This content is part of the Conference Coverage: A conference guide to AWS re:Invent 2021

AWS cloud database users detail applications

AWS has more than one database to choose from, as the cloud provider aims to provide users like eHealth and HBO Max with technologies to meet different use cases.

Rather than building a single database services for all needs, over its 15-year history, AWS has launched multiple cloud database services in an attempt to provide the full scope of capabilities that organizations want.

In a database leadership session at the AWS re:Invent 2021 conference on Dec. 1, Jeff Carter, vice president of relational databases at AWS, detailed new capabilities and outlined the general strategy for cloud databases.

AWS this week introduced new data lake capabilities with its Lake Formation service to improve governance and management of data lakes. AWS also launched its new DevOps Guru for RDS service, which provides a machine learning-powered capability for Amazon relational database service optimization.

AWS is also emphasizing the theme of database migration with the launch of its AWS Database Migration Server Fleet Advisor system.

Meanwhile, Sundar Shankar, head of cloud and service reliability engineering (SRE) at online insurance marketplace vendor eHealth, detailed the process of migrating to AWS cloud databases.

How eHealth migrated to AWS cloud databases

Shankar said eHealth migrated to AWS cloud databases in 2021 in a process that required 11 months of effort. He noted that before the migration, his team had expected it would actually take several years to migrate.

Screenshot of Sundar Shankar, head of cloud and SRE at eHealth
Sundar Shankar, head of cloud and SRE at eHealth, outlined how his organization migrated to AWS cloud databases in a leadership session at AWS re:Invent.

The eHealth cloud database migration involved a three-phase strategy.

In the first phase, eHealth looked to "lift and shift" its on-premises MySQL and PostgreSQL database deployments into AWS. The goal with the initial phase was to identify any potential gaps and then begin to formulate a plan to optimize the databases.

If you're wondering why we chose those two databases [Aurora and DocumentDB], they are already best in class, decouple storage and compute, provide automated recovery and failover, automated backups as well as security.
Sundar ShankarHead of cloud and service reliability engineering, eHealth

In the second phase, eHealth started to consolidate its databases by moving to Amazon Aurora for its MySQL and PostgreSQL needs. Shankar noted that eHealth was also using MongoDB and migrated to DocumentDB on AWS for that database.

"If you're wondering why we chose those two databases [Aurora and DocumentDB], they are already best in class, decouple storage and compute, provide automated recovery and failover automated backups as well as security," Shankar said.

The final phase of the migration focused on ensuring high availability and resiliency. Shankar explained that during the third phase eHealth built out its global replication capabilities for the cloud database deployments, and that was critical to enabling eHealth to complete the overall migration within 11 months.

How HBO Max uses AWS cloud database services

In the same leadership session, Rob Ford, director of software engineering at HBO Max, explained how the online streaming service uses several AWS cloud databases for its operations.

Ford noted that a key challenge for HBO Max is the ability to handle traffic demands as the number of users and amount of content grows. Automation and scalability options provides by AWS cloud database have been a real benefit for HBO Max, he said.

"We believe in the discipline of database reliability engineering, with its focus on heavy investments in automation," Ford said.

Ford said that HBO Max has chosen different AWS cloud database services to meet different needs. For its purchasing capability, which enables consumer to purchase subscriptions and content, HBO Max uses Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL.

"The purchases database is where we capture direct consumer purchasing information and this is our crown jewel," Ford said. "This data is accessed by the HBO Max application in a number of different ways which made indexing support critical, so the native features of PostgreSQL were a perfect fit for this use case."

Meanwhile, HBO Max uses the Amazon ElastiCache service for its devices database. 

The device database is where HBO Max monitors and manages the status of devices signed into its network. The streaming provider then uses the DynamoDB database for what Ford referred to as the "pickup" service. He explained that pickup enables users to pick up where they left off after watching part of a series or an episode.

This year "was a good year for HBO Max," Ford said. "In the span of just literally a few months, we went from operating in one country to operating in several dozen. In large part, I think a lot of this is attributable to the capabilities that come with Amazon databases."

The AWS conference session was held live in Las Vegas and rebroadcast online.

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