Architecting for the Cloud

The following article was written by John Hann, Technical Lead at Axian:

At Axian, we deliver custom software solutions that exceed expectations without exceeding budgets. For some clients, that means taking advantage of the power and efficiency of the cloud. Utilizing platforms like Amazon Web Services, we’ve been able to cut client infrastructure costs in half and create architectures that scale from dozens to millions of users. I’ve been fortunate enough to lead a few AWS projects at Axian, and have earned Amazon’s AWS Solution Architect certification.

To help prepare for the exam, I attended the Architecting for AWS class at Amazon’s office in Seattle. The class consisted of three full days of instruction and hands on labs, covering everything from spinning up EC2 instances to building a distributed, elastic image processing cluster. I’ve attended many training sessions in my career, and this was definitely one of the best.

The instructor, Mike Bingham, was very knowledgeable and articulate. Anyone who can present for three days straight has my respect, this thing was a marathon. Many Amazon employees were also in attendance, which made for some interesting Q and A. For example, I asked which file system performed best on EBS volumes, and an engineer on the EBS team chimed in to explain that ext4 was the fastest, but ext3 and NTFS were close enough to not make file system choice a major factor in I/O performance. It was great to get that type of information straight from the source.

One of my favorite parts of the class were its interactive labs. When you launch one, the lab system provisions a new AWS account and all of the instances, services, and applications that you need to get started. Once it’s set up, you simply log into the real AWS console with the lab credentials and work through the tutorial. As someone who learns best by doing, these labs were a great way to get more experience with services like SQS, SNS, and Auto Scaling.

Each tutorial presented a sample problem for which one or more Amazon services would be a good solution, and walked you through the steps necessary to utilize those services correctly. It’s one thing to read about Auto Scaling, but seeing new EC2 instances spin up automatically to process items in your SQS queue and gracefully exit when they’re done is quite another. If you’re into this sort of thing, many of their labs are available here for a small fee.

Soon after completing the course, I decided to take the exam. I was admittedly a bit nervous, but I was prepared and ended up doing well. An hour later, I received an email to let me know that I was officially an AWS Certified Solution Architect, which included a certificate and this fancy graphic:

For me, the process of certification was well worth the investment, and I plan to use what I’ve learned to help more of our clients capitalize on the power and elasticity of cloud services.