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AWS Innovations to Improve Your Development Environment

What’s new in AWS? The Amazon Web Services suite of products is a literal behemoth, which can make it very difficult to keep up with new product launches and feature updates to products that you’re already registered with.

AWS services have made software development, deployment, configuration, and management much simpler and faster with their cloud based everything-as-a-service offerings including storage space, runtimes, databases, and more.

Today we check out some recent releases and updates that might help your dev environment and product speed to market. Read on to see what’s new with AWS AppSync, Application Load Balancers, Amazon Neptune, the Serverless Application Repository and Amazon Aurora.

1. AWS AppSync – Easy production and management of multi-user, real-time synced apps, with offline capabilities

These days, multi-user, real-time apps (both web and mobile) are de rigueur. However, writing complex backends to deal with this functionality involves time and effort. That’s why AWS has introduced AppSync, a new service that helps build multi-user, real-time apps quickly and easily. Apps built with AppSync also have offline capabilities, caching locally and syncing when a network connection becomes available.

AWS AppSync is the ideal choice for rapid development or prototyping, as it can let AWS take care of the scalable GraphQL backend-as-a-service for you – letting developers concentrate on the front-end application instead. If you aren’t familiar with it, GraphQL is a simple to use data query language that is an alternative to REST architectures. AppSync allows concatenation of data from multiple sources, too, so requests can pull from various DBs at a time.

If you need to build a multi-user, real-time app in the shortest amount of time, then AWS AppSync is going to be a great choice.

2. Built-In Authentication for Application Load Balancers

Is your business currently using Application Load Balancing (ALB) to distribute traffic to your cloud application? Application Load Balancing makes it easier to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to cloud resource usage and geographical-based requests.

Recently, Amazon launched a new feature for ALB: built-in authentication support for users. This means that you can securely authenticate users based on rules in the ALB, all through an Identity Provider (IdP), without having to write any authentication code on the backend. This saves repeating authentication code again and again across multiple applications – plus it’s very easy to set up.

The easiest way to set up this new feature is by using Amazon Cognito, an identity aggregator that supports logins with social sign-ins (Google, Facebook, Amazon), enterprise SAML sign-ins, or other OIDC sign-ins (like Salesforce or Microsoft). You also have the option to provide multiple sign-in choices to your users.

If you already use Application Load Balancers in your web or mobile apps, this feature is going to make your developers lives just that much easier, and authentication easier to configure and manage.

3. The launch of AWS Neptune for graph-based relationship-centric dataset management

The amount of data that we are storing is exploding and with it the complex relationships between otherwise disjointed datasets. Relational and NoSQL databases are not designed to manage these complex many-to-many relationships per se, but graph databases are. This is where Amazon Neptune comes in.

Amazon Neptune allows users to create queries via TinkerPop Gremlin and SPARQL on the relationships (with a scope of billions of relationships) between various datasets, all with fast responses and a promise of 99.99% availability. The applications of Amazon Neptune include recommendation engines, enterprise social networks, sales opportunity discovery, and more.

Graph databases are the way of the future. Unlike traditional databases, graph database modelling closely reflects the real world. Understanding and implementing them in your organisation can help provide a more nuanced, human-readable format, which is a boon for management, too.

If you’d like to use Amazon Neptune, you’ll need to use either Property Graph or RDF as your graph database model.

4. Get your components here! AWS Serverless Application Repository

Every developer knows that there is no point in reinventing the wheel – unless the pre-configured wheel is closed-source or costs too much! The AWS Serverless Application Repository is recently-launched source of serverless code, components, and full applications developed by AWS customers and independent developers, accessible to all. Each project specifies the AWS components necessary to run it and customers will simply pay for the AWS resources consumed – not the applications themselves.

Examples of current components listed on the AWS Serverless Application Repo include:

billingReports – To deliver your latest AWS cost breakdowns directly to a Slack channel

iot-twilio-bridge – Allows your IoT devices to send messages to Twilio (and thereafter either make a phone call or send an SMS)

severless-survey – Whip up a serverless survey in a few quick minutes and it’ll be available online, with results available in a DynamoDB table

The AWS Serverless Application Repository is just another trick to have up your sleeve to save developers reinventing the wheel – thus saving resources within your company. It’s also a great way to show off your own developer’s skills (and perhaps drum up new business) by publishing on the repo.

5. Use Amazon Aurora? The new Backtrack feature is for you

Amazon Aurora is a cloud-based relational database used by companies all over the world. Up until now, if you made unwanted changes to your production databases, getting back your original database versions involved a workaround. Specifically, you’d have to create a new instance of a backup snapshot, get the SQL data dumped to your MySQL workbench (or similar), then connect the data to your production instance and delete the temp instance you created.

The new Backtrack feature in Aurora allows you backtrack up to 72 hours, where you are able to recover the database from any change made across this time period, down to seconds. This makes it far easier to recover from unwanted DB changes without having to worry about creating your own snapshot logging mechanisms and workarounds. The functionality is available for all newly-launched Aurora DB clusters.

Mistakes are a part of life but this neat new feature makes recovery on Aurora quick, easy, and painless. It is a paid feature, but it’s worth it for many cases.

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