re:Invent Revisited - The Amazon Builders Library

A look back at previous re:Invent announcements. Today we look at Builders' Library and why it's significant.

re:Invent Revisited - The Amazon Builders Library

We’re kicking off a week of looking back at announcements from previous re:Invents, as we build up to re:Invent 2020. We’re starting with one of my favourite announcements of re:Invent 2019, the Amazon Builders’ Library.

Amazon and AWS have been very closed about how they build things. Werner Vogels has shared some insights up on stage during his keynotes over the years. Occasionally a research paper appears (The Dynamo Paper, Millions of Tiny Databases). Historically though, they haven’t shared much about how they build systems.

The lessons from building the Amazon platform over the previous 24 years had been to a large extent kept out of sight. This 2006 interview with Werner is one of the best examples of Amazon sharing, albeit at a high level, how they operate. It’s been too rare an act of sharing. Amazon were very early adopters of service orientated architecture, they used small autonomous teams, adopted asynchronous processing through the use of queues, and many more. All before the general tech community had given these concepts the names we now use.

The Amazon Builders’ Library announcement changed that. It’s a collection of technical articles on how AWS builds systems. It’s written by AWS’s engineering team building the systems that run AWS. It was even positively received on Hacker News.

It gives consumers of AWS services a look at some of the design decisions behind the services they use everyday.This helps in many ways. It helps you understand how the services you consume work and where their boundaries are. It helps you learn architectural patterns and techniques you can apply in your own architecture.

It also helps AWS establish their tech credentials, which is good for hiring, and gives customers a warm fuzzy feeling that they’re working for a partner that lives up to their own marketing.

The pace at which its updated with new articles since launch has been slow. To date, it hosts 17 written articles and 6 videos. I assume this slower pace of release is a byproduct of using a small pool of principal engineers who write the articles, combined with the fact that the Builders’ Library is not their core role.

My hope for 2021 and the Amazon Builders’ Library is for an expanded pool of engineers writing articles giving us a deeper view of other parts of the AWS platforms, and for AWS clients to start publishing similar quality technical articles.

The Builders' Library goes deep in a limited number of areas, but expanding width of areas it goes deep into, the more invaluable it will become.

Check it out here.