AWS August Roundup: Now you can query streaming data with SQL

New Amazon services also improve load balancing and bring hourly billing to virtual desktop rental

The dog days of summer are over, and it's time to get back to work. While you were out enjoying the sunshine and sipping margaritas, Amazon continued to update its cloud platform with new services like Kinesis Analytics, which lets users query streaming data with SQL. 

There were also a ton of updates to existing services, with the company's load balancer service moving up the stack, hourly billing coming to virtual desktops and support for customers bringing their own encryption keys for Amazon to manage. 

Here's the detailed breakdown:

Kinesis Analytics is here to query streaming data with SQL

Amazon launched a new product to help users process and gain insights from large amounts of streaming data as it's coming in, rather than waiting to process it when it hits a database. Kinesis Analytics lets users set up SQL queries to run on batches of data as it arrives in Amazon's cloud.

That means people who know how to query databases will be able to take those tools to get live information from streams of data from the Internet of Things, detailed application telemetry, and other sources.

Amazon's load balancer moved up the stack

The Elastic Load Balancer system has been around for a while, to help manage the load put on web applications being run in Amazon's cloud. Now there's a new traffic cop in town: the Application Load Balancer, which sports a whole bunch of features like content-based routing, support for container-based apps, improved metrics and support for WebSocket and HTTP/2.

For you folks out there who understand the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, the ALB runs at Layer 7, while the previous load balancers (now called Classic Load Balancers) will provide Layer 4 and Layer 7 functionality.

Customers using a Classic Load Balancer can use Amazon's Load Balancer Copy Utility to help them create an Application Load Balancer with the same configuration as one of the older models, and register existing EC2 instances to a new load balancer. The new load balancers are generally available now, and Amazon says they're 10 percent cheaper than their predecessors.

It's now easy to upload cost and usage reports to Redshift and QuickSight

Companies that are using a lot of AWS services are going to have big bills, and it can be useful to better understand where that cost and usage is coming from. To help manage all of that, Amazon now makes it easier for its customers to upload their usage reports to the company's Redshift relational database and QuickSight business intelligence service.

Users set up a usage report to upload to a S3 storage bucket, and enable it to work with Redshift and QuickSight. Sending a report to Redshift means that users will be able to run SQL queries on the usage data, while QuickSight can help them produce visualizations of their Amazon cloud spending.

Amazon's virtual desktops can now be rented on an hourly basis

Amazon WorkSpaces, the AWS-based virtual desktop-as-a-service offering, now supports billing by the hour, which means that customers can spin up a desktop when they need it and tear it down when they don't. To take advantage of the billing feature, users have to set up a WorkSpace in AutoStop mode, which will shut down after a defined period of user inactivity.

Priced hourly, Amazon still charges a monthly base fee for each WorkSpace, plus a fee for every hour it's in use, including the time when the workspace is inactive but AutoStop hasn't kicked in to shut it down. Amazon rounds up to the nearest full hour of usage when it comes to billing, so someone who uses a WorkSpace with a 60 minute delay until AutoStop kicks in (the default) for 3 hours and 15 minutes will be billed for five hours of use.

Roughly speaking, hourly billing is cheaper than monthly billing for WorkSpaces that are charged for 80  or fewer hours of use a month. After that, it's cheaper to just bite the bullet and pay for monthly billing.

Amazon also expanded the size of new WorkSpaces’ root volumes to 80GB, so users get more space to store applications without paying more.

Companies can bring their own keys to Amazon's Key Management Service

Customers who want to control how their data is encrypted in the AWS cloud have been able to use Amazon's Key Management Service to integrate encryption keys managed by the cloud platform with services that need their data encrypted. Users can now import keys from any key management or hardware security module that supports RSA PKCS #1.

That means those customers will be able to retain control of their keys and use them in private datacenters while also making it easy to manage them in the cloud.

That's a wrap for the past month -- stay tuned for more news coming out in September.

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