Daniel Ives | 24 April 2015
As the only authorised AWS learning partner in the UK, QA had a heavy presence at the recent AWS Summit at ExCeL London. As one of QA’s AWS Certified Trainers, I was asked to help out with the running of the Hands-on Labs.
It was a busy event; the 60-odd PCs were in constant use throughout the day. Even when it was announced that Werner’s keynote started in five minutes, I expected a mass exodus and only about three people left the room!
AWS Hands-on Labs are a great way to familiarise yourself with various AWS services and features in a safe, sandboxed environment. The labs are available on a paid-for basis 24/7 at http://run.qwiklabs.com, but at the Summit AWS provided vouchers to gain free access.
(Tip: Some of the very basic "introductory" level labs are always free.)
So what did I learn in the Hands-on Labs room?
Obviously I was there to help out on the basis that I am an expert in these things, but as I’m sure you’re well aware, AWS is a big field, with many services and features - and new ones being added every day. This is one of the reasons it’s such an exciting area to be working in at the moment. Most of the issues attendees encountered were logging on to the qwikLAB environment, but there were some points of interest that I learned as a trainer.
Lesson 1 – Connecting to EC2 instances needs some open ports!
Not all ports are open on all networks. ExCeL has a public Wi-Fi network. Some of the attendees chose to use their own laptops (instead of the Intels provided), and connected to AWS via the public Wi-Fi network. They ran into issues when trying to connect to their EC2 instances (Virtual Machines running in the cloud) because the ExCeL network was refusing to allow traffic on port 22 for SSHing (Secure SHell) into Linux instances or on port 3389 for RDPing (Remote Desktop Protocol) into Windows instances.
Clearly network security is important, as the popularity of our cyber security courses shows, and many Wi-Fi routers are configured to only allow traffic on specific ports. You should ensure that the appropriate ports are available before trying to connect to an instance in the cloud. This is something we also see a lot when delivering on-site training courses, which uses QA’s own qwikLAB environment.
Lesson 2 – The AWS console changes. All the time.
AWS release new code all the time; their deployment tool "Apollo" (the basis of CodeDeploy) pushed 50 million deployments last year, which works out at a staggering 95 deployments per minute! Some of these code changes involve tweaks to the console, either for clarity of instructions or to improve the workflow for users. This means that at any time, instructions in hands-on labs can become out of date.
AWS is quite good at identifying issues and updating the instructions, but with 55 labs at qwikLABs, in addition to the similar number of labs in the instructor-led training courses, there is a chance of a potential mismatch. The changes are not generally huge, and one can often muddle through the differences, but this is one of the reasons that it’s handy to have an instructor available when working through Labs.
Lesson 3 – You need two monitors!
As the lab instructions are displayed in a browser window and, for the most part, the labs involve using the AWS Console in another browser window - a lot of window switching can be prevented by having both windows visible at the same time. To encourage ease of working and learning, all of the AWS classrooms in QA training centres have dual monitors.
Lesson 4 – There’s a real buzz about AWS
OK, this one is pretty obvious, with 4,100 attendees on the day. Unlike last year, I didn’t get to attend any of the talks, but (almost) everyone I met and talked to in the Hands-on Labs was smiling and super excited about the opportunities presented by AWS. People who were already using AWS would speak enthusiastically about how they were using it and what their next plans were.
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