Posts Tagged 'Amazon AWS'

Cloud Computing in Canada

As I return from my vacation and prepare for my upcoming class in Ottawa I have been thinking about the current state of affairs regarding cloud computing in Canada. I love cloud computing and I love Canada. It is only natural that these two things should find their way into a blog post!

Firstly, none of the major cloud providers have yet seen fit to physically host a data center in the Great White North. Why that is I don’t know. Perhaps it is just too gosh danged cold.  Secondly, some organizations in Canada have a concern that their data not be hosted in the U.S. So where does that leave us? Certainly some organizations in Canada could use a public cloud service like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure. Alternatively they could choose to host their own private cloud.

None of this has anything to do with technology, of course. Legal and regulatory compliance will be the bane of cloud computing. Given enough time, I believe, regulatory requirements will expand to fill the all the space available.

Does that mean, neighbors to the North, that you should turn your back on cloud computing? Absolutely not!

There is a technology there and there is a there, there. Stay focused on the technology. Cloud computing does offer returns that are heretofore unforeseen in IT. On-demand provisioning, self-service access, pay-as-you-go service are but some of the benefits.

That said there are at least some noteworthy Canadian cloud computing providers:

Still, ultimately, the choice of a public cloud provider comes down to trust (but certainly not blind trust!). Canadian, American or other, the choice is yours. Who do you trust?

For me, myself, personally (and professionally), I think I can trust Amazon. Why? Do I think they will rip me off? No. Do I think they will lose my data? No. Do I think they will somehow do a worse job of protecting my data than others (or I) can do? No, I do not.

So, I encourage you to embrace the Public Cloud where it is appropriate for your organization. Regardless of where you are in the world I believe that you can utilize public cloud offerings (even those hosted in the U.S.) to your benefit.

Kevin Kell

Billing Alerts Help Prevent Surprise Bills

Recently I was travelling from my home town Leicester to London by train for a meeting with a consulting client. I arrived at the train station at 6am for a 6.30am train, purchased a ticket and then heard an announcement that the train drivers were on strike and a very limited service was running. A little frustrated I went to the train companies Web site to see if any schedule of this limited service was available only to be greeted by the screen below.

My immediate thought was that this could easily have been averted with the use of the auto scaling of cloud computing which works perfectly in such times of large spikes of traffic to a Web application.

Autoscaling of resources is a great facility but it is not as straightforward as maybe first appears. Technically, it requires configuration on most cloud services. Take for instance Amazon’s AWS. Here a load balancer must be configured and then the CloudWatch service must be enabled with thresholds set for scaling up and down the number of server instances. Added to this there are business concerns too. The obvious one being how much the services will really cost in any particular month. We could be happily running our systems, but at what financial cost ?

Cloud services such as Amazon and Microsoft do not enable the setting of spending thresholds, although Google’s App Engine does. This means paying by credit card or by invoice may result in a surprise at the end of each month–the bill may be much larger than expected if usage is large. As a user of Amazon AWS, my company have been aware of this for some time and regularly check our billing data for abnormal patterns. We were thus delighted to hear that Amazon have now announced billing alerts. This service allows you to configure spending thresholds which when reached for any particular service will send you an immediate notification. This means that you will be aware as soon as spending is above your accepted limit and can take appropriate action at that time. The billing service makes use of the standard CloudWatch alarms and Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) for sending alerts. The free monthly usage tier of CloudWatch is 10 alarms and unto 1000 email notifications can be sent before charges are incurred. This facility is a much needed and welcome addition to the Amazon Web Service portfolio.

If you would like to understand more about cloud computing, consider attending Learning Tree’s course, Cloud Computing Technologies:  A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction,  which provides a thorough coverage of the business and technical benefits of cloud computing as well as exposure to the products from the major vendors. For those looking to use Amazon Web Services, Learning Tree also have an excellent four day hands-on Amazon Web Services course where the lower level details of using and integrating these services are covered.

Hope to see you at one of these courses soon.

Chris Czarnecki

Amazon AWS Releases Beanstalk for .NET

I have written about Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk for Java and more recently for PHP. This Platform as a Service (PaaS) is incredibly good and eliminates the need for much of the traditional administration required when running Web applications. For Java and PHP developers, as well as Ruby, Python and other languages, there is a wide choice of PaaS available from different vendors, which means that there is no fear of vendor lock-in when selecting a PaaS.

For .NET developers, the choice of PaaS has been limited to Microsoft Azure, or as of this week, Cloud Services. This is not a reason not to use the Azure PaaS, but with little competition, price , quality and performance, pressures do not come so readily to bear as when the market is competitive. Using other cloud vendors for deploying .NET applications, such as Amazon, means using their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) where servers are provisioned and configured behind a load balancer. This leaves all responsibility for updates and patches on server software with the end user–something PaaS eliminates. Today the landscape changes significantly for the better for .NET developers. Amazon announced the release (in Beta) of Elastic Beanstalk for .NET. This is a significant move by Amazon in the PaaS market and provides, immediately, a proven deployment platform for .NET application deployment.

Beanstalk for .NET uses Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual machines with IIS 7.5 installed for hosting the .NET applications. The AWS toolkit for Visual Studio enables the development of standard .NET Web applications, including Web Forms and ASP.NET MVC, and via the toolkit these applications can be deployed to Beanstalk. There is no additional cost for using Beanstalk. You just pay for the AWS resources provisioned. By default this is a micro instance machine and a load balancer. For new accounts a micro instance is free for the first year.

For anybody wanting to use SQL Server in the cloud, SQL Azure, or as its known as of this week, SQL Database has been a zero administration solution. Again this has changed as of this week as Amazon have announced that it has expanded its Relational Data Service–a Cloud managed database service offering MySQL and Oracle to now also include Microsoft SQL Server. Multiple editions including Express, Web, Standard and Enterprise Editions of SQL Server 2008 R2 are available, and support for SQL Server 2012 will be available later this year. For organisations that already have licenses for SQL Server, Amazon has a “bring your own license” agreement where you pay just for the compute on an hourly basis. If you are not familiar with Amazon’s RDS, it handles the administrative side of databases, that is, the deploying, scaling, patching, and backing up  as part of the price plan.

So in summary, Amazon’s releases relating to Microsoft products is a direct, proven alternative to Microsoft’s cloud services, which enable developers to work with their standard tools, build applications using proven techniques and deploy with minimal effort. It will be interesting to see how this pushes Microsoft, both on pricing and innovation. My own view is that Amazon may well have just eaten Microsoft’s lunch in the PaaS and relational data area of Cloud Computing.

Chris Czarnecki

Amazon MarketPlace: The Future of Software

A few days ago I wrote about the UK Government’s CloudStore, a central service where cloud service providers can register and sell their software and services to UK government. I have also recently posted several blog entries about Amazon AWS. Today I find myself posting about Amazon again as they release another new service but this time it’s a little different. They have announced AWS Marketplace, an online store for cloud software that is similar to CloudStore but for all software purchasers.

What excites me about AWS Marketplace is that as a software vendor myself, who deploys to Amazon AWS, is that this is an instant, easy marketing tool for our software. As a purchaser of software, I have a focus point to find relevant software that can be purchased on a pay-as-you-use basis with no worries about hosting, scaling, etc. The work of installing and running the enterprise class software on Amazon AWS has been completed by the vendors or solution providers. This, to me, is the future of software. The AWS Marketplace brings to software the same simple, secure, shopping experience that many of us enjoy on the Amazon e-commerce store.

Let’s take a look at AWS Marketplace in more detail. The current products are in three main categories:

    • Software Infrastructure
    • Developer Tools
    • Business Software

In each of these categories there are many subcategories. Let’s take an example and look at the benefits of this service. My personal software company develops primarily Java-based enterprise applications. To host this, one option is IBM’s WebSphere. We recognise the power of this environment but due to costs we have not been able to deploy to this platform whilst remaining competitive to our customers. This has now changed. On AWS Marketplace we can now run WebSphere for between $0.79 and $1.49 per hour. This price include EC2 instance costs but not data transfer costs. This is incredibly cost effective and is just an example of how small and medium sized organisations can now access enterprise software that until now has been the privilege of large businesses. Other software organisations such as SAP and Sage also have products on the marketplace. The marketplace also offers a number of open source software configurations as well as commercial.

For software vendors, Amazon is a great place to sell products too. Amazon provides access to hundreds of thousands of potential customers in 190 countries and handles all the difficult things like billing and metering. To maintain quality, Amazon are careful who they let publish to the marketplace. Organisations must have a proven track record with a history of satisfied customers as well as stable products.

In summary, Amazon have released a new service that is sure to change not only the way we buy software, but also what software we use. For this I am extremely excited and grateful. They have provided me with access to software I could not use before.

Chris Czarnecki

Amazon and Eucalyptus Partnership: A Boost for Hybrid Cloud Development

I was extremely pleased to hear that Amazon and Eucalyptus have partnered to provide formal support of their common API’s. I am certain I will not be the only one who finds this news exciting. Anyone who has attended Learning Tree’s Introduction to Cloud Computing course will have gained hands-on experience of working with a Eucalyptus private cloud. They will have learned the capabilities of this cloud and that Eucalyptus have an API that is compatible with Amazon AWS. This formal support agreement will enable the expansion of the API as well as the formality of the partnership bringing great credibility to the Eucalyptus cloud software.

Many organisations make use – or could make significant use – of on-premise (private) clouds as well as public clouds. Doing so often requires different toolsets and technical skills for efficient working. This partnership will now enable a uniform toolset and skill set to be used to access both the private and public clouds. Because of the wide range of services Amazon AWS provides, a wide range of infrastructure configurations could be rapidly self-provisioned including on-premise Eucalyptus and Amazon private cloud, on-premise Eucalyptus and Amazon public cloud or a mixture of on-premise Eucalyptus and Amazon public and private clouds.

Why would a mixture of on-premise Eucalyptus and Amazon cloud services be required ? There are many reasons for this. For instance, for periods of peak demand, where the on-premise infrastructure may not be sufficient, Amazon could be used to provide the extra required capacity. Another may be that services not provided by Eucalyptus are required but are available on Amazon and so Amazon is used. Some services may be better deployed to an Amazon cloud than on-premise – for security reasons. There are many, many reasons why a hybrid solution may be the preferred solution. What is clear is that this partnership, will, in my opinion, make the decisions easier to make because of the transparent switch from one to the other based on the common API’s and toolsets.

For anybody interested in learning more about Cloud Computing, the different types of cloud configurations, the way they can integrate – or not – consider attending Learning Tree’s Introduction to Cloud Computing course. Here you will gain an exposure to a wide variety of cloud computing products and services and importantly their strengths and weaknesses – all from a vendor neutral view. For Amazon AWS you will get a coverage of the services provided and also for Eucalyptus together with experience of using the toolsets to provision resources from these clouds. For related courses, check out Cloud Computing with Amazon Web Services and Implementing a Private Cloud Solution.

Chris Czarnecki

Demystifying Private Cloud Computing

Last week I was on a consulting assignment for a client that is interested in cloud computing but concerned about the security of the cloud. A private cloud is something that could clearly benefit this organisation but then the question arose about how they would provision and deploy a solution and what would the skill requirements be for their staff. Further discussions then lead to considerations such as how big should the private cloud be so that it could cater for peaks in demand as well as future growth. What was clear was that this organisation was considering hosting the private cloud themselves and had not even considered using a third party supplier to provide the private cloud.

Our discussion widened to Amazon AWS and their Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). This is an incredibly powerful private cloud solution that enables the provision of an isolated section of the Amazon AWS cloud. The real power of the Amazon VPC is that it enables the configuration of a network topology that resembles a traditional on premise network with sub networks exposed to Internet access and others totally isolated from Internet access with multiple layers of security including security groups and access control lists. In addition a hardware Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection can be made from the on premise data centres to the VPC resources enabling the Amazon VPC to provide an extension to the corporate data centre that scales on demand.

What is clear is that the power of private cloud computing is not being exploited by many organisations, often due to the misconception that they must be on-premise. To help demystify private cloud computing, Learning Tree have developed a 4 day hands-on course Implementing a Private Cloud Solution that covers in great detail the possibilities that private cloud computing offers together with hands-on exposure to the products from the major vendors. If you are interested in private cloud computing, why not consider attending. If you would like to know more about Amazon AWS and the Amazon VPC why not consider Learning Tree’s 4 day Amazon AWS course.

Chris Czarnecki

Amazon S3 Object Expiration

Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) is a low cost storage solution for storing all types of data. Examples of its usage include static resources on dynamic Web applications. For instance, my company places all images for our Web applications on S3. This reduces the load on the application servers leaving them free to deal with the requests for dynamic data. Images are uploaded to an S3 bucket – an entity that is created on S3 to hold your data. Each bucket has a unique url, that can them be mapped to a CNAME for the domain where the main application is hosted. Such an approach is simple and very cost effective with current rates for S3 storage being $0.14 per GB. Other costs include requests (PUT, POST, GET etc) which are $0.01 per 1000 requests and data transfer out which is free for the first GB and then starts at $0.12 per GB.

Another use for S3 is for storing application log files. One of the down sides here is that over a period of time log files build up and after a certain point they are no longer needed. On self managed servers these files are normally compressed and ultimately removed by logrotate or a similar facility. This can be made to work for S3 but requires a lot of scripting to achieve. Today, Amazon released an object expiration facility for s3 storage. This is an elegant solution to automatically deleting S3 storage objects when they are no longer required. Log files are a perfect example for where this service is invaluable. From the AWS management console, object expiration rules will be able to be configured. When the rules match the objects that match the rule will be automatically deleted.

Chris Czarnecki

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