AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional – Study Guide – Domain 7.0: Scalability and Elasticity (15%)


7.1 Demonstrate the ability to design a loosely coupled system

  • Amazon CloudFront is a web service (CDN) that speeds up distribution of your static and dynamic web content, for example, .html, .css, .php, image, and media files, to end users. CloudFront delivers your content through a worldwide network of edge locations. When an end user requests content that you’re serving with CloudFront, the user is routed to the edge location that provides the lowest latency, so content is delivered with the best possible performance. If the content is already in that edge location, CloudFront delivers it immediately. If the content is not currently in that edge location, CloudFront retrieves it from an Amazon S3 bucket or an HTTP server (for example, a web server) that you have identified as the source for the definitive version of your content.
  • CloudFront has two aspects – origin and distribution. You create a distribution and link it to an origin, such as S3, an EC2 instance, existing website etc
  • Two types of distributions, web and RTMP
  • Geo restrictions can be used to white or blacklist traffic from specific countries, blocking access to the distribution
  • GET, HEAD, PUT, POST, PATCH, DELETE and OPTIONS HTTP commands supported
  • Allowed methods are what CloudFront will pass on to the origin server. If you do not need to modify content, consider not allowing PUT, POST, PATCH, DELETE to ensure users to not modify content
  • CloudFront does not cache responses to POST, PUT, DELETE and PATCH requests, can POST content to an Edge location and then this is send on to the origin server
  • SSL can be used to provide HTTPS. Can either use CloudFront’s own certificate or use your own
    • To support older browsers, need dedicated SSL IP certificate per edge location, can be very expensive
    • SNI (Server Name Indication) custom SSL certs can be used by adding all hostnames behind the certificate but it is presented as a single IP address. Uses SNI extensions in newer browsers
  • 100 CNAME aliases per distribution, can use wildcard CNAMEs
  • Use Invalidation Requests to forcibly remove content from Edge locations. Need to use API call to do this or do it from the console, or set a TTL on the content
  • Alias records can be used to map a friendly name to a CloudFront URL (Route 53 supports this). Supports zone apex entry (name without www, such as example.com). DNS records for the same name must have the same routing type (simple, weighted, latency, etc) or you will get an error in the console
  • Alias records can then have “evaluate target” set to yes so that existing health checks are used to ensure the underlying resources are up before sending traffic onwards. If a health check for the underlying resource does not exist, evaluate target settings have no effect
  • AWS doesn’t charge for mapping alias records to CloudFront distributions
  • CloudFront supports dynamic web content using cookies to forward on to the origin server
  • Forward query strings passes the whole URL to the origin if configured in CloudFront, but only for a web server or application as S3 does not support this feature
  • Cookie values can then be logged into CloudFront access logs
  • CloudFront can be used to proxy upload requests back to the origin to speed up data transfers
  • Use a zero value TTL for dynamic content
  • Different URL patterns can send traffic to different origins
  • Whitelist certain HTTP headers such as cloudfront-viewer-country so that locale details can be passed through to the web server for custom content
  • Device detection can serve different content based on the User Agent string in the header request
  • Invalidating objects removes them from CloudFront edge caches. A faster and less expensive method is to use versioned object or directory names
  • Enable access logs in CloudFront and then send them to an S3 bucket. EMR can be used to analyse the logs
  • Signed URLs can be used to provide time limited access or access to private content on CloudFront. Signed cookies can be used to limit secure access to certain parts of the site. Use cases are signed URLs for a marketing e-mail and signed cookies for web site streaming or whole site authentication
  • Cache-control max-age header will be sent to browser to control how long the content is in the local browser cache for, can help improve delivery, especially of static items
  • If-modified-since will allow the browser to send a request for content only if it is newer than the modification date specified in the request. If the content has not changed, content is pulled from the browser cache
  • Set a low TTL for dynamic content as most content can be cached even if it’s only for a few seconds. CloudFront can also present stale data if TTL is long
  • Popular Objects report and cache statistics can help you tune CloudFront behaviour
  • Only forward cookies that are used to vary or tailor user based content
  • Use Smooth Streaming on a web distribution for live streaming using Microsoft technology
  • RTMP is true media streaming, progressive download downloads in chunks to say a mobile device. RTMP is Flash only
  • Supports existing WAF policies
  • You can create custom error response pages
  • Two ElastiCache engines available – Redis and Memcached. Exam will give scenarios and you must select the most appropriate
  • As a rule of thumb, simple caching is done by memcached and complex caching is done by Redis
  • Only Redis is multi-AZ and has backup and restore and persistence capabilities, sorting, publisher/subscriber, failover
  • Redis uses a persistence key store or caching engine for persistence
  • Redis has backup and restore and automatic failover and is best used for frequently changing data in a complex scale
  • Doesn’t need a database to backend it like memcached does
  • Leader boards is a good use case for Redis
  • Redis can be configured to use an Append Only File (AOF) that will repopulate the cache in case all nodes are lost and cache is cleared. This is disabled by default. AOF is like a replay log
  • Redis has a primary node and read only nodes. If the primary fails, a read only node is promoted to primary. Writes done to primary node, reads done from read replicas (asynchronous replication)
  • Redis snapshots are used to increase the size of nodes. This is not the same as EC2 snapshots, the snapshot creates a new node based on the snapshot and size is picked when launching
  • Redis can be configured to automatically backup daily in a window or manual snapshots. Automatic have retention limits, manual don’t
  • Memcached can scale horizontally and is multi-threaded, supports sharding
  • Memcached uses lazy loading, so if an app doesn’t get a hit from the cache, it requests it from the DB and then puts that into cache. Write through updates the cache when the database is updated
  • TTL can be used to expire out stale or unread data from the cache
  • Memcached does not maintain it’s own data persistence, database does this, scale by adding more nodes to a cluster
  • Vertically scaling memcached nodes requires standing up a new cluster of required instance sizes/types. All instance types in a cluster are the same type
  • Single endpoint for all memcached nodes
  • Put memcached nodes in different AZs
  • Memcache nodes are empty when first provisioned, bear this in mind when scaling out as this will affect cache performance while the nodes warm up
  • For low latency applications, place Memcache clusters in the same AZ as the application stack. More configuration and management but better performance
  • When deciding between Memcached and Redis, here are a few questions to consider:
    • Is object caching your primary goal, for example to offload your database? If so, use Memcached.
    • Are you interested in as simple a caching model as possible? If so, use Memcached.
    • Are you planning on running large cache nodes, and require multithreaded performance with utilization of multiple cores? If so, use Memcached.
    • Do you want the ability to scale your cache horizontally as you grow? If so, use Memcached.
    • Does your app need to atomically increment or decrement counters? If so, use either Redis or Memcached.
    • Are you looking for more advanced data types, such as lists, hashes, and sets? If so, use Redis.
    • Does sorting and ranking datasets in memory help you, such as with leaderboards? If so, use Redis.
    • Are publish and subscribe (pub/sub) capabilities of use to your application? If so, use Redis.
    • Is persistence of your key store important? If so, use Redis.
    • Do you want to run in multiple AWS Availability Zones (Multi-AZ) with failover? If so, use Redis.
  • Amazon Kinesis is a managed service that scales elastically for real-time processing of streaming data at a massive scale. The service collects large streams of data records that can then be consumed in real time by multiple data-processing applications that can be run on Amazon EC2 instances.
  • You’ll create data-processing applications, known as Amazon Kinesis Streams applications. A typical Amazon Kinesis Streams application reads data from an Amazon Kinesis stream as data records. These applications can use the Amazon Kinesis Client Library, and they can run on Amazon EC2 instances. The processed records can be sent to dashboards, used to generate alerts, dynamically change pricing and advertising strategies, or send data to a variety of other AWS services. The PutRecord command is used to put data into a stream
  • Data is stored in Kinesis for 24 hours, but this can go up to 7 days
  • You can use Streams for rapid and continuous data intake and aggregation. The type of data used includes IT infrastructure log data, application logs, social media, market data feeds, and web clickstream data. Because the response time for the data intake and processing is in real time, the processing is typically lightweight
  • The following are typical scenarios for using Streams
    • Accelerated log and data feed intake and processing
    • Real-time metrics and reporting
    • Real-time data analytics
    • Complex stream processing
  • An Amazon Kinesis stream is an ordered sequence of data records. Each record in the stream has a sequence number that is assigned by Streams. The data records in the stream are distributed into shards
  • A data record is the unit of data stored in an Amazon Kinesis stream. Data records are composed of a sequence number, partition key, and data blob, which is an immutable sequence of bytes. Streams does not inspect, interpret, or change the data in the blob in any way. A data blob can be up to 1 MB
  • Retention Period is the length of time data records are accessible after they are added to the stream. A stream’s retention period is set to a default of 24 hours after creation. You can increase the retention period up to 168 hours (7 days) using the IncreaseRetentionPeriod operation
  • A partition key is used to group data by shard within a stream
  • Each data record has a unique sequence number. The sequence number is assigned by Streams after you write to the stream with client.putRecords or client.putRecord
  • In summary, a record has three things:-
    • Sequence number
    • Partition key
    • Data BLOB
  • Producers put records into Amazon Kinesis Streams. For example, a web server sending log data to a stream is a producer
  • Consumers get records from Amazon Kinesis Streams and process them. These consumers are known as Amazon Kinesis Streams Applications
  • An Amazon Kinesis Streams application is a consumer of a stream that commonly runs on a fleet of EC2 instances
  • A shard is a uniquely identified group of data records in a stream. A stream is composed of one or more shards, each of which provides a fixed unit of capacity
  • Once a stream is created, you can add data to it in the form of records. A record is a data structure that contains the data to be processed in the form of a data blob. After you store the data in the record, Streams does not inspect, interpret, or change the data in any way. Each record also has an associated sequence number and partition key
  • There are two different operations in the Streams API that add data to a stream, PutRecords and PutRecord. The PutRecords operation sends multiple records to your stream per HTTP request, and the singular PutRecord operation sends records to your stream one at a time (a separate HTTP request is required for each record). You should prefer using PutRecords for most applications because it will achieve higher throughput per data producer
  • An Amazon Kinesis Streams producer is any application that puts user data records into an Amazon Kinesis stream (also called data ingestion). The Amazon Kinesis Producer Library (KPL) simplifies producer application development, allowing developers to achieve high write throughput to a Amazon Kinesis stream.
  • You can monitor the KPL with Amazon CloudWatch
  • The agent is a stand-alone Java software application that offers an easier way to collect and ingest data into Streams. The agent continuously monitors a set of log files and sends new data records to your Amazon Kinesis stream. By default, records within each file are determined by a new line, but can also be configured to handle multi-line records. The agent handles file rotation, checkpointing, and retry upon failures. It delivers all of your data in a reliable, timely, and simple manner. It also emits CloudWatch metrics to help you better monitor and troubleshoot the streaming process.
  • You can install the agent on Linux-based server environments such as web servers, front ends, log servers, and database servers. After installing, configure the agent by specifying the log files to monitor and the Amazon Kinesis stream names. After it is configured, the agent durably collects data from the log files and reliably submits the data to the Amazon Kinesis stream
  • SNS is Simple Notification Services – publisher creates a topic and then subscribers get updates sent to topics. This can be push to Android, iOS, etc
  • Use SNS to send push notifications to desktops, Amazon Device Messaging, Apple Push for iOS and OSX, Baidu, Google Cloud for Android, MS push for Windows Phone and Windows Push notification services
  • Steps to create mobile push:-
    • Request credentials from mobile platforms
    • Request token from mobile platforms
    • Create platform application object
    • Publish message to mobile endpoint
  • Grid computing vs cluster computing
    • Grid computing is generally loosely coupled, often used with spot instances and tend to grow and shrink as required. Use different regions and instance types
    • Distributed workloads
    • Designed for resilience (auto scaling) – horizontal scaling rather than vertical scaling
    • Cluster computing has two or more instances working together in low latency, high throughput environments
    • Uses same instance types
    • GPU instances do not support SR-IOV networking
  • Elastic Transcoder encodes media files and uses a pipeline with a source and destination bucket, a job and a pre-set (what media type, watermarks etc). Pre-sets are templates and may be altered to provide custom settings. Pipelines can only have one source and one destination bucket
  • Integrates into SNS for job status updates and alerts



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