As I sit here at 3:30AM still jet lagged, it’s not lost on me just how fortunate I’ve been to represent tombola along with three of my leadership team at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent 2016 conference.

The scale of the conference is perhaps too big, its expanded from around 14,000 attendees’ in 2012 (the last time I attended) to 32,000 –that’s not a typo. Certainly, getting from session to session was a case of fighting your way through a sea of other attendee’s and should your session be at another venue (the Mirage casino for example) then in all likely hood you’d be late for it. Still, despite this, one cannot be anything other than be bowled over in shear admiration for the organisers.

The two keynotes, both lasted over two hours and delivered more feature announcements than I think anyone could have expected, they came fast and furious and covered such a diverse breadth of the AWS ecosphere –there really must have been something for everyone.

The highlights of the show for me though were…


5 different instance types including the C5 which are based on Skylake and although tombola wont perhaps have use case for this level of machine its amazing that a 72 vCPU / 144GiB computer is “available on demand’.  A step down from this C5 were other instances very deliberately targeted at leveraging the enormous BI and Data warehouse improvements which would come later on in the keynotes.

EC2 Systems Manager

A new tool to help keep track of system configurations and to correct or update systems which are none compliant to the software or system configurations. It also help with patching operating systems. We’re excited to explore opportunities using this tool for alerting around important checks such as server tagging and I’m sure we’ll find it useful identifying incorrectly built servers.



AWS CodeBuild

To fill in the void between AWS CodePipeline  and AWS CodeDeploy and essentially completes the tooling needed for CI/CD pipelines. We use TeamCity and octopus deploy (both of which work really well) but as these AWS tools mature it will be an interesting side by side comparison – particularly around total lifetime cost, feature parity and usability.

Amazon Pinpoint

Push notifications Amazon style! It includes a tool allowing you to send notifications, but the extra value is around the management suite which lets you define who to target and what and when to send the notification. It has all the analytics one would ever want including dash-boarding and when looked at end to end (a bit later on) could be something quite amazing.

C# on Lambda

Lambda is serverless computing as we know, it was  offered JavaScript / Java functions up until now  and is triggered (for example) when things are being added into S3, SNS messages or DynamoDB events etc.  Its got auto-scaling by default (as well as monitoring / logged) and its biggest advantage over EC2 is that you pay by use so don’t pay for an EC2 24/7 sitting there doing the same thing. Clearly we’re going to need to weigh up the costs benefits of running Lambda over EC2 but the benefits around its management make it a tempting proposal for tombola to consume more and more over time.

Lambda updates was the buzz of the conference in my opinion.

Amazon Inspector

So much delivered by this feature, not only does it have knowledge of best practices and is aware of many vulnerabilities it can use this and assess the servers and applications we’re running. I think we’ll possibly see the most use using our development stages by incorporating it into our  software builds.


BI and Data Warehouse

Amazon Athena

A query service that allows you to analyze data stored in S3 using Standard SQL. It looks incredibly fast as it parallelizes the queries i.e. goes elastic on you with all the Amazon resources it needs. You pay per query so its easy to see how useful it could be for some big data interrogations “made easy”.

AWS Glue

A managed ETL service which should make some of the more time-consuming tasks such as data conversions more straight forward and hopefully a little easier.


Machine Learning

There was so much emphasis on Machine Learning this year is was hard to digest but what Amazon has made available to the masses is huge integration with their BI portfolio of products. Presenters were showcasing this immensely impressive tool with use cases around network security, customer segmentation, predicting customer churn.  I think we’ve user cases around Email Send, push notification send not to mention Responsible gambling and Fraud.



AWS Shield

A fully managed service that protects websites and CloudFront etc against DDoS attacks. It comes in two flavors: Firstly, the standard version which is by default available at no extra cost and projects 90+ percent of the most common DDoS attacks. Secondly a more advanced tool which goes further and helps with volumetric attacks etc.


In Conclusion

With reflection, the most exciting element of all this to me is how we could use these tools together (as they are built extremely cohesively) to improve our offering to our customers, streamlining what we do by giving more control directly to the development teams and securing our environment.  We need to get a handle on some of these great new features, put them into our everyday lives so that they become the norm.

re:invent is an exhilarating experience which brings together like minded people from all over the world, the social interaction is big and I’m delighted that I’ve connected and made many new friends. Its really fired me up for the things the amazing Operations team here at tombola are going to do with it.

AWS really is the shining light in cloud (not that that was in doubt) and I’d encourage everyone who’s not played, reviewed or otherwise to do so, and in doing so join the new norm.

Check out some of these video’s and if you’ve enough time Werner’s keynote: