Alexa delivers Cloud Database Optimization & DevOps to the masses

Tony Ko
Tony Ko
Nov 15, 2018 · 4 min read

Co-authored with Mahesh Pakala (AWS) & Oliver Choy (Slalom)

Alexa isn’t the new AI assistant from Amazon anymore — but she’s still the it AI assistant. That’s because Alexa, who is the celebrity personality living inside Amazon’s Echo device, now has a seat at the CIO’s desk — and perhaps everyone’s office desk. That’s because she now understands how to talk to data, glean performance insights from the Amazon Aurora database, and even automatically patch database issues by responding to questions and voice commands in natural language (NL).

Performance Insights for Everyone

Amazon RDS Performance Insights (PI) is an advanced database performance monitoring feature from Amazon Web Services (AWS) that makes it easy to diagnose and solve performance challenges on Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) databases, including Amazon Aurora.

This year Slalom, a premiere global technology consultancy, partnered with AWS to connect Alexa’s functionality with the PI and Aurora database stack — making insight discovery incredibly fast and easy for anyone including Database Administrators (DBAs), DevOps personnel, and even enterprise business users from every department.

Imagine a Sales VP sitting at her desk asking, “Alexa, how do our quarterly sales look?” over her morning coffee — and hearing a real-time answer that probably sparks another question, or maybe leads her to take action. From her desk or even the whiteboard, she’s free to continue to ask questions and get more answers from the Aurora database via Alexa that will impact her day, and probably the bottom line.

Just as Alexa gives business leaders easy access to business intelligence, it can also give IT leaders, developers, and administrators easy access to performance intelligence. For example, a CIO might ask “Alexa, are any of my databases saturated?” If Alexa responds affirmatively, then the CIO might give Alexa a task like, “check which query is causing saturation.” When Alexa returns with the culprit, she immediately enables IT teams to tackle the challenge.

Not only does this application of voice UI allow non-experts to ask questions about data that matters to them, this power trio (Alexa + Performance Insights + Aurora) also works to detect performance problems and supplements performance data with an easy-to-understand dashboards that visualize the database load.

Anyone who has previously been logging into the AWS console every day to manually mine for database performance insights can now ‘hire’ Alexa’s superpower of natural language by building a skill to explore, react, and take action to improve performance.

Check out this video to see how Alexa, Amazon Aurora and Performance Insights work together to meaningfully apply innovations in voice UI to any organization.

DevOps and Database Admins Evolve Together

The Amazon Aurora product is fully managed by Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), so DBAs no longer need to worry about database management tasks such as hardware provisioning, software patching, setup, configuration, or backups. Aurora automatically and continuously monitors and backs up your database to Amazon S3, enabling granular point-in-time recovery. You can monitor database performance using Amazon CloudWatch, Enhanced Monitoring, or Performance Insights, an easy-to-use tool that help people quickly detect performance problems.

Because there’s an ever-increasing interest in using user-friendly tools to trigger automation of complex IT workflows, an NL service like Alexa could potentially become the new DevOps assistant.

The assistance of an NL service can enforce a simple and consistent method for DevOps engineers to execute tasks such as provisioning a server, investigating remediations, and provisioning / de-provisioning user access to systems. Not only does this align distinct DevOps teams, but it can also save time for engineers on the team enabling them to focus on fixing issues and developing enhancements.

For example, instead of looking at reports, imagine if engineers were able to ask, “Alexa, are there any systems down at the moment?” or, “What changes were made to the production environment?”

Instead of looking through change records and code commits, engineers can apply the benefits of natural language bots like Alexa to application performance and monitoring tools — and some have even been starting to create their own bots to accommodate scenarios such as these. ChatOps and VoiceOps as this is being referred to, is becoming more common and prevalent in organizations looking to increase their velocity and Alexa can be a key component to get there.

In the future, business use cases for Alexa may get even better by using a push notification model, in addition to a polling model as we have explored here. In other words, instead of asking Alexa for information, Alexa would automatically provide information to DevOps engineers regarding issues in the environment. With notifications, Alexa can provide information to a DevOps engineer proactively — something to think about when looking at Alexa as a true DevOps assistant.

Powerful Partners

No matter the industry or expertise, natural language is making innovation faster than ever. From manufacturing and healthcare to technology and product development, Slalom and AWS work together to bring variety of other Alexa integrations to market. Together, our engineers recently extended Alexa’s NL functionality of Salesforce’s CRM to increase the convenience and productivity of sales teams everywhere — so sales people interact with their data on the go, at the office, and update their Salesforce opportunities all with their voice.

To learn more about Slalom’s premiere partnership and innovations with AWS, stop by the Slalom booth at this year’s AWS re-invent, booth # 1438.

Slalom Technology

Thought leadership from technologists at Slalom.

Tony Ko

Written by

Tony Ko

Slalom Technology

Thought leadership from technologists at Slalom.

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