Today, Dave Brown, VP of Amazon EC2 at AWS, announced the Graviton Challenge as part of his session on AWS silicon innovation at the Six Five Summit 2021. We invite you to take the Graviton Challenge and move your applications to run on AWS Graviton2. The challenge, intended for individual developers and small teams, is based on the experiences of customers who’ve already migrated. It provides a framework of eight, approximately four-hour chunks to prepare, port, optimize, and finally deploy your application onto Graviton2 instances. Getting your application running on Graviton2, and enjoying the improved price performance, aren’t the only rewards. There are prizes and swag for those who complete the challenge!

AWS Graviton2 is a custom-built processor from AWS that’s based on the Arm64 architecture. It’s supported by popular Linux operating systems including Amazon Linux 2, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Ubuntu. Compared to fifth-generation x86-based Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance types, Graviton2 instance types have a 20% lower cost. Overall, customers who have moved applications to Graviton2 typically see up to 40% better price performance for a broad range of workloads including application servers, container-based applications, microservices, caching fleets, data analytics, video encoding, electronic design automation, gaming, open-source databases, and more.

Before I dive in to talk more about the challenge, check out the fun introductory video below from Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist, AWS and Dave Brown, Vice President, EC2. As Jeff mentions in the video: same exact workload, same or better performance, and up to 40% better price performance!

After you complete the challenge, we invite you to tell us about your adoption journey and enter the contest. If you post on social media with the hashtag #ITookTheGravitonChallenge, you’ll earn a t-shirt. To earn a hoodie, include a short video with your post.

To enter the competition, you’ll need to create a 5 to 10-minute video that describes your project and the application you migrated, any hurdles you needed to overcome, and the price performance benefits you realized.

All valid contest entries will each receive a $500 AWS credit (limited to 500 quantity). A panel of judges will evaluate the content entries and award additional prizes across six categories. All category winners will receive an AWS re:Invent 2021 conference pass, flight, and hotel for one company representative, and winners will be able to meet with senior members of the Graviton2 team at the conference. Here are additional category-specific prizes:

  • Best adoption – enterprise
    Based on the performance gains, total cost savings, number of instances the workload is running on, and time taken to migrate the workload (faster is better), for companies with over 1000 employees. The winner will also receive a chance to present at the conference.
  • Best adoption – small/medium business
    Based on the performance gains, total cost savings, number of instances the workload is running on, and time taken to migrate the workload (faster is better), for companies with 100-1000 employees. The winner will also receive a chance to present at the conference.
  • Best adoption – startup
    Based on the performance gains, total cost savings, number of instances the workload is running on, and time taken to migrate the workload (faster is better), for companies with fewer than 100 employees. The winner will also receive a chance to present at the conference.
  • Best new workload adoption
    Awarded to a workload that’s new to EC2 (migrated to Graviton2 from on-premises, or other cloud) based on the performance gains, total cost savings, number of instances the workload is running on, and time taken to migrate the workload (faster is better). The winner will also receive a chance to participate in a video or written case study.
  • Most impactful adoption
    Awarded to the workload with the biggest social impact based on details provided about what the workload/application does. Applications in this category are related to fields such as sustainability, healthcare and life sciences, conservation, learning/education, justice/equity. The winner will also receive a chance to participate in a video or written case study.
  • Most innovative adoption
    Applications in this category solve unique problems for their customers, address new use cases, or are groundbreaking. The award will be based on the workload description, price performance gains, and total cost savings. The winner will also receive a chance to participate in a video or written case study.

Competition submissions open on June 22 and close August 31. Winners will be announced on October 1 2021.

Identifying a workload to migrate
Now that you know what’s possible with Graviton2, you’re probably eager to get started and identify a workload to tackle as part of the challenge. The ideal workload is one that already runs on Linux and uses open-source components. This means you’ll have full access to the source code of every component and can easily make any required changes. If you don’t have an existing Linux workload that is entirely open-source based, you can, of course, move other workloads. A robust ecosystem of ISVs and AWS services already support Graviton2. However, if you are using software from a vendor that does not support Arm64/Graviton2, reach out to the Graviton Challenge Slack channel for support.

What’s involved in the challenge?
The challenge includes eight steps performed over four days (but you don’t have to do the challenge in four consecutive days). If you need assistance from Graviton2 experts, a dedicated Slack channel is available and you can sign up for emails containing helpful tips and guidance. In addition to support on Slack and supporting emails, you also get $25 AWS credit to cover the cost of the taking the challenge. Graviton2-based burstable T4g instances also have a free trial, available until December 31 2021, that can be used to qualify your workloads.

You can download the complete whitepaper can be downloaded from the Graviton Challenge page, but here is an outline of the process.

Day 1: Learn and explore
The first day you’ll learn about Graviton2 and then assess your selected workload. I recommend that you start by checking out the 2020 AWS re:Invent session, Deep dive on AWS Graviton2 processor-powered EC2 instances. The Getting Started with AWS Graviton GitHub repository will be a useful reference as you work through the challenge.

Assessment involves identifying the application’s dependencies and requirements. As with all preparatory work, the more thorough you are at this stage, the better positioned you are for success. So, don’t skimp on this task!

Day 2: Create a plan and start porting
On the second day, you’ll create a Graviton2 environment. You can use EC2 virtual machine instances with AWS-provided images or build your own custom images. Alternatively, you can go the container route, because both Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) support Graviton2-based instances.

After you have created your environment, you’ll bootstrap the application. The Getting Started Guide on GitHub contains language-specific getting started information. If your application uses Java, Python, Node.js, .NET, or other high-level languages, then it might run as-is or need minimal changes. Other languages like C, C++, or Go will need to be compiled for the 64-bit Arm architecture. For more information, see the guides on GitHub.

Day 3: Debug and optimize
Now that the application is running on a Graviton2 environment, it’s time to test and verify its functionality. When you have a fully functional application, you can test performance and compare it to x86-64 environments. If you don’t observe the expected performance, reach out to your account team, or get support on the Graviton Challenge Slack channel. We’re here to help analyze and resolve any potential performance gaps.

Day 4: Update infrastructure and start deployments
It’s shipping day! You’ll update your infrastructure to add Graviton2-based instances, and then start deploying. We recommend that you use canary or blue-green deployments so that a portion of your traffic is redirected to the new environments. When you’re comfortable, you can transition all traffic.

At this point, you can celebrate completing the challenge, publish a post on social media using the #ITookTheGravitonChallenge hashtag, let us know about your success, and consider entering the competition. Remember, entries for the competition are due by August 31, 2021.

Start the challenge today!
Now that you have some details about the challenge and rewards, it’s time to start your (migration) engines. Download the whitepaper from the Graviton Challenge landing page, familiarize yourself with the details, and off you go! And, if you do decide to enter the competition, good luck!

Footnote
In my role as a .NET Developer Advocate at AWS, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that this challenge is equally applicable to .NET applications using .NET Core or .NET 5 and later! In fact, .NET 5 includes ARM64-specific optimizations. For information about performance improvements my colleagues found for .NET applications running on AWS Graviton2, see the Powering .NET 5 with AWS Graviton2: Benchmarks blog post. There’s also a lab for .NET 5 on Graviton2. I invite you to check out the getting started material for .NET in the aws-graviton-getting-started GitHub repository and start migrating.

— Steve

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