Cloud Computing certification training open to the public at CSUCI

This year I am teaching (online) a sequence of 4 courses in Cloud Computing, in conjunction with the AWS Academy. Students receive AWS accounts, explore AWS services with hands-on labs, and prepare for certification (if they wish to). All classes are open to the public, and can be joined independently of each other (or all taken in sequence!). Please contact jeff.ziskin@csuci.edu to book an information session meeting on Zoom.

Computer Science selected for an AWS Pilot program in Machine Learning

We are very happy to have been selected for an SageMaker Pilot for AWS Educate Classrooms! Machine Learning (ML) is a top hard skill for graduates, and it is also becoming a premier tool for research in all areas. SageMaker Studio is a complete development environment for ML.

The theory of ML can always be taught, but in order to have hands on experience with ML, a computing infrastructure is required that is beyond the means of most educational institutions. Our students will have access to AWS Educate accounts with credits to use the SageMaker Studio environment, and access to to powerful CPU/GPU resources (ml.m5.xlarge, ml.c5.xlarge, and ml.g4dn.xlarge) for training ML models.

ML use cases include SPAM filtering for emails, recommender systems, e.g., Netflix show recommendations, and uncovering credit card fraud. There are three types of ML: supervised, where the data is labeled and the expected outputs are well understood (is an, is this email SPAM or not); unsupervised, where the ML algorithm has to discover the salient properties of the data; and, reinforcement, where some agent (e.g., RoboMaker) interacts with an environment and learns to navigate it through a system of rewards.

We applied last July to be part of the AWS pilot program to make SageMaker available to our students, and we were approved to start this fall 2020. We have a group of about 10 students who are going to be learning to use under my supervision.

We are building on our growing expertise in Artificial Intelligence. This fall term, professor Reza Abdolee is teaching a graduate class in AI (COMP569) and professor Bahareh Abbasi is teaching both an undergraduate course in AI (COMP469) and a graduate class in Neural Networks (COMP572).

ML is one of the areas of AWS certification.

Students will learn a variety of auxiliary tools; as you will see from this list, the Python programming language is central to Data Analytics:

  • Jupyter Notebook and Jupyter Lab: an open-source web application that allows the creation and sharing of documents that contain live code, equations, visualizations and narrative text. Uses include: data cleaning and transformation, numerical simulation, statistical modeling, data visualization, machine learning, etc.
  • Pandas: a software library written for the Python programming language for data manipulation and analysis. In particular, it offers data structures and operations for manipulating numerical tables and time series.
  • Seaborn: a library for making statistical graphics in Python. It is built on top of Matplotlib and closely integrated with Pandas data structures.
  • Scikit-learn: a free software machine learning library for the Python programming language. It features various classification, regression and clustering algorithms.
  • Matplotlib: a comprehensive library for creating static, animated, and interactive visualizations in Python.
  • NumPy: a library for the Python programming language, adding support for large, multi-dimensional arrays and matrices, along with a large collection of high-level mathematical functions to operate on these arrays.
  • PyTorch (AWS testimonials): an open source machine learning library based on the Torch library, used for applications such as computer vision and natural language processing, primarily developed by Facebook’s AI Research lab.

In the words of Jose Cahue:

One of the major hurdles to learn ML as a student is having access to a machine optimized for model training. Cloud computing can be one practical solution to provide the computation resources needed to learn ML.

Jose Cahue

OnDemand AWS Educate Professional Learning Series

Today I participated in Webinars and Training Sessions for Educators and Students, which is a follow-up to the popular April AWS workshop on Remote Learning.

From the AWS page supporting the rapid transition to Remote Learning:

With the global move from in-classroom delivery to remote learning due to temporary and sustained school closings, AWS Educate wants to help educators and students with  webinars and workshops ranging from beginner to advanced levels. Any educator or student is invited to join, and there’s no cost for participating. Each webinar will be recorded and available on-demand in over 100 languages. 

https://aws.amazon.com/education/remote-instruction-resources-for-educators/

AWS training at CI in the Fall 2020

For questions please contact: jeff.ziskin@csuci.edu (805-437-2653). To register for an information session, or to register for the classes:

https://ext.csuci.edu/programs/professional-community-ed/aws

These classes are open to the public, and they are given in partnership with the AWS Academy.

  1. Cloud Foundations: online from August 24 to October 5:
  2. Cloud Architecting: online from October 19 to December 14:

We are following exactly the AWS curriculum, and students will be provided AWS Educate cloud accounts with credits for the duration of the classes, as well as vouchers for writing the corresponding certification exams.

New paper on setting up WordPress in the AWS cloud

This new paper was just posted as a technical report at Cornell’s arXiv (https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.01823), but it will be submitted for publication in the future. PDF of the paper.

From the abstract: Every organization needs to communicate with its audience, and social media is an attractive and inexpensive way to maintain dialogic communication. About 1/3 of the Internet web pages are powered by WordPress, and about a million companies have moved their IT infrastructure to the AWS cloud. Together, AWS and WordPress offer an attractive, effective and inexpensive way for companies, both large and small, to maintain their presence on the web.

This paper starts from the following premise:

you have been hired by a company with a small Communication budget, but ambitious plans. You have been tasked with setting up an effective web presence; in this role you have to combine both your CS/IT skills, as well as your Communication savvy. The decision has been made to deploy the web page as WordPress hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), integrated with social media, as well as robust Analytics to measure the effectiveness of your communication campaigns.

From introduction to WordPress on AWS: a Communication Framework

This paper is a third paper in a sequence on cloudification with AWS; the first one, Cloudifying the Curriculum with AWS, can be found here: https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.04020, and it was mentioned in this blog post, the second on Cybersecurity in the Cloud here: https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.12905, and it was mentioned in this blog post.

A Head in the Cloud – Channel Magazine

While we know Amazon as the world’s online marketplace, millions of international companies know it for its cloud computing services. They use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store and access data over the internet, allowing us to easily stream our favorite shows, store files and shop online. As more and more companies turn to AWS for technology needs, computer science students will need to quickly learn how to use the platform so they can market themselves post-graduation.

Source: A Head in the Cloud – Channel Magazine – CSU Channel Islands

AWS Developer certification – Associate level

The Developer certification exam is interesting, in that it covers in detail the AWS best practices for CI/CD, Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery and Deployment, which is very nicely covered in the following white paper: Practicing Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS, with the subtitle: Accelerating Software Delivery with DevOps. (I am referencing the June 2017 version of this white paper.) This document is well written, of especial interest to Software Engineers. While Development is the principal component of this certification (30%), there are altogether five domains:

  1. Deployment (22%)
  2. Security (26%)
  3. Development with AWS Services (30%)
  4. Refactoring (10%)
  5. Monitoring and Troubleshooting (12%)

Some of these domains overlap with other certifications. For instance, the 2nd domain, Security, is covered in detail in the Security Specialty exam, which I passed in December 2019 (and described in this post from Dec 3, 2019), and all the domains refer to the knowledge contained in the Solutions Architect certification (which I passed in the spring of 2019; see this post). However, I had to acquire a lot of new knowledge. For instance, the certification assumes advanced knowledge of some programming language, and since the Python3 SDK is one of the best developed AWS SDKs, I studied to become familiar with boto3, the AWS SDK for Python3; see here.

Of course reading manuals to understand boto3 is boring; I suggest to find a project that you always wanted to implement, and work on that. The excitement of building an application helps with the learning of a new tool. I worked, topically, on a pandemic simulator and an url shortener (which I called Tout Court) as I always wanted to have my own bit.ly application.

In order to develop both applications, I used a set of AWS tools that are covered in depth in the Deployment and Development domains: Cloud9 for writing the code (I was happy to find out that Cloud9 has a “Vi Editor” mode), I used GitHub instead of CodeCommit, but GitHub can be integrated into the AWS development environment, CodeDeploy in order to automate the deployment of the applications, and CodePipeline to bind it all together. X-Ray is an important tool for the exam, and helps to isolate “bottle-necks” in your application.

Refactoring is an interesting concept. It means to re-architect or re-imagine an existing solution but leveraging cloud-native capabilities. I learned quite a bit about it from Ahead in the Cloud: Best practices for navigating the future of enterprise IT, by Stephen Orban from AWS.

As AWS certification requires a significant investment of time (for me at least), it is important to understand why one does it. In my case, as a Computer Scientist, I believe it is important to systematically acquire new knowledge, as ours is a fast developing field. I also find the AWS curriculum very well designed, interesting, in-depth, and I have become fascinated by the new paradigm of Cloud Computing. Finally, the most important reason for me is to be able to bring this expertise back to campus, and share with students, and given them an edge in the job market upon graduation.

Working from home may be new normal

SETTLING IN—According to a 2020 Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans working remotely doubled, from 31% in mid-March to 62% by April.

Every weekday, Ricky Kreitman rolls out of bed and heads to his garage office with his morning yogurt to start the workday.

It’s been his daily routine since the stay-at-home orders were announced in March. The television producer and editor said his company had just finished filming a show before the shutdown, so he’s been able to edit it from his home office.

“(I’m) enjoying working at home,” the Thousand Oaks resident said. “Grateful for the distraction of work and glad to not be commuting.”

According to a 2020 Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans working remotely doubled, from 31% in mid-March to 62% by April.

Michael Soltys, chair of the computer science department at CSU Channel Islands, thinks telecommuting is here to stay.

“COVID-19 has accelerated a trend that was already there,” said Soltys, who specializes in cloud computing and algorithms and has spent the last 19 years teaching computer science. “People have been moving to remote work for at least a decade.”

Clare Briglio, communications and business disruption resources director at the Camarillo-based Economic Development Collaborative, has already seen this shift in the businesses owners the nonprofit advises.

Government contractors, fieldbased contractors and medical providers are just a few types of businesses that have started using cloud-based services like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp since the pandemic began. Briglio said she expects the trend to continue.

“They have figured out how to use technology to accommodate their need,” she said.

With so many workers trying their hand at a work-from-home lifestyle, some are finding they like it more than going to the office.

Tejas Sachdeva, a computer science student at CSU Channel Islands, said he’s been more productive since his job at the university’s career services department became remote in March.

Source: Working from home may be new normal | Camarillo Acorn