Architecting with AWS – Before You Go

Architecting with AWS is a three day training session held at the AWS offices in Seattle (classes are available in other locations). Both outsiders and AWS employees come together to learn about building scalable solutions on the AWS platform. This is a practical training program – there’s no certification behind it. The Architecting with AWS training is an introduction to the products and services in AWS and how they can be used to create and automate great software.

Although the $1500 price tag isn’t for the faint of heart, three days of high quality training with access to AWS employees is a great deal. Before deciding to go to the training, I looked around for other options. Architecting with AWS had a few things going for it – the class was in many locations, the cost was better than fair, and the timing was right. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the training was coming directly from Amazon employees in the Amazon Web Services offices.

Who Is This Class For?

Great training has an audience in mind: you can’t make anyone happy if you’re catering to everyone. Architecting with AWS is aimed squarely at the people designing solutions that will be hosted in AWS. While most IT staff will get something out of the course, it is specifically designed for software architects, developers, and operations staff. The tutorials and exercises focus on designing solutions to real world problems.

What Should I Know?

A lot of training classes have pre-requisites before you attend. The Microsoft Certified Master training notoriously listed several thousand pages of SQL Server books, white papers, and documentation that attendees should read. The Architecting with AWS class was slightly different. Instead of providing attendees with a list of reading material, the pre-requisites cover the key concepts that attendees should be familiar with. In order to be successful, having a basic understanding of the core services provided by AWS (EC2, S3, and RDS) is required.

Things change in AWS all the time – new features are released every week. There are a few blogs that I follow to help me keep up to date on what’s happening in AWS. The most important blog is the official Amazon Web Services blog. The AWS blog covers major goings on in the AWS space – new feature releases, tools, techniques, and it even covers developments from other companies who are using AWS to do big things. While you’re not going to learn everything you need to know from a few blog posts, you will be able to keep up to date on the newest features, find online training, and figure out which parts of the AWS world catch your interest.

Where Should I Go To Get Started?

If you’re already using AWS, you can skip this section. Seriously, just scroll down to the next H3 in your browser and you’ll be happy.

If you aren’t using AWS, or if you aren’t sure where to start, you’re not alone. A lot of people aren’t sure how to get started with AWS. My first suggestion is to sign up for an AWS account. Yes, you’ll need a credit card, but there is a free usage tier – as long as you don’t use too much. Attendees get a small credit to cover their utilization during class. You can start by creating EC2 instances, EBS volumes, S3 buckets, and storing data in RDS, or you can just play around with some of the other services that are available.

That’s about all there is to it. If you want a more guided approach than "go out and play", I suggest you check out Getting Started with AWS and What is the AWS Free Usage Tier? There’s a huge volume of documentation available from Amazon, so it can be daunting to get started. Don’t get distracted by all of the bright and shiny features floating around. Focus on the core services – EC2, S3, EBS, and RDS. These four services combined act a lot like your local servers, so once you get a better graps of how to set up your own servers in AWS, you can start working with the other services available.

What can I expect from the training?

You can expect your mind to be blown. While that’s a bit of an overstatement, you can expect to learn a lot in a short period of time.

Architecting with AWS is a three day tour of some of the functionality that’s available in AWS. The course was delivered in the context of a sample video encoding application. Rather than focus on delivering knowledge in the abstract, we examined practical scenarios. The class was very interactive – there were many opportunities for attendees to offer up their own opinions of how to solve progblems with AWS products and discuss the merits of each potential solution with the class and instructor. One of the advantages of this approach was interacting with people from a variety of industries. Attendees came from many industries – media, aerospace, pure R&D, consulting, and insurance companies were all represented. The discussions were one of the most rewarding parts of the class, we talked about a diverse set of problems and got to hear how different teams have solved the same problems. Working with my classmates was worth the cost of entry.

In addition to lectures and discussion, concepts were reinforced through hands on exercises. In many cases there were two exercises – one for Windows users and one for Linux/Unix users. This was one of the more interesting parts of the class and I tried to complete both sets of exercises so I could better understand the challenges that users face when they’re working with AWS. There is so much documentation around using Linux with AWS and it was refreshing to see some Windows specific exercises to help understand how automation could be accomplished on a different platform.

You can expect a very practical approach to solving infrastructure problems with AWS. Discussion and training materials focused on solving real world problems using the features and functionality of the AWS. Don’t expect to walk out of the class a master of everything that AWS has to offer, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you expect to learn a great deal about the features and functionality available, how to apply those features to your own problems, and how to keep your application performing well, even under heavy load, you’ll be very pleased with the results.

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