Amazon Web Services – Bigger and bolder, but will it be the new normal?

A recap of this year’s edition of the AWS Re:Invent Conference

Contributed by Anoop Balakuntalam

Over the last few years, Amazon has gone from being a brand recognized as a leading commerce player to a brand that is also on the cusp of becoming a technology giant. With cloud operations in over 11 regions across the world, over a million active customers including 900 government agencies worldwide and over 500 significant feature & service launches in just this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has shown that it has the breadth and depth to be a leader. In the 2014 Cloud Infrastructure as a Service Magic Quadrant, Gartner rated AWS as having the furthest completeness of vision and highest ability to execute, and also observed that Amazon Web Services has 5 times the compute capacity in use than the aggregate total of the 14 other providers in the quadrant!

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Number of significant new features and services from AWS

 At the recently concluded third edition of the AWS Re:Invent conference at Vegas, AWS further entrenched its position, demonstrated its lead and came off as much bolder in its messaging & offerings. The presence of over 13500 attendees from 53 countries gave testimony to the reach and size of Amazon Web Services. It would be safe to say that in the enterprise technology circles, the word Amazon now first evokes images of a computing & technology provider and then that of a commerce player. In some ways, AWS also feels like the new Apple with crowds eagerly waiting to hear about the new service launches (all held carefully in secret until the keynote) and then the (virtually) long queues to get access to the feature previews!

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Razorfish on the SI slide – Day1 Keynote by Andy Jassy, SVP, AWS

One of the most pervasive ideas that AWS presented at the conference was the idea of “cloud as the new normal”. The idea that it is no longer a question of “if” or even “when” you should move to the cloud, but that if you are not already on the cloud you’re falling behind. In fact, AWS took its messaging one step further to talk about how several large enterprises have made the decision to go “all-in” with Amazon. Companies like Major League Baseball were invited to talk about their decision to go with AWS, several of whom made a reference to how it was a no-brainer to choose Amazon. At the end of it all, one might be forgiven for thinking that the message was that “AWS is the new normal”!

Although this year’s conference was largely about taking strides to change the course of technology and to make its presence felt in devops, AWS also continued wooing its enterprise customers. Philips Healthcare spoke about the massive petabyte scale of real-time streaming & compute they’re using to change the world of healthcare. AWS also talked about how security & compliance are now the reasons and not the blockers for cloud, which was followed by a presentation by Intuit to go with this message.

Several new service announcements were targeted at the enterprise buyer:

  • The AWS Key Management service for encryption key management & compliance, to bring easier management of keys providing greater visibility & control.

  • The AWS Config service was presented as an alternative to ageing ITIL toolsets for resource visibility, dependency tracking & configuration management.

  • The AWS Service Catalog to enable enterprises to provide discovery & provisioning of approved services on the cloud to its users via a custom catalog.

Some of the boldest moves from Amazon were its ventures into attempting to change some of the core fundamental building blocks in the software world. Two in particular stand out:

  • AWS Aurora – a new MySQL compatible database engine with enterprise grade performance, cloud grade scalability & fault tolerance and open-source grade pricing. AWS claims 5x the performance of MySQL at one-tenth the price of comparable commercial databases. This is the first time that Amazon has offered a core software service such as a cloud-grown relational database engine to the enterprise as a possible alternative to large well established commercial offerings.

  • AWS Lambda – a way to run highly available, highly parallel, event-driven code functions in the cloud without the need to manage any kind of infrastructure! This is clearly an attempt to redefine how software is built with new patterns that are entirely cloud-first.

These launches are massive leaps from the heretofore wrapping of existing software & paradigms in scalable automated cloud services, to defining completely new kinds of services and paradigms. All very bold moves and compelling, but concerns of lock-in lurk under the surface.

AWS also strengthened its presence in the world of devops with its share of new “agility is the holy grail” focused services:

  • AWS CodeDeploy – AWS made available to the rest of the world an avatar of its in-house code deployment service that currently enables an average 95 deployments every minute! AWS also announced the availability of two other Application Lifecycle Management tools in early 2015 – CodeCommit and CodePipeline. While CodeCommit seems to be in direct competition to GitHub allowing developers to host code closer to their AWS environments, CodePipeline seems to be the AWS native way to do Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment.

  • AWS EC2 Container Service – With a large section of devops professionals expecting some kind of a container service supporting Docker, AWS would have a done a disservice to itself by not announcing one. The demo showed how containers are automatically scheduled across underlying heterogeneous infrastructure components. The topic of VMs vs containers will continue to be the rage this coming year.

Finally, AWS also made several overtures to propagate its view of how to think about, operate and run technology organizations. Several references were made to the three pronged AWS culture - customer focus, innovation and long term focus. Some enterprise patterns for technology adoption and governance were also discussed.

We were fortunate enough to hear Jeff Bezos speak and the insights he shared were pretty amazing. Considering the first couple of years of AWS many people were questioning the strategy. Right now however, it seems few are wondering. His advice that leaders need to counterbalance the ‘institutional no’ is something that AWS buyers have certainly lived. It was also interesting to hear from Steve Schmidt (CISO, AWS) who made several good points about managing security and urged his audience to make it easier for people to do the secure thing than to do something insecurely.

No developer, no project and no enterprise can afford to ignore the new forces and paradigms that Amazon brought to the table. Bringing the ability to run code without having to manage any infrastructure and having Intel develop a processor exclusively for Amazon, are clear indicators of an emerging giant. With the number of “all-in” migration clients presented at the conference and the repeated reinforcing of the message of “new normal”, AWS is still the biggest force to reckon with despite the heating competition. But as Gartner said, the race has just begun!

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Our Weekend At The Salesforce $1 Million Hackathon

The Salesforce $1 Million Hackathon is an annual event organized by Salesforce at Silicon Valley. This year, it was held from October 10 – 12, 2014 at City View in Metreon, San Francisco, California (USA).

Contributed by Brajeshwar OinamIt was an electrifying feeling to be surrounded by developers and designers from all around the world. I have always wanted to be a part of such a big event. What excited me the most was the opportunity to meet like-minded people with diverse backgrounds and a variety of experience in different domains. Knowing what I could take back from this place was priceless.

The event consisted of four rounds. One of the important guidelines was to create an app using Force.com, Heroku, or Force.com with Heroku. We could form a team of up to 6 members with anyone interested. We tweeted looking for team members. The tweets were displayed on a giant display visible to all. I teamed up with a Brazilian and three non-resident Indians – 4 team members whom I had not met before.

First few minutes we interacted mostly involved knowing each other and our domains of expertise. It is very important to know each others’ strengths and weaknesses in order to assign roles and complement efficiency while working in a newly formed team.

The amalgamation of ideas and exchange of knowledge was enlightening. There were a host of things I taught them and a lot of things I learnt from them. After brainstorming, we decided to come up with an app that could boost efficiency and performance and at the same time reduce the loss of time in a business environment. Careful evaluations led us to a consensus that we need to combine two of time management’s well established principles and integrate it into our app.

The Eisenhower matrix which helps sort tasks on the basis of importance and urgency plus the Pomodoro technique that helps focus all our attention on a specific task with time restrictions to evaluate performance. We had to ensure this setup has exceptional user interface and works smoothly. We named our app ‘Simpledone’. The app we built could categorize and notify tasks on priority basis and have a timer to evaluate performance. The users could assign tasks and set its urgency and importance. The target user for the app was anyone with a busy lifestyle and who wants a focused execution with minimum effort.

We decided to go with a mobile first strategy. The app had an API-oriented architecture and was responsive. We used Ruby on Rails (RoR), CSS (powered by Sass), Javascript, HTML and PostgreSQL DB to develop the app, which would later be made Open Source. We made use of Heroku which saved us time and also increased efficiency while developing the app. The app uses an algorithm generated priority list and uses visual time boxing.

We received a very positive response from the judges on our User interface and User experience in the app with a rating of 63%. Majority of them were interested in knowing how the app could be integrated into existing project management tools like JIRA, Basecamp, etc.

The opportunity to work with random people having unknown capabilities and coming from distinct cultures was one of the best learning experiences. We made some great connections and have been regularly updating each other with new ideas and suggestions.

I also noticed a lot of people focusing on application development and design for wearable devices and an increased focus on Internet of Things (IoT). I feel these are going to be the next big things. I believe everyone interested in the field of development and design should participate in similar events for the exposure it provides and the kind of knowledge transfer that it results in – working in an environment that takes us out of our comfort zone really makes us think out of the box.

You can find the repository of ‘Simpledone’ on Github here.  We also made a video of our pitch for the app. Take a look at it here.

You could try out the app at:  http://whispering-refuge-9133.herokuapp.com/

More Info about the app available here.

Visit us at Razorfish.com

Thanks for joining us at the 2014 Razorfish Tech Summit

Over 200 attendees gathered at the Altman Building in NYC for two days of insightful presentations, hands-on workshops and networking.

We hope you found the Tech Summit inspiring and thought provoking. To help us improve on future summits, please take our short survey here or email us at techsummit@razorfish.com.

See you next year! The Razorfish team

If you would like to watch any of the presentations, please click below:

  • Ray Velez, Global Chief Technology Officer, Razorfish video slides

  • Keynote: Piers Fawkes, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, PSFK video slides

  • David Stover, Global Solution Management Lead – Mobile, Store, Pricing - hybris video slides

  • Martin Jacobs, GVP, Technology, Razorfish video slides

  • Rafi Jacoby, Director, Social Technologies, Razorfish video slides

  • John Cunningham, Chief Technology Officer, EMEA video slides

  • Shane Dewing, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc.slides

  • Peter Semmelhack, Founder and CEO, Bugs Labs video slides

  • Keynote: Roy Fielding, Senior Principal Scientist, Adobe slides

  • Chris Bowler, GVP, Social Media, Razorfish video slides

** Sponsored by:**

Tech Summit 2014, Sponsored by Tech Summit 2014

A message from one of our partners:

Can Watson make us more creative? The promise of computational creativity is to help us think outside the box, explore new white spaces and transform experience.

Researchers are experimenting with the next step in cognitive computing – going from making inferences about the world to generating new things the world has never seen before. They set out to explore the impact of using computational creativity in the culinary arts. I wonder what Watson will cook up next, maybe cognitive marketing.

Reach us at grow@us.ibm.com to discuss the endless possibilities of how IBM can help you engage buyers in highly relevant, interactive dialogues across digital, social and traditional marketing channels with the latest technologies..

Razorfish’s 6th Tech Summit!

We are only a few weeks away from Razorfish’s 6th Tech Summit!

The Internet of Things and sensor driven experiences are drastically changing the way people consume, transact, and generally interact with brands.

In its 6th year, the Tech Summit brings together more than 200 attendees and speakers for two days of insightful presentations, hands-on workshops and networking, all in one exciting place - New York City - where we’ll discuss how these changes impact your customer experiences.

Featured Sessions Include:

  • **PSFK Founder and Editor-in-Chief Piers Fawkes **will discuss the Internet of Things, exploring how a combination of ubiquitous computing and embedded sensors will bring an array of connected interactions and automated experiences to the world around us

  • Roy Fielding, creator of the REST specification and Senior Principal Scientist at Adobe, will talk about the future and past of managing content and services in this new era of devices and experiences

  • Shane Dewing, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc., will share how in the Internet of Everything (IoE), devices, systems and services connect in simple, transparent ways and interact seamlessly among devices across brands and sectors

  • **Peter Semmelhack, Founder and CEO of Bug Labs, **will share the amazing work his team is doing with dweet.io and freeboard to help teams ideate and create with the Internet of Things in real time

Join us to boost your tech IQ, connect with old friends and meet your future partners.

Attendance at the Tech Summit is by invite only. Please contact your Razorfish rep or email us at techsummit@razorfish.com for more information.

Building an IVR system in the cloud

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems offer a way for users to interact with existing software applications using voice and keypad input  from their phones.  Below is an exhaustive list of benefits that IVR systems offer.

  • Allow access to software systems through phones in addition to other interfaces like browsers & desktop clients

  • Self service systems reducing support staff

  • Systems that run 247

  • Systems that perform routing based on customer profile, context, etc.

The article will focus on how to build a flexible and extensible IVR  system painlessly using Cloud-based services like Twilio.

Twilio is a Cloud communications company offering IaaS (Infrastructure as a service). Twilio provides telephone infrastructure in the cloud and exposes them as Application Programming Interface (API) using which one can build applications to send and receive phone calls and text messages. Getting started with Twilio is easy.

  • Signup on Twilio.com

  • Buy a number

  • Program the number by connecting it to a HTTP/HTTPS URL. This is the URL that would be invoked when the number is dialed. The URL needs to respond with an XML output, called twiml, which is Twilio’s proprietary XML language. Using twiml,  developers can perform useful functions like playing a text message as speech, gathering data from callers using  keypad, recording  conversations, sending SMS, connecting the current call to any other phone number, etc.

twilio-flow-1

Since the phone numbers can be programmed and controlled using any HTTP/HTTPS URLs, it’s easy to build interactive applications to handle incoming calls. The URLs can be static XML/twiml files or dynamic web applications that may be interacting with a database and other systems and performing any custom business logic.

 In addition, Twilio also provides REST APIs to perform functions like making a call, modifying a live call, collecting call logs, creating queues, buying numbers, sending SMS, etc. There are helper libraries available in all the popular programming languages which provide a wrapper to work with the REST APIs.

From: Khurshidali Shaikh - Razorfish India Team

New book from the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog author, Scott Brinker

We have long been a fan of Scott Brinker’s writing on his blog http://chiefmartec.com/ . His thinking has help drive a bridge between marketing and technology, which aligns real well with the transformation we are seeing in the market place. His new (mini)book

A NEW BRAND OF MARKETING: The 7 Meta-Trends of Modern Marketing as a Technology-Powered Discipline

, free download here is a great read to help drive home why this bridge is required for modern marketing to consumers. Yes, as technologists here at Razorfish, you might expect us to say things like moving from rigid plans to agile iterations or from art and copy to code and data. It’s not just that those are exciting meta-trends for us, but it’s also what we are seeing consumers demand. What exciting about the technology disruption happening in marketing today is that it’s a world that’s putting the customer in charge. No matter how we slice and dice the different ways that marketings need to connect with their customers, it’s all about a relevant, interesting, and powerful respect and understanding for customers. We had an event with the NYC Media Lab more here and one of my favorite answers on the panel that night was from Carl Schulenburg, founder at Oomolo. When asked, what do you think is the future of mobile marketing and his response was a one to one relationship with customers. We use the context of what their mobile or other device is telling us and provide relevant, contextual, useful messages and services on a one to one basis. That’s the future.

2014 Fluent Conference Recap

Razorfish presentation layer engineers from around the U.S. recently converged on San Francisco for the 2014 Fluent Conference (the third instance of O’Reilly’s annual web conference on HTML5, JavaScript, and other web technologies). This year’s event marked several themes woven into the working sessions, presentations, and general thought leadership. Two that stand out in my mind were:

Tooling, Automation,** and Collaboration**

Hidden within the many sessions devoted to web production automation and collaboration, I discovered a few “debugging” oriented tools/techniques that caught my attention:

    • LiveReload: LiveReload is a browser plugin that allows code changes to apply without a page refresh (includes support for mobile devices). The tool also compiles abstraction layers for you (SASS/LESS, CoffeeScript, etc). Nice!
    • Ripple**: Apache Ripple (recently resurrected from the dead) is impressive, although not 100% bulletproof yet as a workflow/debugging tool (its still an emulator, after all). This Chrome based emulator is designed for Apache Cordova/PhoneGap debugging purposes, similar to the modern browser’s typical “web developer” tools. Check out the Accelerometer feature![fluent_image](/uploads/2014/04/fluent_image-300x246.jpg) **
    • GitHub**: **everyone’s favorite open source collaboration GIT repo is, of course, GitHub, which provided some insight into their integration of Git “pull requests” into their main web UI.

Is there a Frameworks War?

As JavaScript continues its relentless march towards being the defacto language of the web, and applications continue to grow in complexity, so has the proliferation of libraries and (so-called) “frameworks” to address the needs, particularly on the presentation layer. Although the comparisons between Ember and Angular were prevalent and suggestive of an existing “frameworks war,” the overall tone at the conference was deliberate in accentuating that various approaches can be accommodated, based on business needs.

Here is the most interesting part. Angular and Ember were well-represented entities at Fluent 2014. Each is a “framework” in its own right, with something to offer (and something it doesn’t).

Ember is closest to the tradition definition of “framework,” in that it is a specific toolbox for “building large, maintainable applications” and is designed with standard best practices in mind (in regards to templates, routing, models, etc.). The expectation (for success) is that developers will accept and follow its structural conventions, especially for Ember’s sweet spot: larger multi-page/navigational applications.

Angular is more of a toolbox for building your own framework. Core features such as modularity and dependency injection usually make it easier to test. The tool’s flexibility in defining the appropriate architecture for the particular need has obvious benefits, but often leads to the infamous “you’re doing it wrong” argument by competing philosophies. Hilarious. Suffice it to say that Angular has the larger mind share at this point, and is suited for smaller applications that won’t grow beyond their original design.

Author: Fred Welterlin Presentation Layer Technology Director - www.welterlin.com

Razorfish Tech Summit 2014

As the internet of things becomes more ubiquitous, it drastically changes the way people consume and interact with brands. We are going well beyond just the mechanics of who owns the glass to using data to drive predictive delightful experiences. Long-gone are the days of interrupt based user interactions.  The future will be relevant next generation experiences powered by amazing enterprise content and commerce platforms. Fortunately we have amazing communities and growth in technology enablement from movements like the maker movement and the hackathon movement to help us meet consumers on their own terms.

Join Razorfish and industry thought leaders for two exciting days of keynotes, panels, case studies and workshops where we’ll explore how these changes impact your customer experiences.

Stay tuned to http://technology.razorfish.com/ for more updated speaker and agenda info as it becomes available.

Attendance at the Tech Summit is by invite only. Please contact your Razorfish rep or email us at techsummit@razorfish.com for more information.

Java 8 released - the end of object oriented programming?

by Martin Jacobs GVP, Technology

Today, Java 8 was finally released. It has been a long time in the works, and there are some new exciting capabilities that have been added. Obviously, the most significant one is the full support for lambda expressions and closures.  It brings more functional programming concepts into the language.

With these changes, it looks like the pure smalltalk style object oriented programming has made room for more functional programming ideas. In the early days of Java, there were many articles about how to really do proper object oriented programming. There were many courses around thinking in objects, and guides around moving from structural programming to object oriented. Nowadays, everything is around functional programming concepts. Popularity of functional programming is growing, and the coursera courses around scala have been some of the most popular MOOC courses. One of the standard questions in interviews for candidates has always been to explain the concepts of inheritance, polymorphism and generics. Now, questions around closures, map and reduce have become the standard fare for new hires as well.

It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out, how the evolution of programming languages is going to affect the technology industry.

How quickly will the establish product vendors adopt and incorporate Java 8 into their products? One of the main challenges for Java in the past has been the slow adoption, and one of the key drivers of market share for Java has been the product offerings available on the market, such as commerce platforms, content management solution and full ERP stacks.

Java has remained one of the leaders in the Tiobe Index. The popularity of the Android platform has been a big contributor to that. Therefore, another interesting thing to look out for is whether Android will adopt these changes, and incorporate them onto the Dalvik VM.

Lastly, it will be good to see how this plays for the emerging functional programming languages, especially Scala. Scala has gained traction, and even though the syntax receives some criticism, a lot of the scala concepts are visible in the Java 8 release. Will Java regain some of its coolness, or will folks continue to be drawn to newer languages?  Will the new JavaScript engine in Java 8 have an impact?

Overall, I think this is an exciting release, and for anybody working with Java fairly regularly, an important update to learn about.