By Antony Melvin – Architecture & Planning Practice Lead
The Manchester AWS Community Summit has been running since 2017. This year’s event (held on 22nd September 2022) took place at the Victoria Warehouse – the last time I was at this venue was to watch King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Remarkably similar vibe! So what did I learn? Read on to check out the top 10 cloud architecture insights I took away from the day.
Cloud Architect Track
I followed the architect track at the event. There were 9 presentations on the architect track which covered a range of subjects including Cloud Architecture, Data Science, Lego, sustainability, serverless, Lego, best practice, development patterns and more Lego!
I didn’t get to speak to all the speakers afterwards, but I did speak to half of them. I also didn’t get a chance to speak to all the sponsors either – must try harder next time! However, I did speak to Dan Hicks of TechData.
The presentations were all about 40-45 minutes long with 5 minutes of Q&A afterwards – so close to 7 hours of presentations on the architect track. This was similar on the build track and with workshops and then networking until late it was a full day. All for £10 which is excellent value.
Keynote & Summit Themes
To start were introductions from the redoubtable Phil Horn from Steamhaus, followed by the keynote from AWS’s Ricardo Sueiras. Later on, Ricardo beat me at a game of N64 GoldenEye – basically because he’d remembered how to fire a gun and I was learning how to punch. Ricardo spun a metaphor on Tolkien’s writing and the cloud, as well as revealing his teenage MERP years in a Spanish community in the New Forest. Ricardo was on good form!
The themes that ran through the track were how to realise event-driven architecture and domain-driven design in most cloud-based scenarios. And, how this keyed directly into microservice patterns. Serverless or managed service tools were how this interfaced directly with AWS, which was also a boon for sustainability. The same patterns should fit into Azure or GCP as well.
Data Science & Database Migration
First up on Architecture was Bobby Gilbert, Senior Digital Transformation Director from Sperry Rail. Bobby described the evolution of Sperry’s Elmer and Zula data science projects used for systematic analysis of rail track defects. Interesting that Sperry’s transformation kicked up a gear with a Well-Architected review. A great presentation with animated bits that really suggested a love for problem-solving.
Bobby was joined by Abel on stage for the QA, who oi was able to speak to in the bar after the event. I also spoke to one of Sperry’s AI team and demanded that they expand into road defects and get potholes fixed. I expect Sperry Road to be launched before Christmas!
Next up was Matt Houghton, Data Architect from CDL who gave a polished run-through of the challenges of mass database migration projects and happily outlined the challenges. He talked especially about a key aspect of materialised views in Oracle that wasn’t available in PostgresSQL on RDS. Managed services featured heavily as did, inevitably with Oracle, costs and the dual table. Migrating 600 databases – good work!
AWS Cloud Architecture Best Practise & Data Lakes
Jamie Walker & Paul Flowers, Solution Architects from Steamhaus went through best practices across a range of landing zone architectures. It covers account set-up and organisation units using a team-based account structure that is mapped onto VPCs.
Good thinking on having a networking account that maps to just 2 VPCs – production and non-production. This eliminates the need for lots of stuff e.g. fewer NAT gateways in total = lower cost. Final points on what Infrastructure as Code (IaC) to use (no one uses the console, right?) were useful.
Alex Kearns, Senior Consultant at Inawisdom finished the morning sessions with a run-through of cloud Data Lakes. We had a chat later and he assured me that the Shrek slide would be removed as it didn’t get the anticipated laugh. Architects are a tough crowd.
I liked his presentation as soothing pictures of lakes and streams with no words made a pointed difference from many of the dense slides in other presentations. I was left with a couple of questions: Does AWS Glue developing a data catalogue truly conform to the data in a Lake? What are the indicators that a Lake is becoming a swamp?
Domain-Driven Design & Cloud Architecture Sustainability
Bob (the mighty) Gregory the dry-witted Chief Architect from Cazoo (although as it turned out not a DRY advocate). Bob was certainly the most pointed speaker and his quiet yet forceful style was very impressive. I felt like I was back at University as I was scribbling notes as it was clear that this was the goal. So many good, usable ideas on domain-driven design that I’ll need to go through his presentation again (https://bobthemighty.github.io/talk-boundaries/) or do my own research…or something.
Sheen Brisals, Senior Engineering Manager shared Lego’s passion for sustainability – they have a week each year dedicated to sustainability – and how switching to serverless supports a more sustainable way to use servers.
DRY as don’t repeat yourself was again repurposed as do reuse yourself.
I asked Sheen afterwards whether he felt AWS should be more proactive in sustainability. Mainly around whether AWS and other cloud companies should step in where companies are being wasteful. Sheen explained that AWS only goes beyond the shared responsibility model when it has concerns about the purpose of AWS accounts – a different kind of security. Perhaps sustainability in the cloud will need more interventionist cloud providers.
Migrating Legacy Apps & Serverless Demos
Ben Ellerby Founder of Eleios had some novel insights into migrating legacy web applications into the cloud. Focused around 8-week (sprint style) migration patterns Eleios divides aspects of web pages into vertical and horizontal slices (based on whether they have a site-wide impact or page-level scope). This pattern also enables legacy apps to be sliced up and migrated in a more agile fashion without the long drawn-out big-bang deployments.
Last up was Sarah Hamilton (@serverlesssarah) an application engineer from Lego who had a real high-wire agenda and managed 3 serverless live demos. Sarah utilised EventBridge as the glue to join up an event-driven series of demos. She joined up lambdas, S3 buckets, Kinesis, CloudWatch and other services. Sarah explained some of the underpinnings at Lego, where teams have individual git repos (to reduce coupling), work on sections of business-focused code (e.g. a website marketing squad) and each team owns its own CI/CD pipeline. Starting at 5:15 pm would have daunted others, but Sarah’s energy certainly kept the venue full.
Later, there were sponsor’s prizes, burgers, the quiz and some retro gaming. Excellent event!
Cloud architecture: Top Ten Things
Ten things I learned:
- Event-Driven Architecture is the basis for a lot of Cloud Architecture discussions
- Maximising the benefits of microservices requires duplication. DRY is a microservice anti-pattern
- Domain-driven design enables fast microservice development
- Live demos don’t always fail
- I’m the best at that basketball game after getting 15 baskets in 30 seconds
- Innovative data science can be inspired by a bolt-hole in a piece of railway track
- Best practice on AWS is constantly maturing
- IaC is the only way
- Serverless and managed services free up architects to focus on solving problems rather than patching
- Sustainability is a growing concern
Bonus – conference chairs are a pain, bring a cushion!
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