Last monday I participated in the AWS User Groups Event in Paris (perfectly organized by Ysance!). The goal of those series of events all around the world is to bring together users, potential users, and folks interested in what AWS (Amazon Web Services) is all about. It’s obvious that Europe clearly lags behind the US concerning the usage of cloud infrastructure services. But things are moving! Let’s have a look at those that already use it and the experience they share. The event took around 5 hours and consisted of presentations with case-studies and technical insights. My interest focuses on the motivation to start an AWS based project, the tools used, the benefits, and the problems encountered.
Two projects (sncf-voyage, Maporama) used EC2 because the delay to buy or allocate the necessary hardware from internal IT, external suppliers or even hosters took was not compatible with an ambitious project deadline. Scaling – to deal with growth and temporary peaks – was the motivation for Blogbang and cafe.com to migrate to EC2. The ease to adapt the infrastructure to a sophisticated and distributed architecture performing time-consuming background tasks made Silentale stick to EC2 after a prototyping and testing phase.
One thing that striked me was that almost every AWS user present used some own scripting facilities or built some own utilities to manage, monitor, and automate his platform. Even Excel is part of the game. Among cloud infrastructure management tools the AWS console, ElasticFox, and even the EC2 command line tools are being used. For server monitoring, Nagios and Zabbix were mentionned, for visualization Cacti, for automation Puppet and Capistrano. Interesting for me that consolidated billing and reserved instances were considered as ways to deal with the complexity induced by an important number of virtual machines (if I understood well, the largest EC2 infrastructure in France has around 100 machines).
Frederic Faure from Ysance gave an interesting presentation on the tools they recommend and how they work together. IT4Control recently migrated their existing workflow management platform to EC2. Guillaume Plessis showed a detailed performance comparison between Amazon RDS and MySQL running with EBS (slides). And Attila Narin from AWS talked about the patterns guiding the AWS platform.
Here’s what I picked up from the presentations and discussions on the benefits and positive experiences with AWS:
- agility: cloud infrastructures are the perfect complement to agile development
- scaling and dealing with varying load
- no more nead for IT to negociate and deal with different hardware and network suppliers
- merging of staging and production environments: cloud infrastructures allow to incrementally improve and stabilize staging deployments until they are production ready and then to easily switch them into production by updating the DNS (and destroying the original production environment)
- constant innovation, improvements, and new features on the AWS platform
- the power of the API
Issues and Wishes
- Security and legal concerns: features like integrated data encryption, API audit logs
- Management and monitoring: Amazon UI’s lack to manage many instances, storages, or S3 buckets; integration with Cacti/Nagios like tools; changing security groups require restart of instance; API for billing
- Performance: performance of large database support; varying network and disk performance; varying CPU performance based on the processor of the underlying physical machine
- Other: IT is no longer a differentiator; the Microsoft world is not as well supported as the Linux world; lack of documentation and possibility to find consultant partners
Thanks again for this great event, sure to be back next time in October!