My experiences with AWS Chennai workshop

Today (10-Nov-2009) I have experienced many new things in my life. First to mention, being an inhabitant of Chennai only after five years of industry experience, today is my first day to visit Tidel Park, Chennai.  Also today I have my first time exposure to Amazon Web Services (AWS). It is a good workshop that opened my eyes towards many new technical jargons. In this blog, I am trying to capture most of the items that are discussed today. Most of the things captured here are from my notes (or from top of my head), so they are going to be keywords rather than detailed explanations.

Amazon evangelist Jinesh Varia, after taking us through an introduction to Cloud Computing and its advantages talked about various cloud offerings from Amazon . In his words, Cloud Computing is one in which everything from storage, computing to network are accessed through APIs. APIs are exposed in REST, Query or SOAP/XML based.  For java developers, he has shown bunch of tools (sorry I couldn’t make note of everything) that comes handy, few to mention are typica, Eclipse Plug-in. I am able to grab one of his slides from slideshare. Jinesh also spent good time in explaining about the key offerings from AWS like

  • S3 – Distributed redundant storage
  • EBS – Elastic Block storage
  • Amazon simple DB – Light weight database, indexed and query able database. However it is not a relational database.
  • Amazon Relation Data Service – It is a MySQL relation database service
  • Amazon SQS – I don’t have a proper definition of it, but from my understanding it is a Q that passes messages between applications/computers. It should be analogous to JMS queue
  • EC2 – Virtual computation servers. It is where we create the instance that we need for processing. I see this as the heart of AWS.
  • Elastic IP Address – Static IP Addresses for virtual instances in clouds. 8kMiles CTO, one of the participants mentioned this as “Pay when you don’t use” 🙂
  • Amazon Mechanical turk – It is work force in the cloud. I need to research, what is needed to join this work force 🙂

Jinesh also mentioned about EBS snapshot and EBS load balancing. To understand most of these items I try to find an analogy out of the things I know. So, I think EBS snapshot should be like a virtual machine snapshot but former is all about data in S3.

We had a good time playing in clouds. Thanks to Amazon, for giving us a temporary account to play with clouds. After installing S3Fox a Firefox plug-in, working with S3 is almost like working in windows explorer as shown in Figure 1

S3 Fox

Figure 1 - View of S3Fox

You can create buckets by right clicking on the cloud area (right upper part of the window). A bucket (directory) is a container that contains objects (files). Clicking on create directory shows a new window for entering bucket name and its location details as shown in Figure 2

Creating Bucket

Figure 2 - Creating Bucket

As the buckets are created you can go into any of those buckets and upload files from local folder to those buckets thereby to S3 clouds. It is also possible to change access permission of the files in the cloud as you do for files in windows

Editing ACL

FIgure 3 - Editing ACL

Once a file is available in the cloud you will be able to access globally using normal http or through the exposed APIs, provided you have permission.

Now it’s time to play with EC2. We have installed Elastic Fox, yet another Firefox plug-in to play with EC2. Using Elastic Fox anyone could create an instance of Windows/Ubuntu/LAMP/WordPress (anything you name) instances in no time. In Amazon jargon these are called as AMI, Amazon Machine Image.

ElasticFox listing AMI

Figure 4 - ElasticFox listing AMI

I created one Windows 2003 R2 Datacenter edition server and I am able to successfully RDP to it. I am on Cloud9 when I am working on EC2 cloud for the first time :). I am able to successfully run windows update in the virtual server running on the cloud. Even from my home network (128Mbps) I am having a good user experience (no delays or hiccups) with EC2 clouds. I searched for a Windows 7 AMI but I am not able to get one :). When you create an instance you will be able to assign access groups and also configure services that need to be started.   Here is a short video on how to create EC2 instances using ElasticFox
After seeing all this, I swear in future (not too far) there won’t be any system administrators, everyone will be cloud administrators. In no time I thought this, Jinesh told us about Chef tool which is mainly designed for system administrators.

Here are some of sites that use AWS

and many more like Salesforce.com, 8kmiles.com. Some other resources worth mentioning here are Eucalyptus (analogous to EC2), Walrun (analogous to S3) and Apache Hadoop

Before ending the workshop Jinesh has taken us through the “Migration Guidelines” and “Best Practices” that we need to follow when we work on cloud. Very few items, from the top of my head

  1. First migrate all your static contents to the cloud
  2. If you backup on tape drives then you can export it to Amazon S3 storage. Amazon provides an export backup offer, where you ship the entire content in hard disk to Amazon and Amazon will load it in to the S3. This is extremely useful for users who are starting with S3 and having large amount of data to be exported to S3 but with limited network bandwidth
  3. Migrate you application modules to EC2 instances, definitely after doing POC
  4. Create Amazon SQS to interface between your EC2 instances
  5. Create proxies to interface with some legacy applications

Warning: These are really very few that are on top of my head and they might not be 100% perfect too. So I request you to take this as keys and search for more in Google. I also heard that Jinesh is writing white papers on these topics. So keep watch on that too.

After the conference we had a short un-conference section from RailsFactory, 8kmiles, CSS corp, Market Simplified, XlSoft, Hover.in, Vembu and Anantara representatives. We ended up the section with a nice cool video, which you too should watch (be sure you listen to lyrics, they are shown at the bottom too)

Hope the blog is informative. Without your feedback the blog is not complete, so please comment on your feedback. I will feel guilty if I close this without thanking my friend Sree for making me aware of this event. Thanks Sree!!

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5 Responses

  1. Thanks Veerabahu!
    Excellent and balanced summary of the event.
    Very happy to see the screen cast, and being in Cloud9, I know the feeling!

    Yay! to you.

    -Balaji S.

  2. Wonderful summary.

  3. Let us demystify the jargons and have our own use case very soon.

    Very useful post.

  4. Thanks for the post, great to look up this.

  5. […] is an excellent summary of Jinesh’s session by Veerabahu ( […]

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