10 new AWS cloud services you never expected

From data scooping to facial recognition, Amazon’s latest additions give devs new, wide-ranging powers in the cloud

Here are 10 new services that show how Amazon is redefining what computing in the cloud can be.


Anyone who has done much data science knows it’s often more challenging to collect data than it is to perform analysis. Gathering data and putting it into a standard data format is often more than 90 percent of the job.

Glue is a new collection of Python scripts that automatically crawls your data sources to collect data, apply any necessary transforms, and stick it in Amazon’s cloud. It reaches into your data sources, snagging data using all the standard acronyms, like JSON, CSV, and JDBC. Once it grabs the data, it can analyze the schema and make suggestions.

The Python layer is interesting because you can use it without writing or understanding Python—although it certainly helps if you want to customize what’s going on. Glue will run these jobs as needed to keep all the data flowing. It won’t think for you, but it will juggle many of the details, leaving you to think about the big picture.


Field Programmable Gate Arrays have long been a secret weapon of hardware designers. Anyone who needs a special chip can build one out of software. There’s no need to build custom masks or fret over fitting all the transistors into the smallest amount of silicon. An FPGA takes your software description of how the transistors should work and rewires itself to act like a real chip.

Amazon’s new AWS EC2 F1 brings the power of FGPA to the cloud. If you have highly structured and repetitive computing to do, an EC2 F1 instance is for you. With EC2 F1, you can create a software description of a hypothetical chip and compile it down to a tiny number of gates that will compute the answer in the shortest amount of time. The only thing faster is etching the transistors in real silicon.

Who might need this? Bitcoin miners compute the same cryptographically secure hash function a bazillion times each day, which is why many bitcoin miners use FPGAs to speed up the search. Anyone with a similar compact, repetitive algorithm you can write into silicon, the FPGA instance lets you rent machines to do it now. The biggest winners are those who need to run calculations that don’t map easily onto standard instruction sets—for example, when you’re dealing with bit-level functions and other nonstandard, nonarithmetic calculations. If you’re simply adding a column of numbers, the standard instances are better for you. But for some, EC2 with FGPA might be a big win.


As Docker eats its way into the stack, Amazon is trying to make it easier for anyone to run Docker instances anywhere, anytime. Blox is designed to juggle the clusters of instances so that the optimum number are running—no more, no less.

Blox is event driven, so it’s a bit simpler to write the logic. You don’t need to constantly poll the machines to see what they’re running. They all report back, so the right number can run. Blox is also open source, which makes it easier to reuse Blox outside of the Amazon cloud, if you should need to do so.


Monitoring the efficiency and load of your instances used to be simply another job. If you wanted your cluster to work smoothly, you had to write the code to track everything. Many people brought in third parties with impressive suites of tools. Now Amazon’s X-Ray is offering to do much of the work for you. It’s competing with many third-party tools for watching your stack.

When a website gets a request for data, X-Ray traces as it as flows your network of machines and services. Then X-Ray will aggregate the data from multiple instances, regions, and zones so that you can stop in one place to flag a recalcitrant server or a wedged database. You can watch your vast empire with only one page.


Rekognition is a new AWS tool aimed at image work. If you want your app to do more than store images, Rekognition will chew through images searching for objects and faces using some of the best-known and tested machine vision and neural-network algorithms. There’s no need to spend years learning the science; you simply point the algorithm at an image stored in Amazon’s cloud, and voilà, you get a list of objects and a confidence score that ranks how likely the answer is correct. You pay per image.

The algorithms are heavily tuned for facial recognition. The algorithms will flag faces, then compare them to each other and references images to help you identify them. Your application can store the meta information about the faces for later processing. Once you put a name to the metadata, your app will find people wherever they appear. Identification is only the beginning. Is someone smiling? Are their eyes closed? The service will deliver the answer, so you don’t need to get your fingers dirty with pixels. If you want to use impressive machine vision, Amazon will charge you not by the click but by the glance at each image.


Working with Amazon’s S3 has always been simple. If you want a data structure, you request it and S3 looks for the part you want. Amazon’s Athena now makes it much simpler. It will run the queries on S3, so you don’t need to write the looping code yourself. Yes, we’ve become too lazy to write loops.

Athena uses SQL syntax, which should make database admins happy. Amazon will charge you for every byte that Athena churns through while looking for your answer. But don’t get too worried about the meter running out of control because the price is only $5 per terabyte. That’s about 50 billionths of a cent per byte. It makes the penny candy stores look expensive.


The original idea of a content delivery network was to speed up the delivery of simple files like JPG images and CSS files by pushing out copies to a vast array of content servers parked near the edges of the Internet. Amazon is taking this a step further by letting us push Node.js code out to these edges where they will run and respond. Your code won’t sit on one central server waiting for the requests to poke along the backbone from people around the world. It will clone itself, so it can respond in microseconds without being impeded by all that network latency.

Amazon will bill your code only when it’s running. You won’t need to set up separate instances or rent out full machines to keep the service up. It is currently in a closed test, and you must apply to get your code in their stack.

Snowball Edge

If you want some kind of physical control of your data, the cloud isn’t for you. The power and reassurance that comes from touching the hard drive, DVD-ROM, or thumb drive holding your data isn’t available to you in the cloud. Where is my data exactly? How can I get it? How can I make a backup copy? The cloud makes anyone who cares about these things break out in cold sweats.

The Snowball Edge is a box filled with data that can be delivered anywhere you want. It even has a shipping label that’s really an E-Ink display exactly like Amazon puts on a Kindle. When you want a copy of massive amounts of data that you’ve stored in Amazon’s cloud, Amazon will copy it to the box and ship the box to wherever you are. (The documentation doesn’t say whether Prime members get free shipping.)

Snowball Edge serves a practical purpose. Many developers have collected large blocks of data through cloud applications and downloading these blocks across the open internet is far too slow. If Amazon wants to attract large data-processing jobs, it needs to make it easier to get large volumes of data out of the system.

If you’ve accumulated an exabyte of data that you need somewhere else for processing, Amazon has a bigger version called Snowmobile that’s built into an 18-wheel truck complete with GPS tracking.

Oh, it’s worth noting that the boxes aren’t dumb storage boxes. They can run arbitrary Node.js code too so you can search, filter, or analyze … just in case.


Once you’ve amassed a list of customers, members, or subscribers, there will be times when you want to push a message out to them. Perhaps you’ve updated your app or want to convey a special offer. You could blast an email to everyone on your list, but that’s a step above spam. A better solution is to target your message, and Amazon’s new Pinpoint tool offers the infrastructure to make that simpler.

You’ll need to integrate some code with your app. Once you’ve done that, Pinpoint helps you send out the messages when your users seem ready to receive them. Once you’re done with a so-called targeted campaign, Pinpoint will collect and report data about the level of engagement with your campaign, so you can tune your targeting efforts in the future.


Who gets the last word? Your app can, if you use Polly, the latest generation of speech synthesis. In goes text and out comes sound—sound waves that form words that our ears can hear, all the better to make audio interfaces for the internet of things.

SETA is an official Amazon AWS Solution Provider with a team of AWS certified solution architects and Cloud engineers standing by to assist you with all of your Cloud Services needs.

To get started, contact SETA to have our experienced team assist you in getting started with these service offerings.

The cloud waste problem that’s killing your business (and what to do about it)

Waste not, want not. That was one of the well-healed quips of one the United States’ Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. It couldn’t be more timely advice in today’s cloud computing world – the world of cloud waste. (When he was experimenting with static electricity and lightning, I wonder if he saw the future of Cloud? :^) )

Organizations are moving to the Cloud in droves. And why not? The shift from CapEx to monthly OpEx, the elasticity, the reduced deployment times and faster time-to-market: what’s not to love?

The good news: the public cloud providers have made it easy to deploy their services. The bad news: the public cloud providers have made it easy to deploy their services…really easy.

And, experience over the past decade has shown that leads to cloud waste. What is “cloud waste” and where does it come from? What are the consequences? What can you do to reduce it?

What is Cloud Waste?

“Cloud waste” occurs when you consume more cloud resources than you actually need to run your business.

It takes several forms:

  • Resources left running 24×7 in development, test, demo, and training environments where they don’t need to be running 24×7.  (Thoughts of parents yelling at children to “turn the lights out” if they are the last one in a room.) I believe this is bad habit that was reinforced by the previous era of on premise data centers. The thinking: It’s a sunk cost any, why bother turning it off?  Of course, it’s not a sunk cost anymore.

This manifests itself in various ways:

    • Instances or VMs which are left running, chewing up $/CPU-Hr costs and network charges
    • Orphaned volumes (volumes not attached to any servers), which are not being used and incurring monthly $/GB charges
    • Old snapshots of those or other volumes
    • Old, out-of-date machine images

However, cloud consumers are not the only ones to blame. The public cloud providers are also responsible when it comes to their PaaS (platform as a service) offerings for which there is no OFF switch (e.g., AWS’ RDS, Redshift, DynamoDB and others). If you deliver a PaaS offering, make sure it has an OFF switch.

  • Resources that are larger than needed to do the job. Many developers don’t know what size instance to spin up to do their development work, so they will often spin up larger ones. (Hey, if 1 core and 4 GB of RAM is good, then 16 cores and 64 GB of RAM must be even better, right?) I think this habit also arose in the previous era of on-premise data centers: “We already paid for all this capacity anyway, so why not use it?” (Wrong again.)

This, too, rears its ugly head in several ways:

    • Instances or VMs which are much larger than they need to be
    • Block volumes which are larger than they need to be
    • Databases which are way over-provisioned compared to what their actual IOPS or sequential throughput requirements actually are.

Who is Affected by Cloud Waste?

The consequences of cloud waste are quite apparent. It is killing everyone’s business bottom line. For consumers, it erodes their return on assets, return on equity and net revenue.  All of these ultimately impact earnings per share for their investors as well.

Believe it or not, it also hurts the public cloud providers and their bottom line.  Public cloud providers are most profitable when they can oversubscribe their data centers. Cloud waste forces them to build more, very expensive data centers than they need to, killing their oversubscription rates and hurting their profitability as well. This is why you see cloud providers offering certain types of cost cutting solutions. For example, AWS offers Reserved Instances, where you can pay up front for break in on-demand pricing. They also offer Spot Instances, Auto-Scaling Groups and Lambda.  Azure also offers price breaks to their ELA customer and Scale Sets (the equivalent of ASGs).

How to Prevent Cloud Waste

So, what can you do to address this? Ultimately, the solution to this problem exists between your ears. Most of it is common sense: It requires rethinking… rewiring your brain to look at cloud computing in a different way. We all need to become honorary Scotsmen (short arms and deep pockets… with apologies to my Scottish friends).

  • When you turn on resources in non-production environments, turn on the minimum size needed to get the job done and only grudgingly move up to the next size.
  • Turn stuff off in non-production environments, when you are not using it. And for Pete’s sake, when it comes to compute time, don’t waste your time and money writing your own scripts…that just exacerbates the waste. Those DevOps people should spend that time on your bread and butter applications. Use SETA International instead! (Okay, yes, that was a shameless plug, but it is true.)
  • Clean up old volumes, snapshots and machine images.
  • Buy Reserved Instances for your production environments, but make sure you manage them closely, so that they actually match what your users are provisioning, otherwise you could be double paying.
  • Investigate Spot fleets for your production batch workloads that run at night. It could save you a bundle.

These good habits, over time, can benefit everyone economically: Cloud consumers and cloud producers alike.

To get started  contact SETA to have our experienced team assist you in getting started with this service offering.

SETA is an official Amazon AWS Solution Provider with a team of AWS certified solution architects and Cloud engineers standing by to assist you with all of your Cloud Services needs.

Amazon Announces Amazon Connect a Cloud-Based Call Center Service

Amazon Web Services unveiled a new service this week to allow companies to run and manage their call centers via the Cloud.  This new service from Amazon Web Services is based on the same contact center technology used by Amazon customer service associates around the world to power millions of customer conversations.

Amazon Connect is a simple to use, cloud-based contact center service that makes it easy for you to deliver better customer service at lower cost. Setting up a cloud-based contact center with Amazon Connect is as easy as a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, and agents can begin taking calls within minutes.

Amazon Connect’s self-service graphical interface makes it easy for non-technical users to design contact flows, manage agents, and track performance metrics – no specialized skills required. The service also makes it possible to design contact flows that adapt the caller experience, changing based on information retrieved by Amazon Connect from AWS services, like Amazon Redshift, or third-party systems, like CRM or analytics solutions. You can also build natural language contact flows using Amazon Lex, an AI service that has the same automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology and natural language understanding (NLU) that powers Amazon Alexa.

Amazon Connect integrates with a broad set of AWS tools and infrastructure so you can record calls in Amazon S3, use Amazon Kinesis to stream contact center metrics to Amazon Redshift or an external data warehouse solution, use Amazon QuickSight for data visualization and analytics, and use AWS Directory Service to allow agents to log into Amazon Connect with their corporate credentials. Amazon Connect also integrates with leading CRM, Workforce Management, Analytics and Helpdesk offerings, so you can embed the Amazon Connect agent experience into the application that your agents already use.

There are no up-front payments or long-term commitments and no infrastructure to manage with Amazon Connect; you pay by the minute for Amazon Connect usage plus any associated telephony services. As part of the AWS Free Usage Tier, you can get started with Amazon Connect for free.

Amazon Connect offers direct inward dial (DID) numbers and toll-free numbers in the United States and 18 countries throughout Europe.


To get started with Amazon Connect, visit https://aws.amazon.com/connect.

Or contact SETA to have our experienced team assist you in getting started with this service offering.

SETA is an official Amazon AWS Solution Provider with a team of AWS certified solution architects and Cloud engineers standing by to assist you with all of your Cloud Services needs.

SETA – Amazon Web Services (AWS)

For many small businesses and start-ups looking to venture into cloud computing, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, with its accessible low-cost pricing structure, makes it easy to test the waters of cloud computing without having to commit too much.

Because Amazon services are relatively cheap, an AWS small business will often view the costs associated with server provisioning as almost minor when compared to the cost of buying the infrastructure for themselves, or against the larger overall budget of a project.

SETA offers AWS low cost, on-demand IT solutions to help you build and launch your applications quickly and easily with minimum costs. With a pay-as-you-go price model, you only pay for what you use, when you use it, to build your minimum viable product (MVP), experiment and iterate, all at low cost.

SETA will choose the right instance types to match your workload

Take advantage of our multiple pricing models for our compute services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud.

With more than 50 unique services spanning multiple technology categories, and continued innovation, SETA and AWS can help you drive business solutions, providing increased flexibility to help your business grow. The AWS platform complies with most global industry standards. Using SETA AWS gives you the reliability and user experience necessary to drive new business.

Whether you are offering media services to customers around the world or managing medical devices for a highly decentralized workforce, SETA AWS gives customers the tools to implement solutions quickly and with limited friction. For example, SETA AWS backup and recovery solutions provide securable, scalable, and durable storage for data you want to access instantly with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) or data you want to keep in “cold storage” with Amazon Glacier. SETA AWS networking solutions give you options that include private networking with AWS Direct Connect and isolating your own network with Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC).

By using AWS, organizations can achieve greater flexibility and capacity, reducing the uncertainty of forecasting hardware needs. Additionally, the scale of AWS gives customers capacity and reliability that is difficult to match by on-premises solutions.

Not yet in the cloud?

Learn more about SETA Cloud Services.

Contact us.

Thu Truong Gets Real About Mobile

Thu Truong Gets Real About Mobile
Thu Truong Gets Real About Mobile – http://buff.ly/1UVJCig

Our guest on this segment is changing the way business thinks about MOBILE. Thu Truong, WW VP, at SETA International http://seta-international.com/ has helped hundreds of small businesses to succeed.

– Why it’s important

– The role of Millennials

– How Google is effecting mobile for small business

– Examples of cost effective ways to grow via mobile

– How to ensure payments are secure and the secret behind forming a relationship with a premium service provider


which translates to solutions that provide responsive design – adaptive (to the device you are on)

AMP – action related, mobile optimized content.

A look at Small Business Apps – 7 Rules

secret-of-mobile-appsIf you have decided that your small business would benefit from creating an app, it’s most likely that you won’t be doing it yourself. There are experienced development companies that will guide you in the right direction, and probably enhance the experience with suggestions. We recently found a good article on Business2Community with some important rules to follow when it comes to putting your first small business mobile app into development. Here’s a recap:

  • Have a clear goal of what you want the app to do and how you expect it to maximize sales
  • Understand your audience and know how they engage with your product
  • Keep the app as simple as possible. This will save on battery life of the user’s device and maximize speed and efficiency
  • Make sure it’s available in iOS and Android to reach the most number of potential users
  • The app should have unique features and give users a reason to download, use, and keep on their phone
  • Test, test and test again.
  • Monitor terms of audience interactions, conversions and user behavior

5 Ways to Cut Small Business Costs with Technology


Last week we took a look at the evolution of collaboration and the benefits of technology for getting things done. This week we would like to expand on that thought and focus on the cost benefits, plus give our thoughts on a few more.

1) Collaborate in the Cloud . Paper is slow and can incur high costs in terms of supplies and lost productivity. Cloud systems that allow you to collaborate and share files securely, save time and money, and also remove distance and time zones. Not all cloud collaboration solutions are alike. When reviewing options, small business owners will want to make sure the solution will connect across platforms, increase user participation, improve the quality of meetings, support mobility, ensure security, and drive improvements.

2) Here’s an unexpected one – light bulbs. Light bulbs often symbolize a good idea, yet this tip is not just a symbol. Businesses can save millions of dollars annually from investing in eco-friendly technologies. Incandescent blubs use up to 75% more energy than CFL and LED lights. Over its lifetime, a CFL bulb can save up to $80 in electricity bills. Multiply that by an office’s total number bulbs and see amazing results with little effort.

3) Outsourcing is a great way to reduce costs. Often shifting responsibilities of certain business practices to an outsourcing model can save money, and also create blocks of time to pursue more initiatives that grow your bottom line, such as going after new business, developing new products.

4) Modernize your data storage. Application vs. data sprawl is a constant battle being waged by Enterprise IT organizations. Modernizing data storage infrastructure can result in direct and indirect savings for enterprise IT organizations.

5) An ounce of prevention. The reality is that you might be saving money by not having regular IT maintenance, but when something goes wrong it is going to cost a lot more in terms of repairs and down time. Regular IT checks can identify and address problems before they occur, prevent unnecessary downtime for repairs, and give piece of mind that your business and your client’s business is in good hands.

Does Paper Prevent Small Business Collaboration?

Young adult working on a digital tablet


Catching up on some software solutions news, we came across an interesting article in Small Business Computing about whether or not paper was killing small business collaboration. Do workers print as much as they used to? What is it about the printed page that we like so much? A survey by Nitro and the PDF Association, recently surveyed 1,200 professionals and found that 31% of respondents said they use a printer, copier, or scanner 10 or more times a day—and 25 percent said they use one such device at least once a day. Only 1% said they never had to print, copy, or scan during the average workday. Some interesting statistics!

According to the article, paper is “subject to the friction of the physical world.” An interesting catch phrase describing the comparatively slow and can incur high costs in terms of supplies and lost productivity.

The article goes on to describe three ways to increase productivity and collaboration, and lower supply costs.

  • Go for the cloud. “Cloud systems that allow you to collaborate and share files securely.”
  • E-signatures speed the process. Accepting e-signatures radically increases the speed of business and can lead to “an 80 percent reduction in turnaround time” in deals, product deliveries, or service contracts.
  • PDF it. “The ability to convert PDFs back to editable formats opens up opportunities to annotate, optimize, or remove content. Repeat the process a few times, and a proposal or marketing campaign sails through the approval process without leaving stacks of paper in its wake.”

As an international company, SETA International certainly makes use of several cloud collaboration tools, and agrees that it can remove time zones and distances. We also work closely with dozens of small businesses that have focused on the cloud for countless business solutions. While this blogger finds printing is less than in years past, there’s something we just can’t give up about the printed page.

Small Biz Resources Feature: 4 Reasons Why Mobile is the Key to Small Business E-Commerce Success

mobile-devices-752x483SETA International is thrilled to be featured on Small Biz Resources.  Check out the story here or read SETA’s tips below.

The year 2015 marked some dramatic changes in E-Commerce and it can be argued that the biggest impact came from mobile. Consumers spent $69.08 billion online during the 2015 holiday shopping season, with $12.65 billion via mobile devices, according to comScore data.  Forrester Research estimates that 64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind.

The popularity of E-Commerce through mobile devices makes it shocking to discover that 93.3% of small business websites are not mobile compatible according to SCORE, a nonprofit supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration that helps small businesses nationwide.  It is imperative for small businesses to understand the importance of providing a mobile shopping experience.  A lack of action will result in losing customers and facing obsolescence quickly. Concerned with costs, manpower, and technical know-how, entrepreneurs may shy away from implementing a mobile strategy.  An understanding of some key ideas can help small businesses take advantage of the cost-effective technologies for mobile sites and the increased sales that will result from a solid mobile action plan.

#1 Mobile is driven by Millennials

Millennials are the largest demographic group in history, according to the US Census Bureau, with a reported 80 million in the USA.  Raised almost exclusively in the digital media age, they are very comfortable with everything digital from consuming media, financial transactions, communicating with one another, and more. Impatient and needing instant gratification, mobile payments offer the highest levels of convenience.  It is estimated that by 2025 this group is expected to generate 46% of all US income.  That’s a lot of purchase power!

#2 Google has optimized its infrastructure to be mobile first

On April 21, 2015, Google launched a new search algorithm, retooling search rankings and give greater weight to sites that are friendly to mobile devices. The new algorithm only applies to searches performed from smartphones and other mobile handsets, but considering more searches take place on mobile vs. desktop, it’s essential to have a mobile friendly site. Luckily, it is easy to find out if your site meets the criteria by typing in a site’s URL here.

#3 Technology has made mobile cost-effective, efficient, and with several options

There are several ways for small businesses to create a mobile friendly site, even from an existing site.  Depending on your needs, a software solutions provider can help and there are other solutions that are available, depending on your company’s needs.

  • Mobile First – A mobile first site starts with the development of a mobile site first! A new company that offers cutting-edge technology and easy development of mobile first sites is Avumo. Good for the DIY set and development firms, the intuitive platform will get a site mobile ready in minutes.
  • Responsive Design – These sites are built using flexibly sized elements, controlled by style sheets, javascript and HTML. No matter what size screen the user is viewing with, the text, images, navigation and graphics will size fluidly. Responsive design can sometimes be harder to develop, but a major advantage is that it offers the same user experience on no matter the device.
  • Adaptive Design– Much like responsive design, except that an adaptive website detects the device and delivers the appropriately sized website for the device being used.
  • Mobile App – If a company has large volume and shoppers are visiting often, a business will likely develop a mobile app.

#4 Premium Secure Payment Tools are for Small Businesses too!

Some may feel that mobile transactions do not offer the same level of security as desktop, or that working with a premium payment provider is only for large companies, and expensive.  Small Businesses that work with an experience software solutions provider can take advantage of services geared to the needs of growing companies.  The software solutions provider works with other small businesses and has the purchasing power to facilitate agreements with even the largest and most respected payment tools. Businesses seeking to accelerate their growth with the more secure payment tools can have access to premium services through the right channels making mobile shopping easier for your customers.


Small businesses seeking to grow, and in many cases survive, need to look at mobile as one of the most essential elements to their business.  Shoppers are changing the way they make purchases, each year more consumers use their mobile devices, and search engine tools are promoting sites that are mobile friendly.  The right technology and a good plan can help small businesses accelerate their growth and reach new markets successfully.

The future of IoT Technology – A Top 10



Browsing the web, we came across an interesting article on ZDNet that we wanted to share about the Top 10 IoT technologies in near term.

Over the next two years, the 10 key technology areas for IoT deployments include security, analytics, device management, short-range networks, processors, wide-area networks, event-stream processing, platforms, and communication protocols. That’s according to analyst firm, Gartner. But don’t start making changes yet. Many technologies are still evolving and changing, making planning difficult for now.

Something you can plan for is that the technology will run into Google, whether it’s for analytics, networks, or operating systems. That prediction is made based on the fact that Google appears five times across the top 10 technologies.

Interestingly, Microsoft is not mentioned in Gartner’s report. However, Gartner notes that the company under Satya Nadella is making the integration of machine-learning tech with its products a key priority.

If you are checking out the report, a Gartner spokesperson told ZDNet that not too much should be read into the report’s omission of any specific vendor and that the report was not intended to rank how critical vendors are to IoT.