Architecture & Resilience

amazonwebshark’s Abandoned 2019 AWS Architecture

In this post, I respond to January 2024’s T-SQL Tuesday #170 Invitation by examining amazonwebshark’s abandoned 2019 AWS architecture.

tsql tuesday

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amazonwebshark is two years old today!

One of a kind 500

I wrote an analysis post last year, and when deciding on the second birthday’s topic I saw this month’s T-SQL Tuesday invitation from Reitse Eskens:

“What projects did you abandon but learn a lot from?”

One immediately sprang to mind! Since this T-SQL Tuesday falls on amazonwebshark’s second birthday, it seemed a good time to evaluate it.

Rewind to 2019. I was new to AWS and was studying towards their Certified Cloud Practitioner certification. To that end, I set up an AWS account and tried several tutorials including an S3 static website.

After earning the certification, I kept the site going to continue my learning journey. I made the site into a blog and chose a snappy (Groan – Ed) name…amazonwebshark. In fact, that site is still around!

I’ll start by looking at the site architecture, then examine what went wrong and end with how it influenced the current amazonwebshark site. For the rest of this post, I’ll refer to amazonwebshark 2019 as awshark2019 and the current version as awshark2021.

How awshark2019 Was Built

In this section, I examine the architecture behind awshark2019.

Hugo Static Site Generator

Hugo is an open-source static site generator written in the Go programming language. Go is known for its efficiency and performance, making Hugo’s build process very fast.

Hugo’s content files are written in Markdown which enables easy post creation and formatting. These Markdown posts are then converted to static HTML files at build time. The built site has a file system structure and can be deployed to platforms like traditional web servers, content delivery networks (CDNs), and cloud storage services.

Speaking of which…

S3 Static Site

awshark2019 has been operating out of a public S3 bucket since its creation:

2024 01 04 S3WebsiteBucketOverview

This won’t be a particularly technical section, as the AWS documentation and tutorial are already great resources for this S3 feature. So let’s talk about the benefits of static sites instead:

  • Since static websites consist of pre-built HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, they load quickly and can scale rapidly.
  • Static websites are inherently more secure and maintainable because there’s no server-side code execution, database vulnerabilities or plugin updates.
  • All site processing is done before deployment, so the only ongoing cost is for storage. awshark2019 weighs in at around 4MB, so in the four years it has been live this has been essentially free.

So far this all sounds good. What went wrong?

Why awshark2019 Failed

In this section, I examine awshark2019’s problems. Why was the 2019 architecture abandoned?

Unclear Objectives

Firstly, awshark2019 had no clear purpose.

In my experience, good blogs have their purpose nailed down. It could be automation, data, biscuits…anything as long as it becomes consistent and plays to the creator’s strengths.

With awshark2019, some posts are about S3 Static Sites and Billing Alerts. These are good topics to explore. However, almost half of the posts are about creating the site and are in a web design category. But the blog isn’t about web design, and I’ve never been a web designer!

Rounding things off, the About page is…the Hugo default. So who is the site for? If I, as the blog creator, don’t know that then what chance does anyone else have?

Poor Content

Secondly, as awshark2019’s objectives were unclear the content was…not very good. The topic choices are disjointed, some of the posts are accidental documentation rehashes and ultimately there’s little value.

Let’s take the example of Adding An Elastic IP To An Amazon Linux EC2 Instance. The post explores the basics, shows the AWS console changes and mentions costs. This is fine, but there’s not much else here. If I wrote this post today, I’d define a proper use case and explore the problem more by pinging the instance’s IP before and after a stoppage. This shows the problem instead of telling it.

Another post examines Setting Up A Second AWS Account With AWS Organizations. There’s more here than the IP address post, but there’s no context. What am I doing with the second account? Why does my use case support the use of AWS Organisations? What problems is it helping me solve?

There’s nothing in these posts that I can’t get from the AWS documentation and no new insights for readers.

Awkward To Publish

Finally, awshark2019 was too complex to publish. More accurately, Hugo’s deployment process wasn’t the problem. The way I was doing it was.

Hugo sites can be deployed in several ways. These centre around putting files and folders in a location accessible by the deployment service. So far so good.

But instead of automating this process, I had a horrible manual workflow of creating and testing the site locally, and then manually overwriting the existing S3 objects. This quickly got so tedious that I eventually ran out of enthusiasm.

What I Learned

In this section, I examine what I learned from the abandoned 2019 architecture when creating awshark2021.

Decide On Scope

My first key awshark2021 decision was the blog’s purpose.

While ‘Welcome To My Blog’ posts are something of a cliche, I took the time to write Introducing amazonwebshark as a standard to hold myself to:

By writing about my experiences I can check and confirm my understanding of new topics, give myself points of reference for future projects and exam revision, evidence my development where necessary and help myself out in the moments when my imposter syndrome sees an opportunity to strike.

Introducting amazonwebshark: What Is amazonwebshark For?

awshark2021 took as much admin away as possible, letting me explore topics and my curiosity instead. amazonwebshark was, and is, a place for me to:

  • Try things
  • Make mistakes
  • Improve myself
  • Be creative

While this is firstly a technology and cloud computing blog, I allow myself some freedom (for example the Me category) as long as the outcome is potentially useful. To this end, I’ve also written about life goals, problem-solving and public speaking.

Add Value

Secondly, let’s examine the posts themselves.

I probably average about eight hours of writing per post. I want to get the most out of that time investment, so I try to ensure my posts add value to their subject matter. There’s no set process for this, as value can take many forms like:

  • Examining how I apply services to my situation or use case.
  • Raising awareness of topics with low coverage.
  • Detailing surprising or unexpected event handling.

My attitude has always been that I’m not here to tell people how and why to do things. I’m here to tell people how and why I did things. Through this process, I can potentially help others in the technology community while also helping myself.

Post introspection and feedback have led to improvements in my working practises like:

It could be argued that amazonwebshark is a big ongoing peer review. It’s made me a better engineer and has hopefully helped others out too.

Keep It Simple

Finally, let’s discuss architecture.

awshark2021 is a WordPress blog, currently hosted on Hostinger servers. While this architecture isn’t free and has tradeoffs, it offers a fast, reliable deployment path managed by organisations specialising in this field.

This is exactly what I wanted for awshark2021:

…my main focus was to get the ball rolling and get something online. I’ve wanted to start a blog for some time, but have run into problems like knowledge gaps, time pressures and running out of enthusiasm.

Introducing amazonwebshark: Why Didn’t You Use AWS For Hosting?

I enjoy writing, so my priority is there. If I begin seriously considering a serverless amazonwebshark, one of the core tests will be the deployment process. For now, the managed services I’m paying for meet my needs and let me focus on creativity over admin.


In this post, I responded to January 2024’s T-SQL Tuesday #170 Invitation by examining amazonwebshark’s abandoned 2019 AWS architecture.

It’s unfair to blame the architecture. Rather, my implementation of it was at fault. awshark2019 was a good idea but suffered from poor and over-ambitious architectural decisions. I’ve considered deleting it. But if nothing else it reminds me of a few things:

  • I won’t always get it right first time.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Enjoy the process.

awshark2019’s lessons have allowed awshark2021 to reach two years. Happy birthday!

If this post has been useful, the button below has links for contact, socials, projects and sessions:

SharkLinkButton 1

Thanks for reading ~~^~~


Attitudes Towards Certification

In this post, I examine my attitudes toward certification and how I use my certifications after earning them.

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In October 2023, I renewed my AWS SysOps Administrator Associate certification. I was going to write about how I did it, but I used similar resources to those in my Developer Associate post from March 2022.

So I’m writing a different post instead. Many people examine how they earn cloud certifications, but few explore the reasons why. Here, I’ll share my attitudes and motivations toward earning and renewing a cloud certification, and how I apply my new knowledge after the fact.

Self Validation

For me, the biggest certification benefit is the confidence it gives me that I know what I’m talking about.

I’ve mentioned previously that I have anxiety and imposter syndrome issues. One way I approach that is to keep my technical knowledge current and relevant. This goes beyond the cloud. I have DataCamp and A Cloud Guru subscriptions for honing other areas, and various newsletters and feeds for news and opinions.

Certifications let me distil my knowledge into the recognised and understood forms of certification badges. These badges in turn give me the piece of mind that I can validate and evidence my cloud knowledge.

This doesn’t just benefit me…

Knowledge Validation

Having active cloud certifications gives my employer confidence that my cloud knowledge is accurate and reliable.

My employer uses many AWS services across various teams. My AWS certifications have given me T-shaped knowledge that helps me contribute to the success of both Data Engineering and the other tech teams. This knowledge lets me:

Troubleshoot Problems

Lambda function throwing unexpected exceptions? Slow running Athena query? Unreachable EC2 instance? I’ve solved all these problems using certification knowledge applied to real-world use.

For the record, the Lambda’s IAM role was missing actions, the S3 objects needed different partitioning and the instance was missing a security group.

Collaborate Across Teams

Whether preparing for failovers, replacing legacy packages with cloud processes or building APIs, I can work with my non-data colleagues by understanding the AWS services they use and what their outputs tell me.

For example, I don’t directly use AWS services like Systems Manager Patch Manager and API Gateway in my role. But I understand what those services are, what their outputs mean and how they relate to the services I do directly use.

Architect Agile Solutions

When faced with a new requirement or unexpected bug, I can call on my certification knowledge for optimal and appropriate solutions. Should those solutions turn out to be ineffective or undesirable, I can pivot or re-architect accordingly.

For example, when recently repartitioning an S3 bucket I approached the task using Python and boto3. During testing, it became clear this approach would take days to complete.

So I used my AWS CLI SysOps knowledge and refactored the Python code to script out the S3 CLI operations for each object. Then I completed the entire repartition in about two hours using Bash.

Same task. Same result. Different solutions.

Wider View

Studying for and passing certifications exposes me to cloud services I’ve never used, or don’t use often.

AWS constantly changes. Most weeks see new services, features or improvements. Keeping abreast of over two hundred services is difficult, and useful info will inevitably slip through the cracks.

Cloud certifications give me a wider view of the cloud landscape. While I’m primarily a data professional, knowing about services outside that scope improves my diversity and value. It also helps me manage my own cloud accounts. While I’m not responsible for my employer’s security or networking, I am responsible for mine!

Some recent useful discoveries from my SysOps renewal include:

EventBridge Pipes

From Amazon EventBridge’s Product page:

Amazon EventBridge Pipes helps create point-to-point integrations between event producers and consumers with optional transform, filter and enrich steps. EventBridge Pipes reduces the amount of integration code needed to write and maintain when building event-driven applications.

For me, EventBridge Pipes feels like ETL for events. It sits between event sources and event targets, removing unneeded data and transforming what’s left. As event-driven architectures become increasingly common, EventBridge Pipes have great efficiency and cost-saving potential.

IAM NotAction

I thought this was a misprint until I checked the docs! Where Action matches the action(s) that will be allowed or denied, NotAction matches everything except the specified list of actions.

So, where this policy allows the deletion of any S3 bucket in an account:

"Effect": "Allow",
"Action": "s3:DeleteBucket",
"Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::*"

This policy allows all S3 actions except deleting an S3 bucket in an account:

"Effect": "Allow",
"NotAction": "s3:DeleteBucket",
"Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::*"

S3 Access Points

From Amazon S3’s Product page:

Amazon S3 Access Points simplify data access for any AWS service or customer application that stores data in S3. With S3 Access Points, customers can create unique access control policies for each access point to easily control access to shared datasets.

Customers with shared datasets including data lakes, media archives, and user-generated content can easily scale access for hundreds of applications by creating individualized access points with names and permissions customized for each application.

S3 Access Points look like they can take lots of pain out of bucket policies and IAM config. This would be a big help with sharing datasets, controlling object access and setting environment variables.


In this post, I examine my attitudes toward certification and how I use my certifications after earning them.

Certifications aren’t for everyone, and that’s fine. As regards my attitudes toward certification, they’re great at improving my confidence, expanding my horizons and making me a better, more complete engineer.

AWS have a range of skill builders, workshops and whitepapers to help people on their certification journey. Check them out! If this post has been useful, the button below has links for contact, socials, projects and sessions:

SharkLinkButton 1

Thanks for reading ~~^~~