Top developer takeaways from AWS re:Invent 2021

Top developer takeaways from AWS re:Invent 2021

AWS’s annual conference may be less about builders than it used to be, but there were still plenty for developers to get their teeth into. Here are our top picks among the talks and announcements.

Adam Selipsky (AWS)

Adam Selipsky (AWS)

Credit: AWS

Cloud giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) may have turned the dial of its annual AWS re:Invent jamboree more towards business executives and less towards the developers who helped propel it to its dominant market position, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty for software developers to get excited about as we round into 2022.

New CEO Adam Selipsky took to the main stage for a keynote that didn’t seek to ruffle any feathers, nor course correct the near-$60 billion cloud oil tanker. Instead, he focused on shining a spotlight on large customers like Nasdaq, M3, and Goldman Sachs, on knotty enterprise problems like migrating applications off of mainframes, and on the vendor’s latest custom silicon advances.

As the developer and ex-AWS employee Tim Bray tweeted during Selipsky’s presentation: “Big enterprise customers with traditional apps are where it’s at. The world of cloud-native people/apps is invisible.”

Complexity: It’s your fault

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels spent almost as much time talking about outer space as he did about software development during his keynote on Thursday.

Vogels did address growing calls for higher-level abstractions and improvements to the core developer experience for customers who are drowning in complexity, but perhaps not in the way many were expecting.

“You have always asked us for more of these components. Purpose-built databases for example, which means by now we have over 200 of these services and believe me, it is sometimes overwhelming. But remember, you have asked for this, it is basically your fault,” he said, to laughter in the crowd.

To address this issue specifically for front-end developers, AWS announced the public preview of Amplify Studio, a low-code platform-as-a-service for web and mobile app development. At its heart, Amplify Studio allows developers to pick up a designer’s Figma file and automatically translate it into React UI component code, where it can be connected to back-end resources and tweaked using a visual development interface.

Elsewhere, most of the developer-focused announcements had to be found out at the edges of the conference. Here’s what we saw and heard.

New Cloud Development Kit, SDKs

One announcement that will have caught the attention of developers was the public preview of three new AWS SDKs for the Swift, Kotlin, and Rust programming languages.

The Rust SDK will get the headlines here as the programming language continues to grow in popularity. “I am really happy to finally have a Rust SDK, because I see an enormous interest in Rust,” Vogels said.

AWS also made the AWS Cloud Development Kit Version 2 (CDK) generally available last week, complete with a Construct Hub for simple sharing of open-source construct libraries.

New Graviton3, Trainium, and M1 Mac compute instances

Certain developers will be keen to get their hands on some of the new EC2 instance types announced by AWS, all of which promise a significant price to performance boost from previous generations of server chips.

The most notable of these was the C7g, a new EC2 instance powered by Graviton3, the latest iteration of its Arm-based custom silicon portfolio. These promise to operate 25 per cent faster on average for compute workloads and better still for specialised cryptographic or machine learning workloads.

Another instance called Trn1 was launched in preview, which is the first to use the Trainium chip that was announced last year. Trn1 promises higher performance for compute-intensive machine learning training use cases, complete with 800 Gbps of network bandwidth capacity.

Apple developers may also be excited to get their hands on the new EC2 M1 Mac instances in preview.

“If you are a Mac developer and re-architecting your apps to natively support Macs with Apple silicon, you may now build and test your apps and take advantage of all the benefits of AWS,” principal developer advocate Sébastien Stormacq wrote in a blog post

“Developers building for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV will also benefit from faster builds. EC2 M1 Mac instances deliver up to 60 per cent better price performance over the x86-based EC2 Mac instances for iPhone and Mac app build workloads.”

Beware when running Mac instances though, as they are charged per hour of reservation of the dedicated host, not for the time the instances run, and there is a minimum charge of 24 hours for reserving a dedicated host.

AWS open sources Karpenter

AWS announced that it was open sourcing its Kubernetes cluster autoscaling tool Karpenter. Karpenter was built to help developers move away from manual cluster right-sizing by providing “just-in-time compute resources to meet your application’s needs and will soon automatically optimise a cluster’s compute resource footprint to reduce costs and improve performance,” principal developer advocate Channy Yun wrote in a blog post.

Other choice cuts

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