8 Insights from AWS re:Invent

January 6, 2020

By James Farley, Sr. Director, Octo

One thing I appreciate about our customers is how their missions drive us to constantly develop new skills and improve existing skills. Attending Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent 2019 illustrated that drive. Twelve Octo employees attended the six-day conference to learn more about applying AWS’ innovative and emerging technology in the government sector. Three team members came home AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners. In total, more than 60,000 attendees swarmed more than 3,000 workshops held at multiple locations in Las Vegas. Here’s just a smattering of the insights we brought back.  

  1. Robotics steal the stage – This year’s re:Invent theme was right up Octo’s alley – innovation and automation. It starts with robotics, which is advancing quickly to compensate for today’s aging and shrinking workforce. Organizations are analyzing effective methods to use robotics for tasks that have fewer people to complete them. Robots are not changing form or doing anything “new,” but they are doing it autonomously. Making robots more self-sufficient can help capitalize on ROI while strengthening the workforce.
  2. The devil’s in the data  Creating machine learning (ML) datasets has traditionally been complicated and time consuming. SageMaker Ground Truth allows team members to quickly build highly accurate training datasets to support ML, allowing teams to focus more time on optimizing the model rather than building out the datasets needed to train the ML model. SageMaker Ground Truth reviews data to identify errors and provides the ability to remedy those errors and send back corrected data in real time. The tool can reduce fix time by as much as 70% by looking at how teams format the data and what they determine is “bad” data. SageMaker Ground Truth then looks for and highlights similar cases. Gone are the days when only data scientists can do data science. That’s especially great news for small government teams.
  3. Image automation enhances security  Because of security compliance requirements mandated by the departments and agencies we support, we maintain gold images of servers that are preconfigured to meet those rigorous requirements. Maintaining these gold images has traditionally been a manual and time-consuming process, but thanks to the new AWS EC2 Image Builder service, that process is much easier. EC2 Image Builder significantly reduces time and effort invested in keeping images up-to-date and secure by providing teams with a simple graphical interface that has built-in automation allowing us to leverage AWS-provided security settings. There are no manual steps for updating an image, significant because with this tool, teams can produce compliant images through a pipeline and update either automatically or manually. Security with automation – that makes our customers and Octo’s teams happy.
  4. Migration will take many forms – AWS agrees with customers and technologists that there isn’t one correct approach for migrating application workloads to the cloud. While the “refactor” or “replatform” approach allows teams to update major functional parts of an application to leverage cloud native services, this approach costs much more in time and resources than other migration paths like “lift and shift.” A hybrid approach is generally the best option for application migration, as it acknowledges the difficulty in migrating to cloud-based solutions and allows time to get design right before rolling out changes to a legacy application. In the government sector, where downtime can be catastrophic, the right migration approach is mission critical.
  5. A tool to save the software day – Need to migrate workloads from large scale data centers? CloudEndure can do it. Once the workload has been migrated, teams can then explore the best option for rehosting and replatforming applications. Organizations needing to rehost multiple machines can quickly use CloudEndure without worrying about compatibility, performance disruption, or long cutover windows, especially important for systems that affect the public.  
  6. More than analytics – This one is all about the apps. AWS Amplify is a development platform for building secure and scalable web applications. The platform includes a variety of secure analytics features, as well as conversation bots powered by deep learning. Since AWS Amplify covers the complete mobile application development workflow from version control and code testing to production deployment, our development teams can focus on developing the code and building out apps rather than focusing on the support services needed to build those apps.
  7. Improving network management – At re:Invent 2018, AWS released the AWS Transit Gateway service which provided us a way to manage the routing and network connections across multiple AWS cloud accounts and virtual private cloud (VPC). This year AWS took the service to the next level by introducing the AWS Transit Gateway Network Manager which now allows us to have visibility to on-premise networks as well as cloud resources. The tool also extends the ability to automatically set up VPN tunnels between cloud accounts to create VPN connections to on-premise networks. Having a single pane of glass rather than separate consoles for cloud and on-premise networks allows for more efficient monitoring by providing a global view of the hybrid cloud environment.
  8. Change is coming, but adapting takes time – re:Invent attracted experts from around the world, and Octo attendees quickly discovered GovCon issues aren’t unique to the United States, especially when it comes to the immediate need for emerging technology. Globally, the focus is on automation, and technologists are excited about possibilities. We just have to implement emerging tech quickly enough to meet the demands of a rapidly changing workforce.

As always, re:Invent was an amazing, educational, fun, and inspiring event. At Octo, we thrive on innovation, so being at this event put us in our happy place. Our team walked away from re:Invent with lots of new ideas for our customers and how to bring both innovation and automation to their IT challenges. We look forward to seeing what the next decade will bring!