Week 21, 2018 - Amazon Aurora Backtrack; SAM init; GitHub Checks API

AWS introduced Aurora Backtrack and a new CLI for Serverless apps, while GitHub comes out with the Checks API.

Amazon Aurora Backtrack

Sometimes new features from cloud providers take a while to find a purpose for, and other times they’re like Aurora Backtrack. So obviously useful that you want to use it immediately. Backtrack allows for point in time restoration of your Aurora database, up to a certain point. This is meant for short-term rollback, up to 24 hours, and doesn’t replace your regular snapshots but is a lot faster.

If you have experience with restoring an Aurora database, you’ll likely be aware that restoring a snapshot onto a new cluster can take almost an hour. Rolling back with Backtrack instead is a matter of seconds, and you can roll back to the exact second you wish as well. This means that if you need to roll back because someone ran the wrong query1, or because of a failed rollout of a new version of your app, you can do so without losing any data or time.

The only downside I’ve found so far2 is that you can only enable it on a newly started cluster. This includes when you create one from a snapshot, however, so I would highly recommend planning this in as a maintenance task soon. After all, that one-time planned downtime might save you a lot of headaches and downtime later on when you didn’t plan for it.

SAM init

My focus has been a lot on containers lately, but there is a lot to love about serverless tools as well. In this case, after AWS open sourced SAM3, the pace seems to have picked up a bit and one of the new things that came from it is the new init command for the SAM CLI.

At one level, this is a helpful command to set up an example project quickly. Which is excellent for things such as demos, but then quickly becomes less useful. However, it becomes more useful when you use it for your own templates. And as you can store and directly call these templates from GitHub, that means they are easily reused across your team.

GitHub Checks API

GitHub’s new Checks API is an improved version of the API many of us are already familiar with, the automated verifications in pull requests that indicate if the checks from your CI/CD system ran successfully. With the Checks API, the results for these can show far more information directly in the pull request, making it easier to action them.

That said, it all seems to be tied to the GitHub marketplace and judging by the number of integrations currently available it might be quite a bit of work to make it work. So I’m not entirely sure this is a solution for everyone. That said, services like Travis CI and CircleCI are already free for open source projects and offer this integration as well. Microsoft too has an offering, but more importantly, Outlook will use this to provide the ability to deal with issues and pull requests from your mailbox4.


  1. From a script, as nobody would just run write queries on their prod database by hand, right? That would be a recipe for disaster. [return]
  2. Other than a small cost. [return]
  3. Their Serverless Application Model. [return]
  4. Maybe see it as a way to make you feel better after your company forces you to use Outlook in the first place? [return]
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