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Virtu Financial enables its customers to apply advanced analytics and machine learning on trade and market data by provisioning Amazon SageMaker

This is a guest post by Erin Stanton, who currently runs the Global Client Support organization for Virtu Analytics.  Virtu Financial is a leading provider of financial services and products that uses cutting-edge technology to deliver liquidity to the global markets and innovative, transparent trading solutions to its clients. Virtu uses its global market-making expertise…

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This is a guest post by Erin Stanton, who currently runs the Global Client Support organization for Virtu Analytics. 

Virtu Financial is a leading provider of financial services and products that uses cutting-edge technology to deliver liquidity to the global markets and innovative, transparent trading solutions to its clients. Virtu uses its global market-making expertise and infrastructure to provide a robust product suite including offerings in execution, liquidity sourcing, analytics, and broker-neutral, multi-dealer platforms in workflow technology. Virtu’s product offerings allow clients to trade on hundreds of venues across over 50 countries and in multiple asset classes, including global equities, ETFs, foreign exchange, futures, fixed income, and myriad other commodities. In addition, Virtu’s integrated, multi-asset analytics platform provides a range of pre- and post-trade services, data products, and compliance tools that clients rely on to invest, trade, and manage risk across global markets.

In this post, we discuss how Virtu enables its customers to apply advanced analytics and machine learning (ML) on trade and market data by provisioning Amazon SageMaker.

An overview of asset manager workflow

Asset managers run funds, which invest in a wide range of securities from equities, to commodities, to FX. Let’s start by describing a typical workflow inside such an asset manager. The lifecycle of a trade begins with a portfolio manager deciding to buy or sell a security for the fund they manage. The portfolio manager inputs this decision into their order management system (OMS). The order undergoes various risk controls and passes to a trading desk inside the firm.

The trading desk is then faced with a decision on how to execute this order. The sorts of factors the desk needs to take into account include time sensitivity, size of the order, liquidity of the security, is it listed on a venue or trades over the counter, can it be crossed internally, which broker supports the security or venue, and so on. Typically, this process results in the order being entered into an Execution Management System (EMS). The EMS then has the choice to submit the order directly to a venue (direct market access), a high-touch broker, or a given broker’s algorithm.

Alternatively, the buy-side trader may submit the order to an Algo Wheel. An Algo Wheel is simply an automated approach to allocating trades across a client-defined selection of broker algorithms within the customer’s EMS based on the customer’s pre-set weightings. Such broker/algorithm selection is data-driven by performance. The recent surge in popularity in Algo Wheels has been prompted by the best execution requirements of MiFID II and increased scrutiny in many buy-side firms on which brokers are used and why.

In all cases, the aim of the process is for the broker algo to obtain the best price for the customer subject to the selected strategy or other order constraints. For customers, being able to get the best price is significant, with a rough calculation showing the magnitude of this. If an an asset manager, with $1 trillion under management and 20% turnover of their portfolio each year, is able to save 5 bps in execution costs, the savings will be $100 million. This is then passed onto the asset manager’s own customers.

After the order has been filled at the best possible price, this information needs to be fed back, in real time, to the asset manager via the EMS. Such real-time information on the execution process is required in order to be able to manage risk, price funds, and other operational reasons. In addition to real-time data, the asset manager needs historical data about the execution process to help decide how to route future orders, to help with modeling the cost of trading and to meet regulatory requirements.

In summary, a persistent and increased focus on best execution and trading analytics due to regulatory and competitive pressures, as well as a general push to workflow automation, has resulted in increased usage of Algo Wheels and the subsequent analysis of that data.

The Virtu Analytics Client Coverage team

At Virtu, the broker-neutral Virtu Analytics Client Coverage team receives execution data directly from its customers’ OMSs and EMSs. The data may include data generated by Virtu’s broker-dealer subsidiaries in its role as the customer’s broker and data generated by the customer’s other brokers.

Getting historical execution data back to the customer is important for Virtu’s Analytics team to be able to quantitatively demonstrate the value of Virtu’s own Algo Wheel offering. The problem statement for Virtu was how best to package the historical data in a way that the customer could derive value from it.

Virtu began by providing its Algo Wheel customers access to online visualizations via its Portal platform, which facilitated the comparative analysis of broker performance. While the interactive front end meets most needs, some clients wanted to apply additional customization to both the analytics framework and the broker reporting.

In response, Virtu developed a shared ML environment for their customers where customers can access their execution data integrated with additional market data metrics, fed by APIs and accessed through an interface that supports Jupyter notebooks. In such an environment, the customer can apply custom metrics and analysis that is specific to their unique investment and trading objectives, such as performance and reporting metrics. These metrics have evolved over the years from a simple reporting of benchmark performance to providing more complex metric context around order difficulty and market conditions. The most recent iterations include distributions of performance, normalizing samples, and controlling for outliers. Having API access to features generated from Virtu’s Algo Wheel execution data enables users to customize the data and integrate it into other trade platforms and decision-making applications. With screen share technology, Virtu’s Analytics team can guide the customer as they explore their data and learn the system in order to query their data.

Solution overview

In response to customer feedback, Virtu’s Analytics Client Coverage team launched an Open Python platform supported by SageMaker. This enables Virtu customers to log on and explore their execution data flexibly―with or without a screen share from Virtu. Customers also wanted to mine their data and extract meaningful insights, so Virtu developed a Python API that is exposed through the environment. Considerations for the implementation included security, scalability, resilience, and usability. In terms of security, Virtu needed to make sure that any solution was designed such that proprietary data was only accessible by the customer and even particular users within a customer’s internal group.

Let’s briefly review the core architecture of the solution. SageMaker instances are deployed in the private subnet of a VPC. The VPC uses three different Availability Zones. Egress traffic routes via NAT Gateway, which enables Virtu to limit API calls to predesignated IP addresses. Because the SageMaker instances are deployed in a private subnet, AWS PrivateLink is used. AWS PrivateLink enables connection directly to the SageMaker API or to the SageMaker Runtime through an interface endpoint in the VPC, instead of connecting over the internet. The VPC interface endpoint connects the VPC directly to the SageMaker API or Runtime without an internet gateway, NAT device, VPN connection, or AWS Direct Connect connection. The instances in the VPC don’t need public IP addresses to communicate with the SageMaker API or Runtime. The following is a schematic of the architectural solution.

Virtu selected SageMaker for four key reasons:

  • Ease of setup – Virtu wanted to be self-sufficient in terms of setup and deployment. Virtu is able to create a new client environment in less than an hour. Because setup is quick, there is less concern about customer churn.
  • Cost – Virtu required a low-cost solution with easy control of compute resources.
  • Shared code base – The ability to provide customers with sample code to get them started.
  • Customer support – Because many customers were new to programming, there was a need to help them troubleshoot syntax issues or work with Virtu APIs. SageMaker enables the Analytics Client Coverage team to log directly into a customer’s environment, make a few adjustments, and message them when done so that they can continue with their analysis.

In summary, SageMaker has solved the customer-driven programming environment requirements and allowed the Virtu Analytics Client Coverage team to expand into customer-based ML solutions.

Customer use case example

In this section, we run through a use case with an example customer. As a customer of Virtu, Schroders was one of the first adopters of the new platform.

“As we continue to optimize our trading with rigorous analysis of our trade executions, AWS has provided us with a platform and the tools that enhance our speed and ability to handle and manipulate large amounts of our Virtu trade data,” says Will Lishman, Head of Trading, Americas, at Schroders Investment Management. “Python is proving to be a powerful tool for us to assimilate this data, investigate hypotheses, and ultimately further systematize our trading, creating more efficient trading desks and allowing traders to spend more time focusing on the more nuanced asymmetrical risk trades where they can add greater value.”

In the following screenshot, we show the SageMaker environment provisioned by Virtu to its customers. The first step of analyzing Virtu’s Algo Wheel data involves pulling data from Virtu’s Open Technology API platform. The Virtu Analytics Client Coverage team typically helps set up the first API payload, which includes date range filtering for the trade date and other relevant filters such as region and asset class. Key metrics are then pulled from the API, including the ticker of the stock, the algo strategy that was used, the executing broker of the algo, and resulting performance. In this example, performance is measured using an implementation shortfall (IS) benchmark, which compares the price at the time the broker receives the order vs. the average execution price that they achieve while executing the order in the stock market. Data is returned as JSON and converted to a Pandas DataFrame for easy manipulation.

Because providing feedback to brokers directly is important, the client wants to be able to anonymize the broker names and send high-level statistics on performance to all brokers. A unique, anonymous, custom broker name is created, and all subsequent reporting includes the anonymized broker names. When the client sends out the results to each broker, they highlight their anonymized number directly, and they can see where they perform well and where they need to improve. Brokers are incentivized to continually improve, because the basis for flow routing is performance.

Liquidity is an important factor in algo performance, so the next common step is to add a custom tag that allows for grouping of orders by percentage of liquidity in the market. Some brokers are better than others at executing larger orders, so based on this information, the trading desk can decide to route orders based on liquidity.

After the custom tag is added, the charting library Altair is used to quickly visualize performance. A positive value against the IS benchmark is good performance, whereas a negative value is a loss against the benchmark. The following chart shows that Anonymized Broker 3 is very good at executing orders that are greater than 7% of daily volume, but not as good at very small orders or less than 0.5% of daily volume. Anonymized Broker 3 should be receiving more flow when the order is large but less when the order is small.

The next step in the analysis involves reviewing outlier trades. Virtu Analytics typically uses a weighted average of trading cost performance to compare brokers (with better brokers receiving more trading flow), but weighted averages can hide wider distributions. In the case of Virtu’s Algo Wheel routing, a more certain, tighter distribution for one broker is often preferred over slightly better average performance where high cost outlier trades may occur.

Although initial Virtu Algo Wheel analysis included all trades, outlier filtering can provide a more uniform comparison across brokers. Multiple approaches are used, for example a z-score approach. Through the SageMaker environment, the buy-side can experiment with the impact of different outlier exclusion methodologies, selecting the one that fits their workflow and data the best.

From the example below, the buy-side client opted to exclude any trade where the z-score was ±3. Comparing brokers across the initial IS (bps) metric, Anonymized Broker 2 had the most favorable performance (most positive number) but once outliers are excluded, Anonymized Broker 3 had the best performance. Anonymized Broker 2 had a few very positive outliers that skewed their overall performance up. Excluding a small amount of trading due to outliers changes which broker should receive more order flow.

The combination of the SageMaker environment and Virtu’s Open Technology APIs allow the buy-side to experiment with different bucketing and order exclusions. After a methodology is decided on, results can be quickly updated on a month or quarterly basis.

Virtu’s customers are extremely keen to incorporate ML into their working practices. However, they face two key problems. First, many customers lack in-house ML expertise. Second, the Virtu Analytics team doesn’t have insight into a client’s proprietary investment process and as such can’t assist the customer.

SageMaker has solved both these problems. Virtu uses the co-coding environment in SageMaker to assign an analytics analyst to code an initial model and then, through discussions with the customer, continue to fine tune it until an optimal solution is created. This also provides full transparency of all the data normalization, feature selection, and model tuning for both Virtu and the customer. The sorts of questions asked include: What data was left out? What are the known biases? Are the assumptions correct? The collaborative SageMaker environment provides customers and Virtu analysts dual access to the same data and models.

In the following screenshot, the customer uses k-means to identify stocks with similar characteristics from a trading perspective. In the past, a trader might consider a new ticker on their blotter that is a small cap to be similar to other small cap securities they have traded. Using the k-means algorithm allows the machine to find similarities in stocks, which can then be analyzed holistically from a trading strategy optimization approach.

Conclusion

SageMaker has surpassed Virtu’s client programming and ML needs in a scalable, cost-efficient manner. Virtu is excited for the continued feature rollout and plans to directly use more of the natural language processing resources later this year. To learn more about Amazon SageMaker, visit the webpage.

The content and opinions in this post are those of the third-party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post

About the Authors

Erin Stanton has 15+ years of experience in big data and data science, and currently runs the Global Client Support organization for Virtu Analytics. Erin is known for her big energy, which she brings to everything she does, and has been more recently championing potential machine learning and AI techniques to answer client questions. Erin received her undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Economics from Lehigh University and more recently completed her master’s in Information and Data Science from UC Berkeley

Hugh Christensen is an AWS Principal Analytics Specialist working in Global Financial Services. Prior to joining AWS, Hugh worked between academia and industry. The former in the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge, and the latter in various roles in algorithmic trading and data analytics solutions for financial exchanges and trading houses.

Muhammad Mansoor is an AWS Solutions Architect and has designed, built and deployed scalable and resilient cloud architectures. He advises customers on their AWS adoption and provides strategic recommendations. Muhammad has deep passion for AI/ML, Cloud Security, Containers, DevOps, DevSecOps and SRE.



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Secure Amazon SageMaker Studio presigned URLs Part 2: Private API with JWT authentication

In part 1 of this series, we demonstrated how to resolve an Amazon SageMaker Studio presigned URL from a corporate network using Amazon private VPC endpoints without traversing the internet. In this post, we will continue to build on top of the previous solution to demonstrate how to build a private API Gateway via Amazon API…

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In part 1 of this series, we demonstrated how to resolve an Amazon SageMaker Studio presigned URL from a corporate network using Amazon private VPC endpoints without traversing the internet. In this post, we will continue to build on top of the previous solution to demonstrate how to build a private API Gateway via Amazon API Gateway as a proxy interface to generate and access Amazon SageMaker presigned URLs. Furthermore, we add an additional guardrail to ensure presigned URLs are only generated and accessed for the authenticated end-user within the corporate network.

Solution overview

The following diagram illustrates the architecture of the solution.

The process includes the following steps:

  1. In the Amazon Cognito user pool, first set up a user with the name matching their Studio user profile and register Studio as the app client in the user pool.
  2. The user federates from their corporate identity provider (IdP) and authenticates with the Amazon Cognito user pool for accessing Studio.
  3. Amazon Cognito returns a token to the user authorizing access to the Studio application.
  4. The user invokes createStudioPresignedUrl API on API Gateway along with a token in the header.
  5. API Gateway invokes a custom AWS Lambda authorizer and validates the token.
  6. When the token is valid, Amazon Cognito returns an access grant policy with studio user profile id to API Gateway.
  7. API Gateway invokes the createStudioPresignedUrl Lambda function for creating the studio presigned url.
  8. The createStudioPresignedUrl function creates a presigned URL using the SageMaker API VPC endpoint and returns to caller.
  9. User accesses the presigned URL from their corporate network that resolves over the Studio VPC endpoint.
  10. The function’s AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy makes sure that the presigned URL creation and access are performed via VPC endpoints.

The following sections walk you through solution deployment, configuration, and validation for the API Gateway private API for creating and resolving a Studio presigned URL from a corporate network using VPC endpoints.

  1. Deploy the solution
  2. Configure the Amazon Cognito user
  3. Authenticating the private API for the presigned URL using a JSON Web Token
  4. Configure the corporate DNS server for accessing the private API
  5. Test the API Gateway private API for a presigned URL from the corporate network
  6. Pre-Signed URL Lambda Auth Policy
  7. Cleanup

Deploy the solution

You can deploy the solution through either the AWS Management Console or the AWS Serverless Application Model (AWS SAM).

To deploy the solution via the console, launch the following AWS CloudFormation template in your account by choosing Launch Stack. It takes approximately 10 minutes for the CloudFormation stack to complete.

To deploy the solution using AWS SAM, you can find the latest code in the aws-samples GitHub repository, where you can also contribute to the sample code. The following commands show how to deploy the solution using the AWS SAM CLI. If not currently installed, install the AWS SAM CLI.

  1. Clone the repository at https://github.com/aws-samples/secure-sagemaker-studio-presigned-url.
  2. After you clone the repo, navigate to the source and run the following code:

Configure the Amazon Cognito user

To configure your Amazon Cognito user, complete the following steps:

  1. Create an Amazon Cognito user with the same name as a SageMaker user profile: aws cognito-idp admin-create-user –user-pool-id –username
  2. Set the user password: aws cognito-idp admin-set-user-password –user-pool-id –username –password –permanent
  3. Get an access token: aws cognito-idp initiate-auth –auth-flow USER_PASSWORD_AUTH –client-id –auth-parameters USERNAME=,PASSWORD=

Authenticating the private API for the presigned URL using a JSON Web Token

When you deployed a private API for creating a SageMaker presigned URL, you added a guardrail to restrict access to access the presigned URL by anyone outside the corporate network and VPC endpoint. However, without implementing another control to the private API within the corporate network, any internal user within the corporate network would be able to pass unauthenticated parameters for the SageMaker user profile and access any SageMaker app.

To mitigate this issue, we propose passing a JSON Web Token (JWT) for the authenticated caller to the API Gateway and validating that token with a JWT authorizer. There are multiple options for implementing an authorizer for the private API Gateway, using either a custom Lambda authorizer or Amazon Cognito.

With a custom Lambda authorizer, you can embed a SageMaker user profile name in the returned policy. This prevents any users within the corporate network from being able to send any SageMaker user profile name for creating a presigned URL that they’re not authorized to create. We use Amazon Cognito to generate our tokens and a custom Lambda authorizer to validate and return the appropriate policy. For more information, refer to Building fine-grained authorization using Amazon Cognito, API Gateway, and IAM. The Lambda authorizer uses the Amazon Cognito user name as the user profile name.

If you’re unable to use Amazon Cognito, you can develop a custom application to authenticate and pass end-user tokens to the Lambda authorizer. For more information, refer to Use API Gateway Lambda authorizers.

Configure the corporate DNS server for accessing the private API

To configure your corporate DNS server, complete the following steps:

  1. On the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) console, choose your on-premises DNSA EC2 instance and connect via Systems Manager Session Manager.
  2. Add a zone record in the /etc/named.conf file for resolving to the API Gateway’s DNS name via your Amazon Route 53 inbound resolver, as shown in the following code: zone “zxgua515ef.execute-api..amazonaws.com” { type forward; forward only; forwarders { 10.16.43.122; 10.16.102.163; }; };
  3. Restart the named service using the following command: sudo service named restart

Validate requesting a presigned URL from the API Gateway private API for authorized users

In a real-world scenario, you would implement a front-end interface that would pass the appropriate Authorization headers for authenticated and authorized resources using either a custom solution or leverage AWS Amplify. For brevity of this blog post, the following steps leverages Postman to quickly validate the solution we deployed actually restricts requesting the presigned URL for an internal user, unless authorized to do so.

To validate the solution with Postman, complete the following steps:

  1. Install Postman on the WINAPP EC2 instance. See instructions here
  2. Open Postman and add the access token to your Authorization header: Authorization: Bearer
  3. Modify the API Gateway URL to access it from your internal EC2 instance:
    1. Add the VPC endpoint into your API Gateway URL: https://.execute-api..amazonaws.com/dev/EMPLOYEE_ID
    2. Add the Host header with a value of your API Gateway URL: .execute-api..amazonaws.com
    3. First, change the EMPLOYEE_ID to your Amazon Cognito user and SageMaker user profile name. Make sure you receive an authorized presigned URL.
    4. Then change the EMPLOYEE_ID to a user that is not yours and make sure you receive an access failure.
  4. On the Amazon EC2 console, choose your on-premises WINAPP instance and connect via your RDP client.
  5. Open a Chrome browser and navigate to your authorized presigned URL to launch Studio.

Studio is launched over VPC endpoint with remote address as the Studio VPC endpoint IP.

If the presigned URL is accessed outside of the corporate network, the resolution fails because the IAM policy condition for the presigned URL enforces creation and access from a VPC endpoint.

Pre-Signed URL Lambda Auth Policy

Above solution created the following Auth Policy for the Lambda that generated Pre-Signed URL for accessing SageMaker Studio.

{ “Version”: “2012-10-17”, “Statement”: [ { “Condition”: { “IpAddress”: { “aws:VpcSourceIp”: “10.16.0.0/16” } }, “Action”: “sagemaker:CreatePresignedDomainUrl”, “Resource”: “arn:aws:sagemaker:::user-profile/*/*”, “Effect”: “Allow” }, { “Condition”: { “IpAddress”: { “aws:SourceIp”: “192.168.10.0/24” } }, “Action”: “sagemaker:CreatePresignedDomainUrl”, “Resource”: “arn:aws:sagemaker:::user-profile/*/*”, “Effect”: “Allow” }, { “Condition”: { “StringEquals”: { “aws:sourceVpce”: [ “vpce-sm-api-xx”, “vpce-sm-api-yy” ] } }, “Action”: “sagemaker:CreatePresignedDomainUrl”, “Resource”: “arn:aws:sagemaker:::user-profile/*/*”, “Effect”: “Allow” } ] }

The above policy enforces Studio pre-signed URL is both generated and accessed via one of these three entrypoints:

  1. aws:VpcSourceIp as your AWS VPC CIDR
  2. aws:SourceIp as your corporate network CIDR
  3. aws:sourceVpce as your SageMaker API VPC endpoints

Cleanup

To avoid incurring ongoing charges, delete the CloudFormation stacks you created. Alternatively, if you deployed the solution using SAM, you need to authenticate to the AWS account the solution was deployed and run sam delete.

Conclusion

In this post, we demonstrated how to access Studio using a private API Gateway from a corporate network using Amazon private VPC endpoints, preventing access to presigned URLs outside the corporate network, and securing the API Gateway with a JWT authorizer using Amazon Cognito and custom Lambda authorizers.

Try out with this solution and experiment integrating this with your corporate portal, and leave your feedback in the comments!

About the Authors

Ram Vittal is a machine learning solutions architect at AWS. He has over 20+ years of experience architecting and building distributed, hybrid and cloud applications. He is passionate about building secure and scalable AI/ML and Big Data solutions to help enterprise customers with their cloud adoption and optimization journey to improve their business outcomes. In his spare time, he enjoys tennis, photography, and action movies.

Jonathan Nguyen is a Shared Delivery Team Senior Security Consultant at AWS. His background is in AWS Security with a focus on Threat Detection and Incident Response. Today, he helps enterprise customers develop a comprehensive AWS Security strategy, deploy security solutions at scale, and train customers on AWS Security best practices.

Chris Childers is a Cloud Infrastructure Architect in Professional Services at AWS. He works with AWS customers to design and automate their cloud infrastructure and improve their adoption of DevOps culture and processes.



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Secure Amazon SageMaker Studio presigned URLs Part 1: Foundational infrastructure

You can access Amazon SageMaker Studio notebooks from the Amazon SageMaker console via AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) authenticated federation from your identity provider (IdP), such as Okta. When a Studio user opens the notebook link, Studio validates the federated user’s IAM policy to authorize access, and generates and resolves the presigned URL for…

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You can access Amazon SageMaker Studio notebooks from the Amazon SageMaker console via AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) authenticated federation from your identity provider (IdP), such as Okta. When a Studio user opens the notebook link, Studio validates the federated user’s IAM policy to authorize access, and generates and resolves the presigned URL for the user. Because the SageMaker console runs on an internet domain, this generated presigned URL is visible in the browser session. This presents an undesired threat vector for exfiltration and gaining access to customer data when proper access controls are not enforced.

Studio supports a few methods for enforcing access controls against presigned URL data exfiltration:

  • Client IP validation using the IAM policy condition aws:sourceIp
  • Client VPC validation using the IAM condition aws:sourceVpc
  • Client VPC endpoint validation using the IAM policy condition aws:sourceVpce

When you access Studio notebooks from the SageMaker console, the only available option is to use client IP validation with the IAM policy condition aws:sourceIp. However, you can use browser traffic routing products such as Zscaler to ensure scale and compliance for your workforce internet access. These traffic routing products generate their own source IP, whose IP range is not controlled by the enterprise customer. This makes it impossible for these enterprise customers to use the aws:sourceIp condition.

To use client VPC endpoint validation using the IAM policy condition aws:sourceVpce, the creation of a presigned URL needs to originate in the same customer VPC where Studio is deployed, and resolution of the presigned URL needs to happen via a Studio VPC endpoint on the customer VPC. This resolution of the presigned URL during access time for corporate network users can be accomplished using DNS forwarding rules (both in Zscaler and corporate DNS) and then into the customer VPC endpoint using an AWS Route 53 inbound resolver.

In this part, we discuss the overarching architecture for securing studio pre-signed url and demonstrate how to set up the foundational infrastructure to create and launch a Studio presigned URL through your VPC endpoint over a private network without traversing the internet. This serves as the foundational layer for preventing data exfiltration by external bad actors gaining access to Studio pre-signed URL and unauthorized or spoofed corporate user access within a corporate environment.

Solution overview

The following diagram illustrates over-arching solution architecture.

The process includes the following steps:

  1. A corporate user authenticates via their IdP, connects to their corporate portal, and opens the Studio link from the corporate portal.
  2. The corporate portal application makes a private API call using an API Gateway VPC endpoint to create a presigned URL.
  3. The API Gateway VPC endpoint “create presigned URL” call is forwarded to the Route 53 inbound resolver on the customer VPC as configured in the corporate DNS.
  4. The VPC DNS resolver resolves it to the API Gateway VPC endpoint IP. Optionally, it looks up a private hosted zone record if it exists.
  5. The API Gateway VPC endpoint routes the request via the Amazon private network to the “create presigned URL API” running in the API Gateway service account.
  6. API Gateway invokes the create-pre-signedURL private API and proxies the request to the create-pre-signedURL Lambda function.
  7. The create-pre-signedURL Lambda call is invoked via the Lambda VPC endpoint.
  8. The create-pre-signedURL function runs in the service account, retrieves authenticated user context (user ID, Region, and so on), looks up a mapping table to identify the SageMaker domain and user profile identifier, makes a sagemaker createpre-signedDomainURL API call, and generates a presigned URL. The Lambda service role has the source VPC endpoint conditions defined for the SageMaker API and Studio.
  9. The generated presigned URL is resolved over the Studio VPC endpoint.
  10. Studio validates that the presigned URL is being accessed via the customer’s VPC endpoint defined in the policy, and returns the result.
  11. The Studio notebook is returned to the user’s browser session over the corporate network without traversing the internet.

The following sections walk you through how to implement this architecture to resolve Studio presigned URLs from a corporate network using VPC endpoints. We demonstrate a complete implementation by showing the following steps:

  1. Set up the foundational architecture.
  2. Configure the corporate app server to access a SageMaker presigned URL via a VPC endpoint.
  3. Set up and launch Studio from the corporate network.

Set up the foundational architecture

In the post Access an Amazon SageMaker Studio notebook from a corporate network, we demonstrated how to resolve a presigned URL domain name for a Studio notebook from a corporate network without traversing the internet. You can follow the instructions in that post to set up the foundational architecture, and then return to this post and proceed to the next step.

Configure the corporate app server to access a SageMaker presigned URL via a VPC endpoint

To enable accessing Studio from your internet browser, we set up an on-premises app server on Windows Server on the on-premises VPC public subnet. However, the DNS queries for accessing Studio are routed through the corporate (private) network. Complete the following steps to configure routing Studio traffic through the corporate network:

  1. Connect to your on-premises Windows app server.

  2. Choose Get Password then browse and upload your private key to decrypt your password.
  3. Use an RDP client and connect to the Windows Server using your credentials.
    Resolving Studio DNS from the Windows Server command prompt results in using public DNS servers, as shown in the following screenshot.
    Now we update Windows Server to use the on-premises DNS server that we set up earlier.
  4. Navigate to Control Panel, Network and Internet, and choose Network Connections.
  5. Right-click Ethernet and choose the Properties tab.
  6. Update Windows Server to use the on-premises DNS server.
  7. Now you update your preferred DNS server with your DNS server IP.
  8. Navigate to VPC and Route Tables and choose your STUDIO-ONPREM-PUBLIC-RT route table.
  9. Add a route to 10.16.0.0/16 with the target as the peering connection that we created during the foundational architecture setup.

Set up and launch Studio from your corporate network

To set up and launch Studio, complete the following steps:

  1. Download Chrome and launch the browser on this Windows instance.
    You may need to turn off Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration to allow file downloads and then enable file downloads.
  2. In your local device Chrome browser, navigate to the SageMaker console and open the Chrome developer tools Network tab.
  3. Launch the Studio app and observe the Network tab for the authtokenparameter value, which includes the generated presigned URL along with the remote server address that the URL is routed to for resolution.In this example, the remote address 100.21.12.108 is one of the public DNS server addresses to resolve the SageMaker DNS domain name d-h4cy01pxticj.studio.us-west-2.sagemaker.aws.
  4. Repeat these steps from the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Windows instance that you configured as part of the foundational architecture.

We can observe that the remote address is not the public DNS IP, instead it’s the Studio VPC endpoint 10.16.42.74.

Conclusion

In this post, we demonstrated how to resolve a Studio presigned URL from a corporate network using Amazon private VPC endpoints without exposing the presigned URL resolution to the internet. This further secures your enterprise security posture for accessing Studio from a corporate network for building highly secure machine learning workloads on SageMaker. In part 2 of this series, we further extend this solution to demonstrate how to build a private API for accessing Studio with aws:sourceVPCE IAM policy validation and token authentication. Try out this solution and leave your feedback in the comments!

About the Authors

Ram Vittal is a machine learning solutions architect at AWS. He has over 20+ years of experience architecting and building distributed, hybrid and cloud applications. He is passionate about building secure and scalable AI/ML and Big Data solutions to help enterprise customers with their cloud adoption and optimization journey to improve their business outcomes. In his spare time, he enjoys tennis and photography.

Neelam Koshiya is an enterprise solution architect at AWS. Her current focus is to help enterprise customers with their cloud adoption journey for strategic business outcomes. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and being outdoors.



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Use a custom image to bring your own development environment to RStudio on Amazon SageMaker

RStudio on Amazon SageMaker is the industry’s first fully managed RStudio Workbench in cloud. You can quickly launch the familiar RStudio integrated development environment (IDE), and dial up and down the underlying compute resources without interrupting your work, making it easy to build machine learning (ML) and analytics solutions in R at scale. RStudio on…

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RStudio on Amazon SageMaker is the industry’s first fully managed RStudio Workbench in cloud. You can quickly launch the familiar RStudio integrated development environment (IDE), and dial up and down the underlying compute resources without interrupting your work, making it easy to build machine learning (ML) and analytics solutions in R at scale. RStudio on SageMaker already comes with a built-in image preconfigured with R programming and data science tools; however, you often need to customize your IDE environment. Starting today, you can bring your own custom image with packages and tools of your choice, and make them available to all the users of RStudio on SageMaker in a few clicks.

Bringing your own custom image has several benefits. You can standardize and simplify the getting started experience for data scientists and developers by providing a starter image, preconfigure the drivers required for connecting to data stores, or pre-install specialized data science software for your business domain. Furthermore, organizations that have previously hosted their own RStudio Workbench may have existing containerized environments that they want to continue to use in RStudio on SageMaker.

In this post, we share step-by-step instructions to create a custom image and bring it to RStudio on SageMaker using the AWS Management Console or AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI). You can get your first custom IDE environment up and running in few simple steps. For more information on the content discussed in this post, refer to Bring your own RStudio image.

Solution overview

When a data scientist starts a new session in RStudio on SageMaker, a new on-demand ML compute instance is provisioned and a container image that defines the runtime environment (operating system, libraries, R versions, and so on) is run on the ML instance. You can provide your data scientists multiple choices for the runtime environment by creating custom container images and making them available on the RStudio Workbench launcher, as shown in the following screenshot.

The following diagram describes the process to bring your custom image. First you build a custom container image from a Dockerfile and push it to a repository in Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR). Next, you create a SageMaker image that points to the container image in Amazon ECR, and attach that image to your SageMaker domain. This makes the custom image available for launching a new session in RStudio.

Prerequisites

To implement this solution, you must have the following prerequisites:

We provide more details on each in this section.

RStudio on SageMaker domain

If you have an existing SageMaker domain with RStudio enabled prior to April 7, 2022, you must delete and recreate the RStudioServerPro app under the user profile name domain-shared to get the latest updates for bring your own custom image capability. The AWS CLI commands are as follows. Note that this action interrupts RStudio users on SageMaker.

aws sagemaker delete-app –domain-id –app-type RStudioServerPro –app-name default –user-profile-name domain-shared aws sagemaker create-app –domain-id –app-type RStudioServerPro –app-name default –user-profile-name domain-shared

If this is your first time using RStudio on SageMaker, follow the step-by-step setup process described in Get started with RStudio on Amazon SageMaker, or run the following AWS CloudFormation template to set up your first RStudio on SageMaker domain. If you already have a working RStudio on SageMaker domain, you can skip this step.

The following RStudio on SageMaker CloudFormation template requires an RStudio license approved through AWS License Manager. For more about licensing, refer to RStudio license. Also note that only one SageMaker domain is permitted per AWS Region, so you’ll need to use an AWS account and Region that doesn’t have an existing domain.

  1. Choose Launch Stack.
    Launch stack button
    The link takes you to the us-east-1 Region, but you can change to your preferred Region.
  2. In the Specify template section, choose Next.
  3. In the Specify stack details section, for Stack name, enter a name.
  4. For Parameters, enter a SageMaker user profile name.
  5. Choose Next.
  6. In the Configure stack options section, choose Next.
  7. In the Review section, select I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources and choose Next.
  8. When the stack status changes to CREATE_COMPLETE, go to the Control Panel on the SageMaker console to find the domain and the new user.

IAM policies to interact with Amazon ECR

To interact with your private Amazon ECR repositories, you need the following IAM permissions in the IAM user or role you’ll use to build and push Docker images:

{ “Version”:”2012-10-17″, “Statement”:[ { “Sid”: “VisualEditor0”, “Effect”:”Allow”, “Action”:[ “ecr:CreateRepository”, “ecr:BatchGetImage”, “ecr:CompleteLayerUpload”, “ecr:DescribeImages”, “ecr:DescribeRepositories”, “ecr:UploadLayerPart”, “ecr:ListImages”, “ecr:InitiateLayerUpload”, “ecr:BatchCheckLayerAvailability”, “ecr:PutImage” ], “Resource”: “*” } ] }

To initially build from a public Amazon ECR image as shown in this post, you need to attach the AWS-managed AmazonElasticContainerRegistryPublicReadOnly policy to your IAM user or role as well.

To build a Docker container image, you can use either a local Docker client or the SageMaker Docker Build CLI tool from a terminal within RStudio on SageMaker. For the latter, follow the prerequisites in Using the Amazon SageMaker Studio Image Build CLI to build container images from your Studio notebooks to set up the IAM permissions and CLI tool.

AWS CLI versions

There are minimum version requirements for the AWS CLI tool to run the commands mentioned in this post. Make sure to upgrade AWS CLI on your terminal of choice:

  • AWS CLI v1 >= 1.23.6
  • AWS CLI v2 >= 2.6.2

Prepare a Dockerfile

You can customize your runtime environment in RStudio in a Dockerfile. Because the customization depends on your use case and requirements, we show you the essentials and the most common customizations in this example. You can download the full sample Dockerfile.

Install RStudio Workbench session components

The most important software to install in your custom container image is RStudio Workbench. We download from the public S3 bucket hosted by RStudio PBC. There are many version releases and OS distributions for use. The version of the installation needs to be compatible with the RStudio Workbench version used in RStudio on SageMaker, which is 1.4.1717-3 at the time of writing. The OS (argument OS in the following snippet) needs to match the base OS used in the container image. In our sample Dockerfile, the base image we use is Amazon Linux 2 from an AWS-managed public Amazon ECR repository. The compatible RStudio Workbench OS is centos7.

FROM public.ecr.aws/amazonlinux/amazonlinux … ARG RSW_VERSION=1.4.1717-3 ARG RSW_NAME=rstudio-workbench-rhel ARG OS=centos7 ARG RSW_DOWNLOAD_URL=https://s3.amazonaws.com/rstudio-ide-build/server/${OS}/x86_64 RUN RSW_VERSION_URL=`echo -n “${RSW_VERSION}” | sed ‘s/+/-/g’` && curl -o rstudio-workbench.rpm ${RSW_DOWNLOAD_URL}/${RSW_NAME}-${RSW_VERSION_URL}-x86_64.rpm && yum install -y rstudio-workbench.rpm

You can find all the OS release options with the following command:

aws s3 ls s3://rstudio-ide-build/server/

Install R (and versions of R)

The runtime for your custom RStudio container image needs at least one version of R. We can first install a version of R and make it the default R by creating soft links to /usr/local/bin/:

# Install main R version ARG R_VERSION=4.1.3 RUN curl -O https://cdn.rstudio.com/r/centos-7/pkgs/R-${R_VERSION}-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum install -y R-${R_VERSION}-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum clean all && rm -rf R-${R_VERSION}-1-1.x86_64.rpm RUN ln -s /opt/R/${R_VERSION}/bin/R /usr/local/bin/R && ln -s /opt/R/${R_VERSION}/bin/Rscript /usr/local/bin/Rscript

Data scientists often need multiple versions of R so that they can easily switch between projects and code base. RStudio on SageMaker supports easy switching between R versions, as shown in the following screenshot.

RStudio on SageMaker automatically scans and discovers versions of R in the following directories:

/usr/lib/R /usr/lib64/R /usr/local/lib/R /usr/local/lib64/R /opt/local/lib/R /opt/local/lib64/R /opt/R/* /opt/local/R/*

We can install more versions in the container image, as shown in the following snippet. They will be installed in /opt/R/.

RUN curl -O https://cdn.rstudio.com/r/centos-7/pkgs/R-4.0.5-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum install -y R-4.0.5-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum clean all && rm -rf R-4.0.5-1-1.x86_64.rpm RUN curl -O https://cdn.rstudio.com/r/centos-7/pkgs/R-3.6.3-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum install -y R-3.6.3-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum clean all && rm -rf R-3.6.3-1-1.x86_64.rpm RUN curl -O https://cdn.rstudio.com/r/centos-7/pkgs/R-3.5.3-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum install -y R-3.5.3-1-1.x86_64.rpm && yum clean all && rm -rf R-3.5.3-1-1.x86_64.rpm

Install RStudio Professional Drivers

Data scientists often need to access data from sources such as Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift within RStudio on SageMaker. You can do so using RStudio Professional Drivers and RStudio Connections. Make sure you install the relevant libraries and drivers as shown in the following snippet:

# Install RStudio Professional Drivers —————————————-# RUN yum update -y && yum install -y unixODBC unixODBC-devel && yum clean all ARG DRIVERS_VERSION=2021.10.0-1 RUN curl -O https://drivers.rstudio.org/7C152C12/installer/rstudio-drivers-${DRIVERS_VERSION}.el7.x86_64.rpm && yum install -y rstudio-drivers-${DRIVERS_VERSION}.el7.x86_64.rpm && yum clean all && rm -f rstudio-drivers-${DRIVERS_VERSION}.el7.x86_64.rpm && cp /opt/rstudio-drivers/odbcinst.ini.sample /etc/odbcinst.ini RUN /opt/R/${R_VERSION}/bin/R -e ‘install.packages(“odbc”, repos=”https://packagemanager.rstudio.com/cran/__linux__/centos7/latest”)’

Install custom libraries

You can also install additional R and Python libraries so that data scientists don’t need to install them on the fly:

RUN /opt/R/${R_VERSION}/bin/R -e “install.packages(c(‘reticulate’, ‘readr’, ‘curl’, ‘ggplot2’, ‘dplyr’, ‘stringr’, ‘fable’, ‘tsibble’, ‘dplyr’, ‘feasts’, ‘remotes’, ‘urca’, ‘sodium’, ‘plumber’, ‘jsonlite’), repos=’https://packagemanager.rstudio.com/cran/__linux__/centos7/latest’)” RUN /opt/python/${PYTHON_VERSION}/bin/pip install –upgrade ‘boto3>1.0<2.0' 'awscli>1.0<2.0' 'sagemaker[local]<3' 'sagemaker-studio-image-build' 'numpy'

When you’ve finished your customization in a Dockerfile, it’s time to build a container image and push it to Amazon ECR.

Build and push to Amazon ECR

You can build a container image from the Dockerfile from a terminal where the Docker engine is installed, such as your local terminal or AWS Cloud9. If you’re building it from a terminal within RStudio on SageMaker, you can use SageMaker Studio Image Build. We demonstrate the steps for both approaches.

In a local terminal where the Docker engine is present, you can run the following commands from where the Dockerfile is. You can use the sample script create-and-update-image.sh.

IMAGE_NAME=r-4.1.3-rstudio-1.4.1717-3 # the name for SageMaker Image REPO=rstudio-custom # ECR repository name TAG=$IMAGE_NAME # login to your Amazon ECR aws ecr get-login-password | docker login –username AWS –password-stdin ${ACCOUNT_ID}.dkr.ecr.${REGION}.amazonaws.com # create a repo aws ecr create-repository –repository-name ${REPO} # build a docker image and push it to the repo docker build . -t ${REPO}:${TAG} -t ${ACCOUNT_ID}.dkr.ecr.${REGION}.amazonaws.com/${REPO}:${TAG} docker push ${ACCOUNT_ID}.dkr.ecr.${REGION}.amazonaws.com/${REPO}:${TAG}

In a terminal on RStudio on SageMaker, run the following commands:

pip install sagemaker-studio-image-build sm-docker build . –repository ${REPO}:${IMAGE_NAME}

After these commands, you have a repository and a Docker container image in Amazon ECR for our next step, in which we attach the container image for use in RStudio on SageMaker. Note the image URI in Amazon ECR .dkr.ecr..amazonaws.com/: for later use.

Update RStudio on SageMaker through the console

RStudio on SageMaker allows runtime customization through the use of a custom SageMaker image. A SageMaker image is a holder for a set of SageMaker image versions. Each image version represents a container image that is compatible with RStudio on SageMaker and stored in an Amazon ECR repository. To make a custom SageMaker image available to all RStudio users within a domain, you can attach the image to the domain following the steps in this section.

  1. On the SageMaker console, navigate to the Custom SageMaker Studio images attached to domain page, and choose Attach image.
  2. Select New image, and enter your Amazon ECR image URI.
  3. Choose Next.
  4. In the Image properties section, provide an Image name (required), Image display name (optional), Description (optional), IAM role, and tags.
    The image display name, if provided, is shown in the session launcher in RStudio on SageMaker. If the Image display name field is left empty, the image name is shown in RStudio on SageMaker instead.
  5. Leave EFS mount path and Advanced configuration (User ID and Group ID) as default because RStudio on SageMaker manages the configuration for us.
  6. In the Image type section, select RStudio image.
  7. Choose Submit.

You can now see a new entry in the list. It’s worth noting that, with the introduction of the support of custom RStudio images, you can see a new Usage type column in the table to denote whether an image is an RStudio image or an Amazon SageMaker Studio image.

It may take up to 5–10 minutes for the custom images to be available in the session launcher UI. You can then launch a new R session in RStudio on SageMaker with your custom images.

Over time, you may want to retire old and outdated images. To remove the custom images from the list of custom images in RStudio, select the images in the list and choose Detach.

Choose Detach again to confirm.

Update RStudio on SageMaker via the AWS CLI

The following sections describe the steps to create a SageMaker image and attach it for use in RStudio on SageMaker on the SageMaker console and using the AWS CLI. You can use the sample script create-and-update-image.sh.

Create the SageMaker image and image version

The first step is to create a SageMaker image from the custom container image in Amazon ECR by running the following two commands:

ROLE_ARN= DISPLAY_NAME=RSession-r-4.1.3-rstudio-1.4.1717-3 aws sagemaker create-image –image-name ${IMAGE_NAME} –display-name ${DISPLAY_NAME} –role-arn ${ROLE_ARN} aws sagemaker create-image-version –image-name ${IMAGE_NAME} –base-image “${ACCOUNT_ID}.dkr.ecr.${REGION}.amazonaws.com/${REPO}:${TAG}”

Note that the custom image displayed in the session launcher in RStudio on SageMaker is determined by the input of –display-name. If the optional display name is not provided, the input of –image-name is used instead. Also note that the IAM role allows SageMaker to attach an Amazon ECR image to RStudio on SageMaker.

Create an AppImageConfig

In addition to a SageMaker image, which captures the image URI from Amazon ECR, an app image configuration (AppImageConfig) is required for use in a SageMaker domain. We simplify the configuration for an RSessionApp image so we can just create a placeholder configuration with the following command:

IMAGE_CONFIG_NAME=r-4-1-3-rstudio-1-4-1717-3 aws sagemaker create-app-image-config –app-image-config-name ${IMAGE_CONFIG_NAME}

Attach to a SageMaker domain

With the SageMaker image and the app image configuration created, we’re ready to attach the custom container image to the SageMaker domain. To make a custom SageMaker image available to all RStudio users within a domain, you attach the image to the domain as a default user setting. All existing users and any new users will be able to use the custom image.

For better readability, we place the following configuration into the JSON file default-user-settings.json:

“DefaultUserSettings”: { “RSessionAppSettings”: { “CustomImages”: [ { “ImageName”: “r-4.1.3-rstudio-2022”, “AppImageConfigName”: “r-4-1-3-rstudio-2022” }, { “ImageName”: “r-4.1.3-rstudio-1.4.1717-3”, “AppImageConfigName”: “r-4-1-3-rstudio-1-4-1717-3” } ] } } }

In this file, we can specify the image and AppImageConfig name pairs in a list in DefaultUserSettings.RSessionAppSettings.CustomImages. This preceding snippet assumes two custom images are being created.

Then run the following command to update the SageMaker domain:

aws sagemaker update-domain –domain-id –cli-input-json file://default-user-settings.json

After you update the domaim, it may take up to 5–10 minutes for the custom images to be available in the session launcher UI. You can then launch a new R session in RStudio on SageMaker with your custom images.

Detach images from a SageMaker domain

You can detach images simply by removing the ImageName and AppImageConfigName pairs from default-user-settings.json and updating the domain.

For example, updating the domain with the following default-user-settings.json removes r-4.1.3-rstudio-2022 from the R session launching UI and leaves r-4.1.3-rstudio-1.4.1717-3 as the only custom image available to all users in a domain:

{ “DefaultUserSettings”: { “RSessionAppSettings”: { “CustomImages”: [ { “ImageName”: “r-4.1.3-rstudio-1.4.1717-3”, “AppImageConfigName”: “r-4-1-3-rstudio-1-4-1717-3” } ] } } }

Clean up

To safely remove images and resources in the SageMaker domain, complete the following steps in Clean up image resources.

To safely remove the RStudio on SageMaker and the SageMaker domain, complete the following steps in Delete an Amazon SageMaker Domain to delete any RSessionGateway app, user profile and the domain.

To safely remove images and repositories in Amazon ECR, complete the following steps in Deleting an image.

Finally, to delete the CloudFormation template:

  1. On the AWS CloudFormation console, choose Stacks.
  2. Select the stack you deployed for this solution.
  3. Choose Delete.

Conclusion

RStudio on SageMaker makes it simple for data scientists to build ML and analytic solutions in R at scale, and for administrators to manage a robust data science environment for their developers. Data scientists want to customize the environment so that they can use the right libraries for the right job and achieve the desired reproducibility for each ML project. Administrators need to standardize the data science environment for regulatory and security reasons. You can now create custom container images that meet your organizational requirements and allow data scientists to use them in RStudio on SageMaker.

We encourage you to try it out. Happy developing!

About the Authors

Michael Hsieh is a Senior AI/ML Specialist Solutions Architect. He works with customers to advance their ML journey with a combination of AWS ML offerings and his ML domain knowledge. As a Seattle transplant, he loves exploring the great Mother Nature the city has to offer, such as the hiking trails, scenery kayaking in the SLU, and the sunset at Shilshole Bay.

Declan Kelly is a Software Engineer on the Amazon SageMaker Studio team. He has been working on Amazon SageMaker Studio since its launch at AWS re:Invent 2019. Outside of work, he enjoys hiking and climbing.

Sean MorganSean Morgan is an AI/ML Solutions Architect at AWS. He has experience in the semiconductor and academic research fields, and uses his experience to help customers reach their goals on AWS. In his free time, Sean is an active open-source contributor and maintainer, and is the special interest group lead for TensorFlow Add-ons.



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