Muster 005 DC: Experience

Most photos from Jocko’s Twitter feed

If you don’t know who Jocko Willinck is, here’s the synopsis. Born and raised in New England. Dreamt of being a commando (his words). Became one as a Navy Seal. Fought in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 in what is known as the Battle of Ramadi where fighting was considered to be the worst.

Helped turn around that city. A report cited by the Washington Post, known as the Devlin Report, stated that the city was essentially lost.

Jocko is highly respected for his leadership style which he distilled for the SEALs upon his return from Ramadi. He served as the Officer-in-Charge of training for all West Coast Seal Teams. Has a number of books on leadership, books for young people. Well-known for his podcast. (There are links at the end of this post to help you find free and paid materials.)

Jocko assembled a team of military leaders as consulting firm (Echelon Front) to train non-military about leadership concepts.

The answers to questions regarding leadership apply across race, gender or any other difference you may want to consider.

This article is NOT about the concepts discussed at the Muster. Those concepts are easily found in Jocko’s podcast, his books, and his Twitter feed. Many are free. Musters are not free, but I recommend them highly for a deep dive.

One interesting thing I came across is that a number of people who were there that self-funded the conference. Companies perhaps don’t get it. Jocko and team are quick to point out that you may want to apply what’s learned and not necessarily mention the military antecedent. Having those ties might create unnecessary resistance — the goal is effective leadership, not an advertisement for Echelon Front or Jocko.

This article IS about the actual Muster experience. That’s something you might not necessarily get elsewhere.

Day 1 PT

At 4:25, I leave my hotel room to head to morning PT, optionally offered to all attendees. I don’t particularly do well getting up and “getting after it” as Jocko would say, so I rise at 3:30, make some hotel room coffee and grab a quick shower. At 4:30 am, I head down. In the tunnel connecting the hotel to the adjacent underground mall, there are already 200-300 waiting to go do burpees, jump squats, push-ups, flutter kicks, arm-somethings, and sit-ups. (In the picture below, note the picture of Jocko lined up with ready and willing participants.) By the time we head out, 400 people are lined up. The rain is “no factor”. The workout starts at 4:45 am. Each set is two minutes. You get 30 seconds of rest in between each set. Rest means you do jumping jacks. Do that twice. At least one person who looked to be in great shape was puking afterward.


Then Jocko mentions that there were 14 officers killed last month in the US. 400 people do 14 burpees.

Essentially 30 minutes of constant work, plus burpees.

OK. Now you’re done.

Don’t let that scare you off. People of every age, size, and sex were represented and did well.

Maybe you’re better than you thought. You just needed someone to point it out to you.

400 people walk back to the hotel greeting early-morning dog owners. I’m not sure they knew what to make of us.

Day 1 Morning

The doors to the conference open at 7:45 am leading to the large hall filled with video screens and conference room tables. Waiting for you are two booklets with much of the conference content. I brought my own small notebook and recommend doing so. I made quite a few notes and starred those things that I need to work on.

I sat next to a gentleman and struck up a conversation.

Me: What do you do for a living?

Him: (I’m paraphrasing and summarizing.) I’m a director for a company that supports organ transplants and donations. We match those who can donate organs with those in need. It’s an extremely time-sensitive effort, as you can imagine. I’m here to better learn how to support my team.

This is the type of story you’ll hear from people at this conference. Some of these people do incredibly important work. Everyone is highly motivated to lead better. I didn’t speak to one person who said they came because this was a track to a promotion. Every single person seemed driven to lead more effectively. Absolutely driven.

The morning is incredible, as you might imagine. We’re introduced or re-introduced to the Four Laws of Combat. The real-life combat scenarios and the ensuing lessons learned by Jocko and his team are covered. These are not your typical business scenarios. These are life-and-death situations where there’s not always a happy ending. This is NOT a feel-good conference. Despite the outcome, there is always a lesson learned. That lesson is always applicable to other scenarios. The lessons are sobering because of the loss of human life, people denied basic decency and the oppression of a population.

This video introducing the 2016 Muster from two years back gives you a good impression of what to expect.

Day 1 Lunch

The food at The Muster was meant for athletes. So, not your typical conference food. There is plenty of protein (steak and chicken); there are plenty of greens (4 kinds of lettuce, plus healthy toppings). You can find some healthy carbs too. The one table I saw with slices of cake seemed to be basically untouched.

There was an interesting conversation going on at my lunch table. These tables seat around 10-12 persons and were covered in white tablecloths. One of the gentlemen at my table was, based on his shirt and conversation, clearly helping to run the conference.

He mentioned in no uncertain terms that this is one of his favorite conferences. That was due not only to the subject, the presenters but also because of the attendees.

“Everything starts on time. Everyone is extraordinarily courteous to my staff. Jocko knows what he wants and asks for it.”

It’s true. Given other conferences I’ve attended, there is a noticeably different vibe to this conference. People are very courteous. People line up early to get in hoping to get a great seat; there isn’t any cutting in front of others or pushing. Everyone is extremely polite.

Attendees would line up during breaks to get their books personalized by Jocko and Leif. Jocko and Leif would pose with the attendees for quick photos. Near the end of a break, the lines were not quite exhausted. A staff member would inform those still in line that they would need to try again later. No complaining or whining. People get it.

Jocko and Leif also tirelessly spend time meeting with those who have a great interest in this subject. It didn’t seem like they were taking any breaks.


I mention to my wife that this seems to be a conference of biceps and tattoos. As is my experience in other areas of my life, these are among the most well-behaved people walking around.

Day 2 PT

Day 2 PT was easier. Well, until the next day.

AMRAPs. 20 minutes. Lunges, push-ups, squats, sit-ups. Do as many sets of 10 as you can. I got through 10 plus sets in 20 minutes and had started 11. So, 100 of everything. That was my goal, but certainly less than what was being encouraged. (The goal was 1 set per minute.)

Before beginning, Leif Babin announced that there was one “puker” yesterday.

He’s hoping for three today.

No one takes offense at this, or should. If you’ve ever pushed your limits, puking is certainly possible.

The team of SEALs is walking around encouraging people and joking with those they know to be ex-military.


A bunch of out-of-shape business people (even in this crowd) get just what they need to challenge themselves. And they do. The gentleman next to me appears to be in his early 60s. No factor. The young lady in her 20s next to me is excited afterward to tell me that she did 10 sets and didn’t think she could ever do 100 push-ups.

As we’re exercising, in the background I hear, “that’s not a rep, Marine. One. One. One.” Clearly, he’s talking to someone he knows to be military. It’s all good-natured.

The rain I feel is truly a gift. I remove my cap after a few sets since I’m sweating quite a lot even with the temperature in the mid-60s. The cool rain feels great — any thought of getting drenched is replaced by gratitude for the light rain.

So, I’m feeling pretty good about the 20-minute workout, my pace and being able to finish strong. We practice finishing strong in Muay Thai and my last set of push-ups is no problem.

We approach the stand. Leif comments that we’re going to do “one more thing” and it begins with a “B”. Someone chimes up “burpees?”.

“Nope. We’re going to bear crawl across the soccer field.” Thankfully, he means across, not lengthwise. That means, assuming a conventional soccer field, we’re likely to bear crawl half of a football field. (Bear crawls happen to be one of my least favorite things.) I get behind some folks who occasionally drop to their knees and stop. For this, I am grateful. I make it across and watch those behind me finish.

There is one gentleman making his way across the field after all have finished. He is struggling but persisting. Someone (presumably from Jocko’s team) runs out on the field not to yell, but to encourage. That team member drops down next to our final athlete and does the bear crawl with him. All of us on the sidelines are cheering and clapping. We’ve all been there — normally without 400 others looking on. As this person crosses the sideline, he’s greeted generously by a host of people.

Each day, the walk to PT is interesting. Nothing about walking, but everything about people. I try to strike up a conversation both ways and doing so is really easy.

On the way to PT on Day 2, I spoke to a firefighter from Maryland. He’s a young officer, with a six-year-old child who does jiu-jitsu and loves it. This officer, like me, is there on his own dime and is quite grateful for the discount Echelon Front offers him (as a first responder, deeper than my early bird discount, as it should be). He gets how important all of this is and like everyone there is motivated to be a better leader. He looks like a bit of a bad-ass, but as I discover from our conversation, he’s really friendly and a little shy.

On the way back, I chatted with someone running training programs professionally. In contrast to the firefighter, his company has embraced Extreme Ownership to the point where they’ve purchased books for their staff and are sending him to check out the program to determine if others from his company should go. And oh, by the way, he is former military, was in Afghanistan during the late 2000s and trained bomb dogs.

When I tell people what I do, they don’t typically get it. “I work for a Real Estate Investment Trust supporting their technology efforts”. I always feel a bit embarrassed. Here you are saving lives and well, I do this thing where we just try to provide a great place to live and make money for our shareholders.

As I learn later in the conference, Jocko and team don’t necessarily see what you do as a reason for embarrassment.

At the end of the conference, they refer to the economic power of the United States as critically important. They don’t see themselves as better, and they don’t necessarily see others as lesser. The power of the economy in the world is strong a necessary for influencing freedom.

While I was walking with my bomb-dog friend, we happened behind Rob Jones. If you don’t know who Rob Jones is, check out his site. More reason to be humbled. Mr. Jones served as a Marine Corp combat engineer and lost his legs. Like the rest of us, he went to the morning AMRAP workout (lunges, push-ups, squats, and sit-ups in sets of ten, as many sets as possible for 20 minutes.) Except he has prosthetic legs.


This makes me realize how really lazy, whiny and self-centered most of us are. As we’re walking, I realized Mr. Jones was chatting with Dave Berke who is a real-life Top Gun; he was a Top Gun instructor and is a member of the Echelon Front team. (The attendees kidded Mr. Berke during his presentation on Thursday that he was the real Maverick from the movie Top Gun.) In addition to being an instructor at Top Gun, he found time to get a Master’s from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with a concentration in Strategic Studies.

What you might get out of the conference

In addition to the two days at the conference, I spent my short flight home (1.5 hours) and much of the next day reflecting on areas where I can make improvements with my team.

As mentioned earlier, this is not a feel-good conference. You’re asked to consider how you can improve as a leader in light of the lessons learned by Navy SEALs. Everyone walks away with ideas for their improvement. Certainly, that’s why you would attend.

Concepts that I have applied have worked remarkably well. In fact, on a recent project, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the project itself where these Extreme Ownership principles were applied.

In the least, what you’re likely to walk away with are two provided notebooks summarizing the conference ideas. If you take notes yourself, you’ll also have plenty of items to go back and consider. It’s likely weeks or months of incremental improvements you can make for yourself and your team.



Jocko Podcast

Jocko Podcast on YouTube

Jocko Podcast “Good”

Jocko Podcast “Sisyphus”

Echelon Front


Jocko’s Amazon Page






A Look at Elastic Beanstalk’s Launch Activities

Using Elastic Beanstalk makes it easy to spin up a Web or Worker Application. If you’ve done so manually, you can really appreciate the fact that AWS can consistently create a working environment.

In this example, we’ll review the major steps that occurred while spinning up a sample .NET web application. 11 steps were output to the console over a 20-minute period.

  1. createEnvironment message.
  2. Specified an S3 storage bucket for environment data. Noted that this bucket was now associated with my account. The bucket creation date was 6/19/2016 which is almost a full two years prior to creating this site.
  3. Security Group created.
  4. Created an Elastic IP.
  5. EC2 instance waiting message.
  6. Adding specific EC2 instance message.
  7. Added EC2 instance to Auto Scaling Group.
  8. Started Application message.
  9. UpdateAppVersion Completed message.
  10. Environment Health to green message.
  11. Successful launch message.

Once created, I clicked on the available URL and noted the working web application.

My next step was to delete the application and to observe whether the Elastic IP, EC2 instance, Security Group and Auto Scaling Group were all removed. They were and I noted the following:

  • the EC2 instance had as its name tag, the name of the website created. It was showing as terminated in the Console.
  • the S3 bucket persisted in my account.


Feature Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash



Create an EC2 Instance Supporting Custom Metrics using the CLI


You will need an existing keypair to access your EC2 instance via SSH. (How can I see my existing keypairs?)


In this example, we’ll create an EC2 instance that supports writing memory metrics to CloudWatch. You don’t get those metrics by default with EC2 instances, but setting them up is a breeze using the CLI.

Actually, this setup winds up being quite a lot simpler than using the Console since most of what we need to do gets declared in two files.

The first file contains the JSON for creating the CloudWatchMetrics role. The second file contains the userdata needed when creating the EC2 instance.

Two commands complete the creation.

First, we’ll look at creating the files; then the necessary CLI commands to spin up the machine.

The Files

Create a file called “cloudwatch-role-full-access.json” using Example 1.

Example 1

 "Version": "2012-10-17",
 "Statement": [
 "Effect": "Allow",
 "Principal": {
 "Service": ""
 "Action": "sts:AssumeRole"

Create a file called “ec2-metrics-user-data.txt”.

Example 2

sudo su 
yum update -y 
yum install perl-Switch perl-DateTime perl-Sys-Syslog perl-LWP-Protocol-https -y 
mkdir /CloudWatch 
cd /CloudWatch 
curl -O 
echo "*/5 * * * * ec2-user /CloudWatch/aws-scripts-mon/ --mem-util --mem-used --mem-avail" >> /etc/crontab

The CLI Commands

aws iam create-role --role-name CloudWatchMetrics --assume-role-policy-document file://cloudwatch-role-full-access.json
aws ec2 run-instances --iam-instance-profile Name=CloudWatchMetrics --image-id ami-d874e0a0 --count 1 --instance-type t2.micro --region us-west-2 --key-name xxx-yyy-zzz --security-group-ids sg-xxxxyyyy --subnet-id subnet-yyyyzzzz --associate-public-ip-address --user-data file://ec2-metrics-user-data.txt
  • The second command:
    • we’re using the standard Amazon image.
    • the instance-type is the t2.micro. This might not be free for you depending on your account.
  • Parameters you’ll need from your account.
    • –region. For a list available to you, use the “aws ec2 describe-regions” command in the cli.
    • –key-name. As mentioned in the prerequisites. This will be specific to your account. (Which key pairs are available to me?)
    • –security-group. Will need to be available for you subnet and have SSH access.
    • –subnet-id. Console the Console.

Notes on the User Data Script

  • First, we run two yum commands to update installed packages and add support for perl. (What is yum?)
  • Next, we create a CloudWatch directory off the root and download the CloudWatchMonitoringScripts zip, unzipping it and then removing the download.
  • Lastly, we update /etc/crontab with a command to write three memory metrics back to CloudWatch using the perl scripts downloaded and unzipped.

Feature Photo by Mitchel Boot on Unsplash



The Red Wristband

(From July 2016 – Edited February 2018)

We’re not supposed to like things. Things are, well, shallow.

But sometimes, things do bring us comfort. It might be a nice car or a beautiful house. Maybe it’s your favorite coffee mug or a pair of jeans. It could be a red wristband.

My bone graft went well – a portion of my jaw known as the alveolar process was getting replaced. It turned out to be more daunting than anticipated. My first bone graft, similar to this in another area, was “quick” to quote my wife. She wasn’t in the chair. But yes, the first one was easier.

This one, taking 90 minutes, not so much. Your head is below your feet pretty much the entire time. For much of the time, I felt as though the roof of my mouth was split in two. I seriously contemplated getting up and leaving, but I thought, “what then?”. The pressure and difficulty breathing normally were quite unexpected. There’s no pain. It’s just weird, uncomfortable.

The procedure ended well. We headed to the local grocery store, Jewel, for drugs. I tried not to focus on how anyone was driving — apparently, I don’t play well with others after surgery, and this was number 5.

The surgeon, gifted, young and smart did a great job.

“The David”, as he is sometimes called, is my incredibly supportive and very athletic personal trainer.

Like the formidable Muay Thai trainers that I get to train with, Chuck Pilcher and Cory Galloway, “The David” doesn’t yell.

I’ve never heard Cory yell. It’s just a calm — “here’s what you need to work on next.” “Good, good.” “Don’t drop your hand. Yeah, that’s it. You know what your problem is. You need to turn your shoulder over. Work on that.” None of it is ever personal; not even “you know what your problem is.” It’s all factual. No sarcasm; no snide comments. Ever.

They are all extraordinarily patient and gifted.


Cory Fighting


Cory and Chuck – Not Fighting

With Chuck, it’s the same thing. “Phase 2,” he said to me one day. He began telling my sparring partner Chris and I about Bruce Lee and removing unnecessary motions from our fighting. “It will make you twice as fast with no extra effort.” Chuck was calm and deliberate, and as always enthusiastic to share this information. “You need to do this,” is the simple directive. You get a morsel every time. All of this all goes well beyond fighting and well into the realm of philosophy. “Cut out what’s not necessary.”

It’s as if he has a great secret that he wants to share with anyone interested.

Chuck doesn’t necessarily look like a philosopher. On the street, he probably doesn’t look too much like a Muay Thai fighter. He is both, and then some. This is a great picture, and he looks older here than he is. It shows his passion for helping others.


With “The David”, there’s no yelling. It’s quiet and confident. “You can push this weight,” or “yeah, we’re going up.” When I start to weaken after many reps, I hear a quiet, confident “you’re strong.” It gives me that little extra juice. So, I push more weight than I think I can handle and he’s there — he has my back. And so, I’ve made more progress than I thought possible. Everyone does with him.

David works with a number of folks. There’s a group he used to meet with before my session on Saturday mornings.  He had a box of wristbands out for class. I haven’t seen those since the 70s. “Would I like one?” asked David. “What color?”

“I’ll take a red one.” I had a red car at one point; I have a red couch; I have a reddish truck now. Red is a thing. It is a good color. He tossed a red wristband my way.

It was a great gift.

I came back from my bone graft beat up. No pain, but I felt like I was in a heck of a fight.

Despite access to some good drugs that I wouldn’t take and did not need (didn’t need since clearly this surgeon is very gifted) — but, I was beaten down. Tired.

I walked into the kitchen with a sack of drugs and sugar-free chocolate pudding; there was the red wristband on the desk in the kitchen. I put it on. Better than drugs. A little “you’re strong” reminder to give me a little extra juice. This thing brought comfort. The memory of work and the goal of getting back to that work was a comfort.

Working hard is a joy, and brings more than just some increased physical strength.

I was back with “The David” a few days after writing this post (in 2016). We pushed some weight. I don’t remember what we did, and it didn’t really matter. I did what I could. And when I did it, I had my red wristband.

Feature Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels


Red Ribbon Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash


A First Dressage Show Experience

I’ll admit it. I was a bit of an elitist.

Dressage, a French word meaning “training”, is what I did and do. Train, train, train.

Not only in dressage, but Muay Thai and strength training.

Especially with horses, we may get taught along the way, by other elitists, that it’s in the best interest of the horse to not compete. My “concern” was simply for the well-being of the horse. Now, I am not so certain that was entirely my motive. Ok, I’m convinced it wasn’t.

Competing has a way of focusing us and making certain we are training toward a goal. Your horse may not care about the specific goal, but he does seem motivated to please his rider.

For him, it may not matter much whether the circle is 12 meters or 15 meters. However, how many times are we not as precise as we should be when training? We convince ourselves that it’s in his best interest not to care.

I’m no longer convinced.

And, if it is of little consequence to the horse, why not be a bit more precise? So long as we are respectful of our requests, there is no loss to the horse. If we are a little stronger with our requests, there is still little loss, and perhaps much gain. These are, after all, first-world problems. Many of our horses lead better lives in terms of their feeding, need for water, socialization and medical attention than many people throughout the world. In fact, I would say that given a horse’s desire for socialization and food and fun, this training and focus is a good thing.

My horse seemed to relish in the show experience.

Why are endless days in a stall, or out in the field so much better? Is it not better for any cognizant being to have his mind and physical being challenged.

There are countless people who would have us believe differently.

Perhaps that’s simply because they themselves should not be challenged in any way. And, that’s fine; that’s their choice.

So, my first dressage show began. I prepped for training level and then was told (a week before) that since my horse was competing at other higher levels, that I needed to compete at a level higher than what I originally thought.

I took it in stride trying to stream what I had read in “The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life”. Day One went fine taking second place. Day Two showed an increased score, and second place as well. My trainer was pleased; I was too.

It’s true, I do really just want to train. Tests are a good thing though. Measuring where we are makes us better riders, and better too, I think, for our horses.


grep your EC2 Instances in a Region Using the CLI

Assuming you have the AWS CLI installed, you can easily grep instances in a Region. To see your Default region name, type aws configure and hit Enter twice.

To allow grep to work nicely with the output, enter “text” for the Default output format

aws configure
AWS Access Key ID [*******************]:
AWS Secret Access Key [*******************]:
Default region name [us-west-1]: 
Default output format [text]: text

In this example, we’ll show basic instance information such as the name of the Reservation, the State and the StateReason. We’ll use grep’s OR operator.

aws ec2 describe-instances | grep 'RESERVATION\|STATE\|STATEREASON'

The CLI will respond with something like the following:

RESERVATIONS 123222575111 r-0c1xbac1122y90121
STATE 80 stopped
STATEREASON Client.UserInitiatedShutdown 
Client.UserInitiatedShutdown: User initiated shutdown

At a glance, you can easily inspect all the EC2 instances in your Region.

Feature Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash


Passing the AWS Associate Exam

Looking for advice on passing an AWS Architecture Associate Exam? I had been looking for that advice very recently. Fortunately, there are plenty of good resources out there to help. (And yes, I did pass the exam recently.)

Advice isn’t in the form of exam answers. Well, it is if you’re willing to dig in.

I followed four tiers of study. You don’t need all four. You could do only Tier 1 and likely do great on the exam provided you dig into the tests as recommended.

Tier 1

  • — after each module, take the quizzes. Once you’ve worked through everything,  take the exam either timed or not. The questions are NOT the questions on the AWS Exam, but they are really helpful. The most important thing you can do is dig into all the answers, right or wrong. Two answers are often reasonably good with the detail of one being incorrect with the detail of another being correct. Those details are important for the actual exam! Understand why the wrong answers are wrong. You may not see the question on the actual exam, but digging into understanding why a certain solution for a problem is not right can help you understand when it is the appropriate choice. Lastly, there is no substitute for taking the timed exams — even in the comfort of your home, you feel a little pressure — that’s a good thing to do.

Tier 2

  • — they also have an exam simulator. I found their courses to be just as good as Linux Academy’s course. The exams were good too. I used their course a little less than Linux Academy.
  • (Elias Khnaser’s courses)

Tier 3

Two excellent free videos about VPC from re:Invent. (Yes, you can see a LOT from re:Invent without going.)

Both presentations are really insightful. In both cases, the presenters build your knowledge from the ground up. You could watch either one and walk away with a good understanding. I really do like both, and they are well worth your time. I listened to both several times during commutes — not ideal, but helpful nonetheless.

  • Amazon does guide you, to a great extent, in their book AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide available at Amazon.Before purchasing the Official Study Guide, read Casey Hendley’s review of the book on Amazon’s site. The book is a little dated given, as Casey says, that “Amazon changes things on AWS at a frightening pace”. I would not use this book alone to pass the exam.

Tier 4 – Immersion

If you can afford it, attend re:Invent or a Summit. I’ve done both multiple times. Immersing yourself in the domain is worthwhile, and if you’re a working professional, hard to do on your own. I burn a week of vacation for re:Invent, spend the money and immerse!

Amazon offered a free HA course in NYC. So, I went and took it. Had a great time both with the course and in the city.

I live in Chicago, so I attended the Chicago Summits in 2016 and 2017.

Washington, DC is awesome, so I went to the Public Sector Summit. Don’t work in the public sector — didn’t care.

Went to re:Invent in Vegas twice. Those are more expensive efforts, but for me, well worth it.


(Feature Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)



Regions, Availability Zones, Edge Locations and Data Centers, oh my!

When beginning with AWS, the concepts of Regions, Availability Zones (AZs), Data Centers and Edge Locations can be a little confusing. Let’s review some facts that will help clarify what these things are and the relationship among them.

For the moment, let’s remove Edge Locations from consideration. The intent of an Edge Location differs slightly from Regions, AZs and Data Centers. This is an important distinction.


  • An AWS Region is the largest unit.
  • A Region is a geographic location in the world. As of this writing (July 2017), there are sixteen Regions across the globe with 44 AZs. (Update February 2018 – seventeen Regions.)
  • A Region consists of two or more Availability Zones (AZs). For example, São Paulo, a Region, has 3 Availability Zones.
  • For many people, GovCloud (US) and Beijing (China) are Regions but are not available, reducing their available Regions to fifteen.
  • You can see available regions from the CLI by typing the command below. Note that you may not see GovCloud or Beijing in your list!
aws ec2 describe-regions

Availability Zones

  • An Availability Zone consists of one or more discrete data centers.
  • A fascinating aspect is that the AZs in a given Region have different risk profiles.
  • AZs within a Region have low latency connections.
  • As we saw above with Regions, you can view a list of Availability Zones using the CLI.
aws ec2 describe-availability-zones --region eu-west-2

Data Centers

  • A Data Center is the smallest unit of consideration among the three (Regions, Availability Zones, and Data Centers.) An important distinction is that the discrete data centers may not necessarily be spread by great distance physically, but will have completely separate power, etc.
  • According to the 2014 article, Amazon AWS Regions vs Availability Zones vs Edge locations vs Data centers, “a data center typically has 50,000 to 80,000 physical servers”.

Edge Locations

There will be many more Edge Locations. For example, Chicago hosts Edge Locations, but not a Data Center. The primary purpose of an Edge Location is twofold:

  • CDN or Content Delivery Network for cached content via CloudFront
  • DNS via Route 53


Featured Image Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash


Super Simple curl Example

Write the file in the current directory with the same name.

curl -O

Note that the -O is the letter “oh”, uppercase.

According to man, -O:

Write output to a file named as the remote file.

Featured Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash


AWS Lambda Command Line Automation

As one begins to write more sophisticated AWS Lambda functions, it quickly becomes clear that using shell scripts and the CLI to package, deploy and test will speed up development time. I often start in the AWS Console; then as the code becomes more complex, move to a local editor.

Packaging at the Command Line – OS X

Here’s a helpful script to package up your function. I called mine

rm -f
zip -r * -x *.sh *.txt

The first two lines are optional. clear is just a personal preference.

rm -f will remove any existing The -f, force, means that rm won’t complain if can’t be found.

zip -r will recursively get all files in the current folder and associated subdirectories. -x instructs zip to ignore any .sh or .txt files such as the .sh doing the zipping.

Don’t forget to chmod +x your shell script or it won’t execute!

Deploying at the Command Line – OS X

aws lambda update-function-code \
--function-name YOUR_FUNCTION_NAME_HERE \
--zip-file fileb://

Assuming you have already created your function using the AWS Console, update-function-code is what you’ll need to use do deploy the created above.

Again, chmod +x your shell script.

Test the Deployment at the Command Line – OS X

The following example can also find its way into a shell script.

aws lambda invoke \
--invocation-type RequestResponse \
--function-name YOUR_FUNCTION_NAME_HERE \
--region us-east-1 \
--log-type Tail \
--payload '{"key1":"12", "key2":"value2", "key3":"value3"}' \

In my case, three shell scripts were created, then a master script to call the three individually.

Feature Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash

(Looks like a shell, doesn’t it?)