Cloud Software Engineering Newsletter #21 (February Recap 2021)

Reading this somewhere that’s not your email inbox? sign-up here.

My promise to you: If you receive only one newsletter on cloud engineering, this should be it. You should never miss an important update, I prioritize the important things up top and read everything I share. If I’m not achieving my promise, hit reply and let me know how I can improve.

Well hello, all! It’s time for another month of understanding what’s been going on in the world of cloud software engineering. It feels almost like this month I was seeing fewer announcements; more memes and odd news articles. So for this month, enjoy the more meme-heavy edition.

This Month’s Top Cloud Pick(s) ⏫

If you only read one or two things this month, let it be this.

AWS Re:Invent 2020 Recap (Serverless Chats) — For this month’s top pick, I think the Serverless chats round-table discussion on Re:Invent 2020 is what got me most excited this month. This episode has a whole panel of different Serverless heroes reflecting on the announcements and releases in the 2020 Re:Invent, and what they mean, and discussing which are the ones are to watch, etc. Definitely worth it even if you attended/listened to Re:Invent as there are some extra takes and ideas that you might not have got the first time around.

Feature Releases & Announcements 📚

New stuff in the cloud, that you probably should know about.

Andy Jassy moves from CEO of AWS to CEO of Amazon (Jeff Bezos, About Amazon Blog) — I’d forgive you if you don’t keep up with this type of stuff. But Andy Jassy, the previous CEO of AWS, has now taken over from Jeff Bezos as the CEO of Amazon (the main bit). From those closest to him, most seem to think Andy Jassy is pretty much a clone copy of Bezos, so is perfect for the job. And there’s also speculation going around, saying that Amazon will ultimately pivot to put AWS as its central part of the business, ahead of the retail business. I mean, that would make sense given that AWS is now the majority share of Amazons current profits.

Re:Invent Videos on YouTube (AWS YouTube Channel) — The Re:Invent videos are finally up on YouTube! For a while, using the original Re:Invent website to re-watch the old content was a pain, but since they’re now all up on YouTube you can watch to your heart’s content.

Node.js 14.x is available in AWS Lambda (Benjamin Smith, AWS Compute Blog) — AWS Lambda now supports the latest Node.JS runtime, which means the introduction of some really neat new features, like optional chaining.

Jeremy Daly Joins Serverless Inc (Jeremy Daly) — In interesting news, cloudy serverless news, Jeremy Daly (author of Off By None Newsletter, and Serverless Chats podcast) has joined Serverless Inc to help them build out a new cloud platform. This is really interesting news. I was never a big fan of Serverless framework for several reasons, but this move is interesting to me, it shows that the new Serverless Inc cloud could be something to watch in the future, definitely keep an eye open here!

Increment Reliability Edition (Increment Magazine) — Increment is a quarterly magazine from Stripe on various tech topics (I’m subscribed to their print edition). This week’s edition is on the theme of reliability, which is a really interesting topic, with lots of nuances, so be sure to check it out.

How-To’s & Educational Pieces 🤓

Various articles on how to do various cloud things.

AWS Certification Preparation (Danny Steenman, DEV.TO) — In this article, Danny takes you through tips for taking the AWS certification exams, there are some nuggets of wisdom in there, such as asking for an extension if you’re a non-native speaker (this is a great tip!). It seems like Danny and I are on the same page, as just last week I also shared my article on the best resources to pass your AWS certification. You can also find Danny posting regularly on Twitter about the cloud, definitely worth a follow if you’re into the cloud and AWS (and also python 😛).

Etsy Debriefing Guide (John Allspaw et al, Esty) — I missed the boat on this one when it came out (circa 2016). But I stumbled across it on my travels and found it just too good not to share. Running an incident retro is as much an art as it is a science, and there are lots of different best practices, from how you introduce the meeting when you run the meeting following incidents even right up to what you actually call the meeting itself. This guide from Etsy goes into a bunch of the research and gives some tips on how to run effective incident post-mortems, or as they call them: debriefs.

What is a unit metric? (Mike Rosenberg, AWS Cost Management Blog) — The topic of optimizing cloud costs is a big one, and some have even made it their career. In this article, Mike Rosenburg breaks down how to understand what a unit metric is. TL;DR; A unit metric helps you to know if your workload went up, or your infrastructure is for some reason more inefficient.

How long will it take to learn AWS? And how to speed the process up (Lou Bichard, The Dev Coach) — Ah, so this is one of my own articles! It’s a question that I’ve been asked time and time again: how long will AWS take to learn. Of course, the answer will depend, but on what? In this article, I take a dive into the different factors which affect your time to learn AWS. We cover whether you’ll need an IT background, and what effect that might have on your time to learn AWS, and we also discuss whether you’ll need to learn to code, or not and discuss the ACloudGuru sandbox as a way to supercharge your learning.

Can you learn AWS (and get certified) with no experience? (e.g. no IT background or degree) (Lou Bichard, The Dev Coach) — This is another question that I get asked a lot, which is: what is the cloud market, and specifically the AWS market like for someone that’s totally green, and has no pre-existing IT background or degree. This article dives into that, giving some strategies and areas to focus on if you’re coming from a non-tech background and looking to break into the cloud world.

Operating Lambda, Building A Solid Security Foundation (James Beswick, AWS Compute Blog) — Last month we shared the last series of operating lambda using event-driven concepts. This week, we’re moving onto security. Again, just like with the last series, this article goes into depth on the inner works of AWS Lambda, which is really useful for working with AWS Lambda well. I have really enjoyed this series, as it goes into depth about how the lambda environment works, which is an essential aspect in learning to use lambda well.

10 Best Free AWS Learning Resources For Beginners (Danny Steenman, — In this article, Danny gives out a bunch of resources that are useful to read if you’re just getting into the cloud / AWS. Useful if you’re just getting into the world of AWS and are starting to understand how everything is laid out.

Opinion Pieces / Miscellaneous 💭

Cloud commentary, spicy takes, memes, and the just-for-fun part!

What we learned taking the new AWS SysOps Administrator Exam (Faye Ellis, ACloudGuru) — AWS has recently introduced a practical element into their exams. This is really interesting news, as one of the factors that have really devalued the certifications has been people taking the exams using question dumps and memorising. Hopefully, with AWS changing this around, the certifications can continue to hold their value, especially for those searching for new jobs.

Reliability, Constant Work & A Good Cup Of Coffee (Colm MacCárthaigh, AWS Builders Library) — If you’re not already reading the builder’s library articles, I’d highly suggest you do. The content is some of the most advanced written in the industry on the topics of reliability, system scaling, etc. There aren’t many other places where you can get this information, so they’re worth reading and worth keeping up with.

5 Good Reasons Not To Get AWS Certified (Andreas Wittig, Cloudonaut) — I’m sharing this article, mostly because it goes against the conventional wisdom that’s in favor of getting AWS certified. Because there are definitely plenty of reasons NOT to get AWS certified. I think the article is relevant for those with more experience than those joining the industry. In the article, Andreas makes the case that as cloud certifications get more prominent, that they lose their value. This makes some sense when it comes to more experienced engineers, but I still think that for entry-level engineers that cloud certifications make sense.

Corey Quinn made it into the NY times (Daisuke Wakabayashi, NY Times) — This is clearly essential news! But, who’d have thought that niche cloud memes would eventually go mainstream? Well, it has now. Corey who runs lastweekinaws, and the screaming in the cloud podcast is officially mainstream. Hipsters, beware. The world of cloud and tech can be really dry at times, so I’m always glad to see more humor and entertainment going around!

Don’t Stop Releasin’ (Duckbill Group YouTube) — Well, it seems the cloud meme train just keeps on getting more and more extreme and elaborate 😂

Practiced humility in retrospectives (Will Gallego, — Understanding the art of team learning about incidents is a large aspect of reliability, but it’s not easy. In this article, Will covers some pitfalls and traps of running incident reviews and retrospectives, and what to do about it.

Debugging your AWS Costs, Costs (Reddit, r/AWS) — Did you know that using your AWS cost API actually costs you money, too? I didn’t. So don’t go too crazy optimizing your costs, otherwise they might go up!

Outages / Breaches 💭

What went down or got hacked?

Slack Outage (Slack Engineering Blog) — “Every incident is an opportunity to learn, and an unplanned investment in future reliability.”, this is a nice write-up of the slack outage from a few weeks ago, a handful of lessons in there, as always.

Personal Updates 🙍🏼‍♂️

What I’ve been up to over the past month.

For a long time, I’ve been sent questions like: “Do I need to learn to code to get into cloud?”, “What programming language should I learn?”, “Do I need a cloud certificate?”. And, apparently, this was the month that I decided that enough was enough, and I went out to get the data. In the last week, I’ve been running a survey which I’ve called “open up the cloud” to gather the actual data behind these questions. The survey received an awesome response on Twitter, and there’s a gallery post on Instagram which runs through the results. So far we’re up to 27 submissions (🙏 thank you to all who submitted responses!) which is a really fantastic start. I’d love to see the survey get 100 submissions, so if you have a minute, please fill out the survey (it’s 13 multiple-choice questions) as it’ll make a huge difference for people trying to get into the cloud industry.

The surveys results are now published, and you can find them here @

In other news, let’s talk about YouTube. I’ve always been curious about YouTube, and I’m aware of just how powerful of a platform YouTube is. This past few weeks I’ve been putting out a series of videos on the cloud resume challenge, there’s an introduction, a run-through of setting up AWS, and a run-through of setting up an S3 bucket using AWS SAM. There’s plenty more to come on this series, but there’s SO MUCH that I can cover, so if there’s anything specifically that you’d like me to cover, I’d love to know.

If you haven’t noticed as well, my site currently runs display ads. And I’ve received a few questions over time about why that is. Overall I feel like I’ve done a fairly poor job of communicating the vision of the site and brand, and what that money is going towards, so I put up a Twitter thread on why my site has ads, if you’re curious. TL;DR; I’m re-investing the earnings in the community and in you—supporting The Dev Coach means supporting the community.

See You Next Month 👋

And that’s all for this month’s newsletter, thanks again for reading!

If you’ve got feedback on the newsletter, e.g. if there’s something you’re particularly struggling with, or would like to see more of, fill out this survey and let me know. I’m always looking for ways to make the newsletter more relevant and useful for you.

Speak soon Cloud Engineering friend!

Reading this somewhere that’s not your email inbox? sign-up here.

Lou Bichard