Navigating AWS and its 200 different services is almost a job in itself. As a developer starting out on a new project, you may be overwhelmed with choices.
In the recent episode of our podcast, Decoded, we spoke with Nicki Stone, Senior Software Engineer at AWS, to learn about AWS Amplify, a tool that the AWS team is hoping will make it easier to get started with new app projects on the platform.
As Stone explained in the podcast, AWS Amplify is a set of tools that simplify integrating with AWS services. Through a collection of libraries, UI components, and both command line and graphical interfaces, Amplify, helps front-end web and mobile developers to pull together the AWS services they need. As Stone explained:
“Amplify is higher-level constructs built on top of the SDK to make AWS and the cloud super easy for you. We build things in a categorical way, and then we drop services under those categories, under the hood, and just expose easy interfaces.”
Amplify in Action
AWS began as the Simple Storage Service, otherwise known as S3. But today, AWS offers a rich variety of storage options. In the podcast, Stone shared how Amplify saves developers from having to worry about which specific AWS storage product to choose and, once it has made its recommendation, the service then configures the data store automatically.
“You don’t have to know that it’s creating an S3 bucket or that it’s creating a dynamo table or whatever storage you’ve decided to create. It will ask you a bunch of questions on what kind of storage you need and then appropriately create the correct resource for you in AWS. Once that resource has been created, you can use the framework libraries to take advantage of that resource.”
With Amplify, a developer can quickly leverage categories that wrap up multiple AWS services in one click. For example, the Prediction feature wraps up a number of AWS AI/ML capabilities into one easy-to-use interface. As Stone explained:
“You don’t have to even understand when you’re using it or the name of the service you’re using. You just have to know, ‘Oh, I want to do machine learning, and specifically what I want to do is speech-to-text.’ That’s it. That’s the only understanding you need when you’re using Amplify.”
From In-Person to an App in a Week
Amplify helps developers navigate the AWS services without having to figure out how to manage and deploy the resources that will be required to deliver a solution. This speed to market is useful not only for quickly testing new ideas, but also for reacting to massive disruptions — such as a global pandemic that forces businesses to pivot from in-person workouts to an app.
That’s what happened for the fitness studio chain Orangetheory. In mid-March of 2020, the company was forced to close the doors of its fitness studios across the country. Orangetheory still wanted to stay connected to its customers and continue to offer exercise classes; however, the company had no app ready that it could use to pivot to online instruction. Working with Amplify, Orangetheory’s developers were able to release an app called Orangetheory At Home in just eight days that allowed the company to provide on-demand workouts clients could do at home.
“Think about the number of days that they built that in. Crazy fast turnaround time. They were very, very happy with the results. Their sales obviously went up after they did this. They were very, very ecstatic to be able to create something so quickly with Amplify and be back up and running video workouts on an app.”
Powered by Pizza
In addition to sharing details about Amplify, Stone also shared a behind-the-scenes look at how AWS as a business structures its teams to maximize innovation. Teams like Amplify are intentionally set up to be small, nimble, and siloed so they can act as a startup within the larger organization.
“They’re called ‘two-pizza teams’ because the team can only be as big as what two pizzas would feed. The reason we’re able to innovate so quickly is that we’re not limited by the typical big corporation bureaucracy because we work in little tiny startups. I have an idea, you have an idea, let’s go do it. It doesn’t need to go through seven layers of approval.”
Of course, that speed can have its downside. When teams are working quickly without coordination, work can inadvertently be duplicated, much in the same way as two startups working independently might create similar products in reaction to a market opportunity.
“Sometimes two teams will put out products that do the same thing. They do the same idea at the same time, we didn’t talk to each other. So there’s positives and negatives to being able to innovate so quickly. Personally, I really enjoy being able to come to an idea and see it come to fruition fairly quickly, and put it out to the customer to see. Our customer feedback determines our roadmap, essentially.”
Check out this week’s Decoded podcast to learn much more about how Nicki Stone started her non-traditional path to software development, how she joined the Amplify team, more insights into Amplify use cases, and a look from the inside at what it's like to work at AWS. Listen now, and subscribe to future episodes today.