the AWS Nitro System, and able to deliver the fastest block storage performance on EC2. The combination of this instance type with the performance of the io2 Block Express volumes will allow Enterprise customers to confidently place their key high-IO applications on the cloud, meeting their performance requirements now, as well as allowing for future scale to accommodate growth and high-availability demands.

More on the io2 Block Express volumes can be found in the EC2 User Guide.

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