On a scale of 1 to 10 how big is Amazon these days? According to Gardner research it is now 5 times bigger than the next fourteen biggest competitors combined. That’s big, and if the turnout at this year’s Amazon AWS Summit here in Sydney is anything to go by they are set to continue their game changing global domination.My expectations were exceeded by the no expense spared, scale of the event with a massive 180 degree main stage and 3 large breakout rooms as well as a training lab with 100 PC’s and an exhibition space with over 20 third party AWS partners and suppliers. The free coffee, meal and drinks tickets were an obvious win and the cool meal trucks and trailers added a stylish touch.

The morning kicked off with the Keynote from VP and CTO, Dr Werner Vogels who gave a satisfactory top level overview of Amazon AWS services and company progress. Catering to a diverse audience meant his speech was pretty generic and extolled the benefits of AWS in an easy to digest manor.

The keynote was shared with speakers from NAB, Siteminder and a property company called GPT. Unfortunately the keynote over ran by about half an hour and by the time GPT took to the floor the messages were starting to become a bit repetitive and a large swathe of the audience headed for the exits.

The rest of the day was made up of several breakout sessions held by either Amazon AWS experts or by clients and partners using AWS. Most of these were informative and well delivered and I walked away with following key takeaway points.


Three of the presentations I attended used the term Infrastructure as Code. The way Amazon AWS components and services are configured pretty much forces you to configure your server environments using code and setup scripts.

While we have been doing this to a degree at Captiv8 via ebextension scripts, baked AMI’s and the Beanstalk service it is great to have a new catch phrase to encompass this concept and definitely something we will be exploring further.

Most of the presenters talked about building templates in CloudFormation (something that Beanstalk does for us right now), using Puppet or Chef for configuration and using various continuous integration strategies for application deployment.

The keynote speech along with numerous presenters reinforced the notion that the old school, time consuming process of procuring, installing, configuring and maintaining physical hardware are antiquated, against clicking a button or writing a script to setup your environment in hours, if not minutes.


Another great buzzword and concept is Amazon AWS’ ability to significantly reduce or eliminate the cost of risk. With physical hardware, if an enterprise wanted to roll out a new project, they might invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, weeks and months in configuration and years hanging on to a failing project due to that upfront investment.

With AWS, businesses can rapidly build an environment, release their product, receive user feedback and scale up the service or tear it down if it fails. There is no upfront investment in equipment and time to market massively increased.

This allows typically slow moving enterprises as well as start-up organisations to be more experimental and take on riskier more innovative projects because no one’s head is on the line if it all goes pear shaped.


Tying together both the concepts above, NAB and Vodafone gave excellent presentations on how these enterprises have adopted agile development methodologies integrated with Amazon AWS services which allow them to act more like start-up organisations.

Craig Rees , the presenter from Vodafone demonstrated how they had met their objective of deploying releases in the middle of the day – something that previously required teams getting up in the middle of the night, spending hours working through a procedure checklist and sleeping the next day. Now that can be done with the click of a button while the team is on hand to manage any eventualities.

Freeing up team members, rapid time to market and reduced cost of risk will allow these businesses to compete with smaller businesses and start-ups on a more even playing field.

It was also really interesting to get a glimpse in to how these enterprise companies run their operations, along with the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) techniques and testing tools used, Chaos Monkey for example.

The Amazon AWS summit has highlighted some new tools and techniques we can start experimenting with and also re-assured us that a lot of what we do now is along the right lines. It has also inspired us to keep working on our in-house testing and CI/CD procedures and align these even more closely with Amazon AWS services.

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