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AWS for dummies

Book review: Amazon Web Services For Dummies

So, as part of my attempts at “upskilling” (is that a bad word? Did it make you cross? Sorry!) in my new life as a self-facilitating business node, I decided to get to grips with AWS (Amazon Web Services) a little better.

In my last job, we had an operations department (known as Systems Engineering, once we figured out that DevOps is a culture rather than a role) who took care of our virtual machines, provisioning et cetera. I had a passing interest in AWS but I was pretty vague on what it could do.

But surely, all this info is online, right? And books are redundant? Noooooooo! – as I said in my last book review, it’s good to be able to sit and read information arranged in a clear manner with some form of narrative-esque progression and arrangement.

Golden clearly knows his stuff; he takes the reader through every service that Amazon offers. It really opened my eyes to how cool AWS really is with its myriad offerings. Of course, it can feel a bit intimidating because there is simply so much and that’s why this book is good – it never made me feel stupid or ignorant but took me through what each service was and gave some good use cases.

One thing that leapt out to me was Golden’s near-apologist stance; he refutes a lot of the arguments against Amazon quite effectively (although he avoids the thorny area of their tax status!). AWS has been fantastic in combatting the ‘shadow IT’ phenomenon, whereby frustrated devs bypass their ops departments and ‘go rogue’. I’ve seen that happen a lot – there are few things more demoralising than not having the tools to do your job, and taking months to get a VM should never happen in 2014! What’s cool is how up front Amazon are about their pricing – none of this “a sales rep will call you” nonsense!

After reading Bernard Golden’s book, I now feel like I’ve got a really good overview of what AWS offers. I wouldn’t say I could crack on right away and start managing AWS services for clients, or set up some sophisticated load-balanced redundant environment, but I reckon I now know what questions I would have to ask!

The closing section of the book is particularly good, where Golden talks you through making good design decisions in your infrastructure to avoid technical debt.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants an overview of AWS – it’s not made me an overnight expert, but it has given me confidence and knowledge that mean I’d be happy to get stuck in!

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