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

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The summer is upon us and it is time for another installment of Rackspace’s AWS announcement highlights. While many of us are loading down the mini-vans and preparing for cross-country treks to destinations for some much needed rest and relaxation, the experts at AWS remained steadfast in their ongoing mission of deploying best in breed cloud services. So what sort of magic did AWS churn out in the month of the summer solstice?

AWS maintained their normal cadence of product updates in June, rolling out availability updates to existing products in new regions and delivering new capabilities across the wide-ranging services portfolio. This blog will focus on some helpful networking updates to both Linux-based VPNs and NAT Gateways, greater capabilities in AWS Personalize recommendation, and the announcement of general availability for AWS Proton. They also added a unique global competition named AWS BugBust, which has created quite a buzz. The purpose of this update is to draw attention to some of the announcements that we feel have significant value for an organization rethinking how they solve problems by leveraging the premier hyperscaler on the market.

AWS BugBust

On June 24th, AWS’ CTO, Werner Vogels took to the stage to throw down the proverbial gauntlet in the world’s first global bug busting challenge! This event pits developers from across the globe against one another in a contest of bug busting skills. To help find and discover bugs, AWS BugBust utilizes ML-powered developer tools – Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer and Amazon CodeGuru Profiler – to evaluate untrustworthy, expensive, and/or buggy code. This challenge will certainly create a buzz in the developer community and establish an atmosphere of good-natured competition.

AWS has developed a framework to enable organizations host private bug-busting events which will come standard with leaderboards, specific challenges, and a reward system. Developers earn points each time they identify and eliminate a bug, resulting in badges, other non-monetary rewards, and the chance to earn a free pass to Las Vegas to attend the much anticipated re:Invent festivities. The goal set by Vogels is a lofty 1 million bugs by the end of the BugBust challenge. Developers start your engines!!!!

A few housekeeping items of note. AWS BugBust is currently only available in US East (N. Virginia) and customers will be required to pay for their usage of Amazon CodeGuru.

To learn more, check out the official announcement here.

AWS Client VPN launches desktop client for Linux

As more organizations adopt AWS as their cloud solution provider of choice there is continued pressure to provide secure end-to-end connectivity for a variety of operating systems and hardware platforms. Organizations have long since had the ability to pin-up site-to-site VPNs leveraging a combination of Customer Gateways and Virtual Private Gateways, deploy dedicated DirectConnect links to establish a physical connection into the AWS backbone, leverage Microsoft-based VPN clients in both an AWS and 3rd-Party variety but, options have been pretty slim for Linux-based users.

On June 23rd, 2021 AWS announced support for Linux Desktop Operating systems (Ubuntu 64bit 18.04 and 20.04 LTS) on the AWS Client VPN. The AWS Client VPN now supports SAML based federated authentication for establishing a VPN from Linux desktops. The Linux flavor of the Client VPN has all the same capabilities as the agents develop for macOS and Windows and is likewise free to download. Customers are free to leverage either OpenVPN-based Clients or the native AWS VPN Desktop Client and in either scenario the service remains managed by AWS alleviating availability concerns.

More information on the AWS Client VPN for Linux Desktop OS can be found here.

Amazon Personalize now unlocks information in unstructured text for recommendations

Amazon Personalize is a truly powerful tool in the AWS tool chest which enables organizations to leverage the power of machine learning without staffing a team of data engineers and data scientists. Amazon Personalize empowers developers to build applications that leverage a wide-variety of personalization experiences to create user-specific recommendations. If you ever wondered why recommends you purchase a jar of jelly after you did a search on peanut butter, now you know. Amazon Personalize ingests data from numerous diverse sources and leverages ML models to deliver highly customized recommendations. The possible use cases are limited only by the imagination. Amazon Personalize alleviates the need for deep ML knowledge by managing the entire ML pipeline to include; data processing, feature identification, algorithm selection, and the subsequent training and optimization of models.

On June 16th, 2021 AWS announced a much needed and powerful augmentation to the Amazon Personalize capabilities, allowing data to be extracted from unstructured text. This feature enhancement enables customers to unlock information trapped in product descriptions, reviews, move synopsis, and a host of other unstructured formats. These previously untapped resources are full of information and insights about products. By updating customer catalogs and leveraging natural language processing (NLP) techniques, Amazon Personalize is able to utilize that additional information when it is creating a customized recommendation.

More information on the Amazon Personalize update can be found here.

AWS Removes NAT Gateway’s Dependence on Internet Gateway for Private Communications

On June 10th, 2021 AWS announced that Network Address Translation (NAT) Gateways could be launched within a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) without an associated Internet Gateway (IG). While this may not be as interesting as a global bug busting contest or as technologically intriguing as the advanced machine learning capabilities of Amazon Personalize, the deployment of NAT and Internet Gateways are a fundamental component of nearly every AWS environment and, I wanted to give a nod to the utilitarian services that are, for the most part, written off as undifferentiated plumbing.

Typically NAT Gateways are used to provide connectivity to the internet for items that we do not want to be publicly accessible, which often reside within a private subnet. It is a common design pattern for databases, for instance, this architecture has always required the associated VPC to contain an Internet Gateway (IG). However, not all NAT Gateways are used as a proxy to the public internet. Some NAT Gateways work in conjunction with Transit Gateways or work through Virtual Private Gateways (VPG) to push traffic to on-premise locations. This new Private NAT Gateway capability allows architects to deploy a NAT GW for use in private connections to other VPCs or on-prem data centers, without having an associated Internet Gateway. For organizations with extreme security concerns or compliance requirements, this ability to have access to hybrid on-prem infrastructure without opening the VPC to internet traffic could be a game changer. As of the date of this announcement, the VPC NAT Gateway was available in all regions with the notable exception of AWS GovCloud (US).

More information on the Amazon VPC NAT Gateway can be found here.

AWS announces the general availability of AWS Proton

AWS Proton is the first fully managed delivery service for container and serverless applications. The service was developed to enable customer platform teams with additional tooling around management, governance, and enhanced visibility. The goal of the service is to create a consistent standard aligned with best practices when managing deployments, thus increasing productivity for developers. AWS Proton enables platform teams to develop templates or blueprints to provision, implement, and monitor a specific service. These blueprints can then be leveraged by development teams, who will no longer be burdened with infrastructure related tasks.

As part of the announcement, AWS also provided updates on two new capabilities of AWS Proton. AWS Proton now offers multi-account infrastructure support, allowing platform teams to manage and deploy their architecture to multiple accounts. The second feature brings additional capabilities around IAM integration which support IAM condition context keys and the ability to designate which services a developer can create based on template characteristics.

More information on AWS Proton can be found here.

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