Amazon Web Services

My boss has gotten enthusiastic about AWS recently. We’ve messed around with a bit with in on a couple of projects, and also just for testing. We used a Linux EC2 instance for the Gisgraphy project I blogged about a while back. And we would up using a dedicated Windows EC2 instance for the gas finder site that we put up after Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to that, I’ve done some experimenting with RDS (for SQL Server) and Elastic Beanstalk. I was initially enthusiastic about both, but, once I got to working with them, I saw enough limitations that I decided to back off. RDS is a nice way to have a low-maintenance SQL Server in the cloud, but the main limitation I found was the inability to easily get a local backup of a large database loaded onto it, and vice versa. While there are ways to get data in and out of RDS, of course, there’s no support for standard SQL backups and restores, to (and from) .bak files. The recommended approach is to script the db out to T-SQL, using the standard export capability, but given the size and complexity of some of our databases, that’s just not workable.

And, as for Elastic Beanstalk, it’s a nice way to get a single ASP.NET application up and running on EC2, with a pre-configured load balancer, but we really don’t have any single site that would benefit from that, and easily fit into that model.

For now, we’ve tentatively decided to move some of our stuff up to AWS, using a few EC2 instances, but really that won’t be much different than what we’re doing now (external hosting on a managed server at PEER1). The main difference will be that we’re planning on breaking some stuff up so that we’ll have a few smaller instances, so we can scale them as needed, and we’ll have the option of spinning up a second copy of the instance running our web service, if needed. I’m not really sure how all this will work out, but I’ll blog more as we go forward, if I learn anything that seems like it would be worth sharing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching this screencast series on AWS. Unfortunately, I’ve found that it’s mostly covering ground that I’ve already figured out on my own. But, if you’re new to AWS, and want a guided tour, included a (somewhat leisurely) look at some cloud basics, this might be for you.

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