Category: Education

Improving Security with Cloud Computing: Six Advantages of Cloud Security

on | in Education, government, Nonprofit |

Security is our number one priority, and at AWS, we have comprehensive security capabilities to protect virtually any workload. Through AWS Security services, we provide the opportunities to protect your data, monitor security-related activity, and receive automated responses. This gives our customers the ability to increase their security posture in the cloud, deliver more agile IT, and lower costs. With that in mind, here are six advantages of cloud security.

  1. Integration of compliance and security – You can leverage AWS activity monitoring services to detect configuration change and security events, even integrating AWS activity with your existing monitoring solutions for simplified compliance reporting. We provide compliance reports based on managing thousands of security controls inherited through the AWS platform, making it easier and faster for you to meet security and compliance requirements.
  2. Economies of scale apply – When organizations submit security requirements, we incorporate their feedback into the AWS security platform. All customers benefit from AWS security innovation and improvements made from customer feedback. Last year, we released hundreds of security and compliance related features and service enhancements.
  3. Customer focus on systems and applications – The cloud reduces the total “security surface area” that customer security experts need to manage themselves. Our shared responsibility model allows you to focus your expertise on the higher level operating system and application security management. You retain control of what security you choose to implement to protect your own content, applications, systems and networks, no differently than you would for applications in an on-premises data center.
  4. Visibility, homogeneity, and automation – With the cloud, you get to choose from a rich but more homogeneous set of infrastructure and capabilities. You can control down to the operating system image level what should be used in your environment. Using cloud orchestration capabilities like AWS CloudFormation, your security experts can validate a pre-defined configuration of systems and then those can be “stamped out” with all security features enabled and in place. For example, you can leverage AWS Quick Starts to automate the configuration of AWS resources to meet many compliance requirements.
  5. Cloud platforms as “systems containers” – Cloud platforms are “systems containers” that surround traditional systems and provide more insight into their behavior and functioning, including security issues, providing a new kind of “defense in depth.” The “container” that runs your operating systems and applications is programmable, monitorable, and reactive software. For example, without knowing anything about the internal workings of your application, once you know its normal network behavior, you can set monitoring alarms at the infrastructure level that will trigger a smart response to any unusual activity.
  6. Cloud, big data, security – With low-cost access to massive amounts of storage and processing capacity, our customers use the cloud to secure the cloud (they run big data analytics on security data and log data, which provides more insight into their security posture and results in a much faster remediation of issues). Leverage storage and processing power of the cloud to find the security event needles in the cloud haystack.

With the speed of innovation and increasing scale, the cloud story will only get better. AWS will continue to raise the bar in our efforts to provide our customers with an IT infrastructure and security services that deliver agility, visibility, scalability, and integrity. Our track record of operational integrity along with our rapid pace of innovation have gained the trust of government mission owners by delivering secure, agile, and cost-effective IT services.

AWS Launches the Fourth City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge; Opens Contest to Schools

on | in Education, government |

AWS launched the fourth City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge, a global program recognizing how local and regional governments are innovating on behalf of their citizens around the globe. New to the competition this year, we are opening the competition to school districts who are using the cloud to enrich learning, help teachers reach more students, and improve school or district operations.

“Through the City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge, we’ve watched our customers take action on an idea, grow a program to better serve their citizens, and raise the bar on what is possible when they dream big,” said Teresa Carlson, VP of Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services. “This year, we are excited to add school districts to the challenge, as we’ve seen some innovative uses of the cloud and want to recognize these pioneers around the world.”

Governments and school districts can now compete in three award categories:

  • Best Practices: This award category will recognize governments and school districts leveraging the AWS Cloud to implement a program or service on behalf of their citizens or students.
  • Partners in Innovation: This award category will recognize technology partners implementing a program or service on behalf of a government or school district.
  • Dream Big: This award category provides cloud credits to help governments and school districts implement big ideas through technology.

Winners will receive up to $50,000 in AWS promotional credits to help achieve their mission with the cloud. Click here to apply today (the nomination takes around five minutes)! The City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge closes on Friday, May 12th.

Governments and schools from around the world are investing in innovation and using the AWS Cloud, like the City of Chicago (2015 Dream Big Award Winner), which uses an open-source platform to provide real-time weather, road closures, transit data, residential complaints, and other information in the area so people can plan accordingly.

Another winner is the New York Public Library (2016 Best Practices winner), which makes available 677,496 items spanning a wide range of eras, geography, and media, drawings, manuscripts, maps, photographs, rare books, videos, audio, and more. Encompassing the subject strengths of the vast collections of NYPL, these materials represent the applied sciences, fine and decorative arts, history, performing arts, and social sciences.

If you have an idea that you want to showcase and expand or make a reality – apply now!

This year’s winners will be announced at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC June 12-14, 2017. Learn more about past winners by visiting our City on a Cloud Innovation Map.

So what would you do with $50,000 in AWS promotional credits? Tell us how for a chance to win and help your city or school become smart, connected, and sustainable with AWS.

Get ideas and learn more about the challenge and watch the 2016 video here.

Expanding Cybersecurity Education with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Tech

on | in Education, government |

AWS has joined the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Tech to support the Cyber Range initiative with scalable cloud infrastructure and to collaborate on cybersecurity educational efforts, enabling the Cyber Range with both content and a closed network for hands-on exercises, competitions, and other simulations.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative in Virginia, which is one we hope will spark similar programs across the country,” said Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector for AWS. “It’s critical that we have a skilled cybersecurity workforce to meet the growing demands of the field. Security is ‘job zero’ for us at AWS, and we are excited to help inspire the next generation of cyber experts.”

Investments and public-private partnerships to train a cyber workforce with technology like the AWS Cloud can help better equip the next generation of cyber experts. By using AWS, the virtual facility will be well positioned to provide Virginia educators access to cybersecurity courseware, as well as a hands-on laboratory environment for students.

At the Commonwealth’s inaugural Cyber Fusion event and Virginia Cyber Cup Challenge on February 24-25 at Virginia Military Institute, Teresa joined a panel on the challenges and opportunities confronting the United States government, economy, and society in cyberspace and shared AWS’s commitment to growing the cyber and cloud-enabled workforce. See photos from the event below.

One way that we are doing this is through our global AWS Educate Program, which provides an academic gateway for the next generation of IT professionals. Through AWS, universities around the world access curriculum grants and learning content that give their students access to cloud technology. This means that new college grads can learn how to work with cloud computing before they graduate from college.

In addition to training the next-generation of cyber professionals, we provide government and our other customers with the most powerful, flexible, and affordable tools and capabilities to build secure systems. The AWS Cloud infrastructure has been architected to be one of the most flexible and secure cloud computing environments available today. AWS customers inherit all the best practices of AWS policies, architecture, and operational processes built to satisfy the requirements of our most security sensitive customers. We provide a wide variety of best practices documents, encryption tools, and other guidance our customers can leverage in delivering application-level security measures. AWS partners also offer hundreds of tools and features to help customers to meet their security objectives, ranging from network security, configuration management, access control, and data encryption.

Through relationships and programs like the Cyber Range, we are working to fill the cyber knowledge gap, improve hiring practices, and ultimately build a trusted workforce of capable cyber employees.

Reimagining Course Delivery with Amazon WorkSpaces

on | in Education |

Instructor Jeff Christen from Cornell University had his own assignment – develop a Masters-level course through Cornell’s Information Science Department on “Business Intelligence (BI) Systems,” in only three weeks.

The goal of the class was to give students a solid foundation and understanding of BI concepts including dimensional data modeling, ETL design, and data visualizations. With a short turnaround time, Jeff worked with Marty Sullivan, Cloud Engineer at Cornell, to come up with a plan to determine how to have a hands-on learning experience for this pilot course.


“We did not have access to a computer lab, so we were facing having students install software on their own computer, which would not have been an easy set up,” said Marty. “Making sure the software was compatible on whatever the device the students use, whether it is a Mac, PC, or Linux machine, would have been a support nightmare.”

In an effort to avoid support issues, get students up and running on day one of the class, and provide the flexibility needed for the modern student, Jeff and Marty chose Amazon WorkSpaces for the pilot course. Each student had their own Amazon WorkSpaces with Oracle SQL Developer, the WhereScape RED ETL tool, and Tableau desktop installed.


Once the software packages were installed and configured in the WorkSpaces image, new WorkSpaces could be deployed or rebuilt for students in around 20 minutes to over 40 WorkSpaces in the class. Prior to the start of the semester, each student received an email with instructions on how to log in and download the app. At the first lecture, Jeff asked the students to raise their hand if they were able to connect to their Workspace. “This was the moment I was dreading, but every student raised their hand!” Marty said.


By using AWS, Jeff was able to focus on creating a course that provided hands-on experience whether in the classroom, in the dorms, or in the dining hall – on whatever device. “Students can study and work together on their projects anywhere, on Macs, PCs, and tablets. The flexibility for them is the icing on the cake,” said Jeff.

Jeff was able to do live demos in the class and students could follow along in real-time, not having to take notes and do it after class, which provided a powerful teaching and learning experience. It also saved Jeff hours of time that would have been spent in office hours configuring computers and not working on the course material.

“Students get real hands-on experience, using real industry tools with Amazon WorkSpaces. They aren’t just taking notes in class, but following me in real time. It gets rid of traditional classroom barriers,” said Jeff.

In addition to several individual assignments focused on core skills, the students also participated in a team project. Project teams consisted of 4-5 students and each was one of three BI projects using real-world Cornell business challenges and associated datasets, such as transportation and dining on campus.

“We can rethink how we teach with Amazon WorkSpaces. We can offer more to students – more interesting class content and more interactivity – without adding complexity for instructors. The sky is the limit,” said Jeff.

Learn more about Amazon WorkSpaces for Education.

Lessons Learned from Migrating Mission-Critical Academic and Administrative Systems to the Cloud

on | in Education |

On-demand compute, storage, and database services help higher education IT teams build secure environments for mission-critical applications, freeing them to focus on student success.

It’s more important than ever to provide students with resources where they are, so students have access to everything from their Learning Management System (LMS) to payment systems with just one log on.

Idaho State University (ISU) reached a decision point where they needed to refresh their hardware locally or look to the cloud as an alternative solution to host their LMS. They had been hosting Moodle, an open-source learning platform, on premises for ten years. After exploring the available options, they made the decision to migrate Moodle to the AWS Cloud.

By bringing their campus onto the cloud, ISU was able to reduce IT support costs and free staff from technical work, while still providing the services their students need to be successful.

“We explored what we could do, and we made the decision that the cloud brought increased cost savings, better redundancy, and allowed us to offload the maintenance required to manage our existing hardware. The cloud was well worth the initial effort,” said Blake Beck, Director of Educational Technologies and eISU at ISU.

The eISU department is responsible for the management of the school’s LMS (Moodle) and other technology associated with teaching and learning for 13,000 unique student users at ISU. Ninety-six percent of the University’s courses utilize Moodle for assignments, testing, and course materials.

At ISU, they learned a few tips during their migration to help other colleges and universities looking to migrate systems to the cloud.

  1. Let go of the way you think it should be. “Our biggest hurdle was getting over how we thought things should be based on how we did it in the past. Once we let go of the way we thought it had to be and embraced the AWS strategy, things finally moved in the right direction and everything fell into place,” said Blake.
  2. Get others on board early. One of the challenges the department had as pioneers was working with their own staff. By getting others comfortable with the cloud, they began a cultural shift inside the university. Other departments, like security, networking, and backup, recognized that more services were heading this way in the future.
  3. Enjoy the simple things. “Initially, when we sized our front-end web servers, we thought three web servers would be more than adequate, but we needed more to have the ability to process all requests. So we spun up a fourth and then a fifth web server in a matter of minutes. That was the beauty— it was as simple as can be,” commented Blake. Being able to spin up and load balance quickly was key for the department. They did not have to buy another front end web server, instead they had high compute capacity and enough storage for whatever their needs were in minutes.
  4. Focus on student experience. ISU already provided a positive experience for its students, so they wanted to maintain that for students and staff without a noticeable shift in the system. They pulled together a steering committee of faculty to have an open forum for comments. They wanted a seamless transition, keeping the stellar uptime their students expected.

ISU migrated Moodle from their on-premises server to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). Additionally, they use Amazon Aurora, AWS Lambda, Amazon CloudWatch, and Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS). For networking, they are using Amazon Route 53 to host their subdomain and have set up a VPN for secure connections to do maintenance on the EC2 instances. They are also using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and AWS CloudTrail to help implement security access and monitoring.

ISU saw huge gains from their migration to the cloud behind the scenes, including cost savings, redundancy, reliability, and a better disaster recovery posture. “We took a big leap forward for us in redundancy and disaster recovery. We are a much better position than we ever were hosting on premises,” said Blake. “A water leak in the data center could have brought us to our knees. We were taking a gamble. We have made a quantum leap forward.”

With two successful semesters completed, the university is looking for other ways to leverage the cloud on campus. Take a tour of how other higher education institutions use AWS campus-wide, from classrooms to dorm rooms and beyond.

Save the Date: AWS Public Sector Summit is Coming Soon to Washington, D.C

on | in Education, government, Nonprofit |

We are already looking forward to our eighth annual AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC. This year’s event will take place June 12-14, 2017 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Registration will be open soon, so stay tuned for more information on how to save your spot.

As we begin the countdown to the Summit, we wanted to give you a glimpse into what you can expect this June.

What to Expect in 2017

  • Over 100+ breakout sessions on topics, such as DevOps, Big Data, Internet of Things, security and compliance, adoption models, scientific computing, open data, and more.
  • Two keynotes with a star line up of CIOs. View some of the keynote videos from the 2016 event.
  • Direct access to AWS technologists
  • Pre-Day with bootcamps and deep dive workshops
  • Networking opportunities with partners and peers

Mark your Calendar

Mark your calendar for one of the largest gatherings of public sector technology leaders in 2017. More details below!

Date: June 12-14, 2017

Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center – 801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington, DC 20001

Amazon Web Services and the National Science Foundation Spur Innovation in Big Data Research

on | in Education, government, Nonprofit |

The AWS Research Initiative (ARI) brings Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) together to spur innovation in Big Data research. Under the program on Critical Techniques, Technologies and Methodologies for Advancing Foundations and Applications of Big Data Sciences and Engineering (BIGDATA) a total of $26.5 million will be funded by NSF and the Office of Financial Research (OFR) in addition to $3 million in AWS promotional credits for a period of 3-4 years.

The program seeks novel approaches in computer science, statistics, computational science, and mathematics, along with innovative applications in domain science, including social and behavioral sciences, education, biology, engineering, and the physical sciences that lead to the further development of interdisciplinary data science.

Under the ARI program, AWS and NSF will respectively support and collaborate on groundbreaking research from all qualified scientists, engineers, and educators. Now techniques and technologies like cloud-based Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data analytics, and High Performance Computing (HPC) will help researchers maximize the value of their NSF grants to accelerate the pace of innovation.

“BIGDATA research provides a paradigm shift by putting smart in everything we do today including smart home, smart city, smart cars, smart health, and more. We are excited to collaborate with the NSF to foster innovations in the field,” said Sanjay Padhi, Ph.D, AWS Representative to the NSF.

There are two categories of proposals:

  • Foundations (F): those developing or studying fundamental theories, techniques, methodologies, and technologies of broad applicability to big data problems, motivated by specific data challenges and requirements.
  • Innovative Applications (IA): those engaged in translational activities that employ new big data techniques, methodologies, and technologies to address and solve problems in specific application domains. Projects in this category must be collaborative, involving researchers from domain disciplines and one or more methodological disciplines (computer science, statistics, mathematics, simulation and modeling, and more).

The AWS Research Initiative with NSF provides up to $3M in AWS promotional credits over a period of up to four years, or for the duration of the initiative. AWS will offer many services through ARI grants, including compute and data services. NSF will be responsible for selecting grant awardees.

“In today’s era of data-driven science and engineering, we are pleased to work with the AWS Research Initiative via the NSF BIGDATA program to provide cloud resources for our Nation’s researchers to foster and accelerate discovery and innovation,”  said Dr. Jim Kurose, Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE).

To get started on your application, here are some cloud resources and tools for grant applicants:

To see how to apply, who qualifies, and more, visit:

Learn more about the program here.

Bringing Girls Who Code to re:Invent 2016

on | in Education, government, Nonprofit |

AWS was proud to help sponsor the 2016 Girls Who Code (GWC) Summer Immersion Programs for 1,500 high-school aged girls. To enable their work, AWS built a custom curriculum for the Girls Who Code teams to learn and build their projects in the cloud. At the conclusion of the seven-week program, students formed small teams and built web-based projects using the skills they gained during the summer.

A team of AWS experts reviewed the projects of the student teams who incorporated AWS into their projects. Two project teams were then selected to come to AWS re:Invent 2016 in Las Vegas. This provided students a chance to learn more about cloud computing, experience a large-scale tech conference, and share with other cloud enthusiasts their AWS-powered projects and passion for programming. The two selected projects were:

  • The Mercer of Durham, Seattle Girls Who Code Summer Camp (2 students): The Mercer of Durham is a “choose-your-own-adventure” game played on the Amazon Echo through the cloud-based Alexa voice service. The purpose of the game is to play an adventure game through the power of your voice, similar to role playing. It was inspired by the text-based “choose-your-own-adventure-game” that the group created in class on Python.
  • Kokua, Boston Girls Who Code Summer Camp (5 students): Kokua is a website that is used as a “cold caller” to select random students and as a random group generator to allow students the opportunity to work with different peers. In addition, the team created a bar graph displaying the statistics of how many times a student’s name was called. Kokua differs from traditional cold-calling devices because it organizes multiple functions into one tool that is easy for teachers to use. Coded using JavaScript, HTML, PHP, and CSS, Kokua saves teachers from worrying about who to call on next or keeping track of who is not participating.

“Attending AWS re:Invent gave us the opportunity to interact with world-class programmers and engineers and a chance to share our final project from Girls Who Code. Thank you AWS and GWC for sponsoring us!” shared the team from Kokua.

AWS is committed to helping build the pipeline of women and underrepresented communities in tech. As a part of this effort, we held a Diversify Tech panel at re:Invent. In the panel, experts in the field of diversity, equality, equity, inclusion, and innovation discussed actionable steps we can take, both individually and as companies, to improve diversity in tech. The Girls Who Code teams also presented their projects at the end of this panel, and received an opportunity to get to know Girls Who Code VP of Strategy and Innovation, Leah Gilliam, who moderated the discussion. You can watch the full panel here:

Spotlight on London: Londoners Use the AWS Cloud for their Daily Life and Work

on | in Education, government, Nonprofit |

Amazon Web Services has a strong commitment to the needs of our customers across sectors in the UK. That’s the driving reason why we recently launched a new Region in the London area. Learn more about the new Region here.

Cities like London are quickly embracing innovation and developing new ways for engaging and serving citizens. From transportation to planning to utilities, cities are using cloud computing to transform the way they interact with citizens and think about their future. Both government and commercial organizations are using the cloud to provide information and deliver services to their customers and citizens. Learn more about the organizations you know that are already working to bring you smarter, more flexible services in and around London. Read more public sector case studies here.

AWS works with organisations around London to serve citizens more effectively and reach broader constituents. Learn more below:

Register now to get started on your digital journey to future government

When it comes to digital government projects, where do you get started? How do you train your staff and align your technology strategy with the ever-increasing pace of citizen requirements?

To answer these questions (and learn even more), join us the week of January 23rd  and week of March 6th, 2017 at the Urban Innovation Center, where AWS and Future Cities Catapult will offer discussions, roundtables, and workshops as part of the London Innovation Series. Customize your own itinerary and learn how to build citizen services in a new and fresh way. Learn more and register now.

Continue to learn about how AWS is helping Londoners every day here and check out the “Webminster” station in the photos below.

Also in London, AWS launched AWS re:Start, a training and job placement program for the UK to educate young adults as well as those leaving the Armed Forces, Reservists, Veterans, and their spouses on the latest software development and cloud computing technologies. Learn more here.


Calling All Data Scientists to Help Improve Cancer Screening Technology

on | in Education, government, Nonprofit |

Two out of every five people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes and the number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million globally within the next two decades, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). And as research organizations work to find a cure, the same technology behind improved voice assistants and credit card fraud detection—artificial intelligence—could also help improve cancer screening and save lives.

Through Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, participants of the third annual Data Science Bowl, have the chance to improve lung cancer screening technology that can reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.

The Data Science Bowl competition was created by Booz Allen Hamilton in partnership with Kaggle. Amazon Web Services is proud to sponsor the 2017 Data Science Bowl, which aims to inspire everyday citizens, data scientists, and medical communities around the world to work together and improve the success rate of low-dose CT scanning, using training and test datasets directly provided or facilitated through the National Cancer Institute.

This year, the 90-day Data Science Bowl competition will award winners with over $1 million in prizes, including AWS cloud computing credits. The funds for the prize purse will be provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. To learn more and participate in the Data Science Bowl, visit

Last year’s Data Science Bowl was related to heart health. Learn more about it here.

AWS Public Datasets

Today, qualified researchers can access two of the world’s largest collections of cancer genome data as AWS Public Datasets:

And, in order to help data scientists work with unique datasets, we built the AWS Research Cloud Program. The program was built by researchers, for researchers, in order to enable easy use of AWS resources by the scientific community around the globe. It’s free to join the program, and you can download the guide here to get started.

Key Resources for Researchers and Scientists

Additionally, below are some key resource links for researchers to help in the Data Science Bowl:

How Does the Cloud Help Cure Cancer?

The cloud can fuel cancer breakthroughs at a rapid speed and we are looking forward to seeing what the participants of the Data Science Bowl are able to achieve using the cloud. For example, The Algorithms, Machines, and People (AMP) Lab at the University of California Berkeley builds scalable machine learning and data analysis technologies that turn raw data into actionable research insights, shared globally.

Among the many experiments run by the AMP Lab, one area of concentration is in the field of genomics and cancer research. Due to the vast amount of data that genome sequencing produces, the AMP Lab leverages AWS cloud-based compute power to quickly scale the compute resources needed to analyze algorithms that are used in genomics work. As a result, researchers are able to use many machines in the cloud simultaneously, to process genome data faster and more cost effectively than ever before.

Learn how more customers, like American Heart Association, National Institute of Health, and Harvard Medical School, use the AWS Cloud to revolutionize our understanding of disease and develop novel approaches to diagnosis and treatment.

Good luck to all participants!