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AWS month in review: Expanded EC2 options and a blastoff into space

IT and development teams who try to keep pace with AWS’ ever-expanding portfolio have a lot to catch up on this month.

First, to see the most significant news that came out of AWS re:Invent 2018 this week, check out SearchAWS’ end-to-end guide on the show. There, you can find details about AWS’ latest AI services, databases, storage and security features, and hybrid cloud strategy — which now includes an on-premises hardware component in Outposts.

But re:Invent, and the month of November in general, brought about other important AWS features and tools for users who run day-to-day operations on the Amazon cloud – and there’s even some fodder for those who use AWS to explore outer space.

More EC2 options for management, compute

Pause and resume:  Admins now have the option to pause, or hibernate, Amazon EC2 instances that are backed by Elastic Block Store (EBS). This feature enables users to maintain a “pre-warmed” set of compute instances, so they can launch applications, particularly memory-intensive ones, more quickly than if those instances had to fully reboot after a shutdown. Amazon likened the process to hibernating a laptop rather than turning it off.

Users can control the pause/resume process via the AWS Management Console, the AWS SDK or the command line interface. The feature applies to the following instance families: M3, M4, M5, C3, C4, C5, R3, R4 and R5 instances that run Amazon Linux 1.

More instance types move in: The Amazon EC2 instance family grew with the addition of A1, P3dn and C5n instance types. Intended for workloads that require high scalability, A1 instances are the first to be fueled by AWS’ ARM-based Graviton processors. The GPU-based P3dn instances, designed for machine learning, deliver four times the network throughput of the cloud provider’s existing P3 instance type. Lastly, the C5n family can use up to 100 Gbps of network bandwidth, making them a good fit for applications that require high network performance.

Additional storage, networking services

Amazon FSx: This managed file share service debuted in two flavors: Amazon FSx for Lustre and Amazon FSx for Windows File Server. The former enables users to deploy the open source Lustre distributed file system on AWS, and is geared toward high-performance computing and machine learning apps. The second version, designed for Microsoft shops, delivers the Windows file system on AWS. It’s built on Windows Server, is compatible with Windows-based apps and supports Active Directory integration and Windows NTFS, AWS said.

AWS Global Accelerator: For enterprises that deliver applications to a global customer base, Global Accelerator is a networking service that directs user traffic to the closest and highest-performing application endpoint. AWS expects the accelerator to ensure high availability and free enterprises from grappling with latency and performance issues over the public internet. In addition, the service uses static IP addresses, which, according to AWS, eliminate the need for users to manage unique IP addresses for different AWS availability zones or regions.

AWS Transit Gateway: Another service intended to simplify network management, Transit Gateway lets customers hitch their own on-premises networks, remote office networks and Amazon VPCs to one centralized gateway. Admins manage one connection from that central gateway to each VPC and on-premises network they use. The cloud provider described it as a hub-and-spoke model; think of Transit Gateway as the “hub” that centrally controls and directs traffic to various network “spokes.”

A big move in microservices

AWS App Mesh: Based on the open source service proxy Envoy, App Mesh streamlines microservices management. App Mesh users can monitor communication between individual microservices, and implement rules that govern that communication. It’ll be interesting to see how App Mesh stacks up against other service mesh options, such as Azure Service Fabric and the open source Istio technology, behind which Google, in particular, has thrown its weight.

AWS takes to space

Other AWS news this month took more of a, well, celestial slant.

The cloud provider teamed up with Lockheed Martin to provide easier and cheaper ways for companies to collect satellite data and move it into the cloud for storage and analysis.

Lockheed’s Verge system of globally distributed, compact satellite antennae will work in conjunction with AWS Ground Station, a service that co-locates ground antennas inside AWS availability zones around the world.

Previously, organizations such as NASA and companies like Mapbox had to write complex business logic and scripts to upload and download satellite data, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said at re:Invent. Ground Station lets users work with satellite streams from the AWS management console, and pay by the minute for antenna time. It’s now in preview in two AWS regions, with 10 more to come early next year.

It’s another example of AWS going after specialized customers, but the partnership could also have broader resonance among AWS’ user base. Research organizations and niche startup companies are the heaviest users of satellite data, but enterprise IT shops in general should also watch the implications of geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial data on their business, said Holger Mueller, VP and principal analyst with Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

“Making that data available in an easy, secure, scalable and affordable way is key for next-generation enterprise apps,” he said.

AWS isn’t first in this market — SAP and the European Space Agency partnered in 2016 to bring satellite data into SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform — but its moves to build out a global satellite antenna network take the idea much further.

*Senior News Writer Chris Kanaracus contributed to this blog.

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