AWS Summit 2013

summitI had the privilege of going to AWS Summit 2013 in New York today. It was a blast! There was quite a variety of people in attendance, including a man that was literally wearing a tinfoil hat, a Hasidic Jew wearing Crocs, and a man whose first name was K (just the letter). In addition to the great breakout sessions, I snagged 6 (!) t-shirts and a sumo wrestler stress toy. Yay for free stuff!

I’m frequently tempted to move my stuff to AWS, but always run into the issue of cost. It would cost me a fortune to get the power of my dedicated server using AWS services. What the summit helped me see is that, unless I’m actually using all that power, it doesn’t really matter. I could potentially get enough computing power for my actual needs while decoupling some of my services and adding some redundancy, all for about the same amount of money. I’m excited to give it a try by migrating some of my lesser projects over for a trial run.

On the other hand, one of the speakers said that for applications with consistent traffic, it is often less expensive to start with a micro AWS instance, scale it up until usage levels out, and then migrate to a traditional environment for the cost savings. In other words, AWS isn’t a magic cure all option. As this article outlines, it is a great fit for some use cases, just a so-so fit for others, and comes with its own set of problems. You need to evaluate what your usage patterns are and what you are trying to accomplish before picking a solution.

I’m also really excited about Redshift. It is billed as a data warehousing service, but I caught the tail end of a breakout session that talked about using it to analyze large datasets, like census data, to compile statistics and build reports. This triggered half a dozen ideas for new sites I could make with minimal upfront costs. The great thing about Redshift is that the bulk of the associated costs are only incurred when you are actively running it. You can cheaply store all your data indefinitely, then fire up Redshift to do some processing, pay the bill, and shut everything back down until you need it again. Neat!

Anyways, my only real complaint about the event is that they gave everyone free alcohol at the end but refused to give me a soda (apparently¬†they were only for mixing with alcohol) and they didn’t have any bottled water available. Seems sort of dumb that they’d be happy to give away expensive drinks but not a $1 bottle of soda.

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