Tool up to make the most of Amazon Web Services (AWS)

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Adopting and making the most of AWS or other public cloud platforms will almost certainly require investment in new tools. In general, Datacom recommends that organisations have a tooling strategy that focuses on tools with API-based integration capabilities. This avoids the lock-in that some proprietary tools cause, which constrains customisation, adds complexity and hampers agility. For optimal outcomes in a hybrid cloud environment, it is better to use API-based tools – large or small – that enable cross-cloud platform integration alongside native AWS tools.

In public cloud operations, a new method of engagement is necessary to match the tectonic shift in focus from hardware to software that the platform engenders. Engineers no longer have direct access to infrastructure so they view servers through a portal and use software to control things. This means some people may need to adopt a new mentality and update their skills substantially. They need to move away from traditional, manual, GUI-based methods of monitoring and control to using scripts and coding to enable process automation and managing by exception.

This means that using start-up and shutdown scripts should be a goal for operations teams. Alongside this, server health checks are required to ensure performance. AWS provides native tools to help with such tasks. For instance, AWS Lambda enables task scheduling that can be utilised in conjunction with scripts to wake up servers, get them to perform a job, and then shut them down – all automatically.

Other native tools worth noting include:

  • AWS Service Catalog – allows organisations to centrally build and manage commonly-used and compliant catalogues of IT services – comprised of a range of components, from virtual machines and databases to complex application architectures. Once built, these IT services can be deployed automatically and repeatedly, in one click, saving time on development and management, and helping to avoid sprawl
  • AWS Trusted Advisor – another useful tool for making the most of AWS, it reports on cost optimisation, performance and compliance issues, and recommends ways to improve these things
  • AWS Inspector – provides an automated security assessment and rule-based compliance service at the application level

Monitoring tools have new challenges with public cloud: not all were built for this environment. For example, more machines are usually required in public cloud compared with on-premise (to account for machines switching off from time to time) to provide the same service. This means that, if monitoring agents are placed on all AWS machines, they may produce too many alerts to handle. And monitoring costs may go up. So monitoring in AWS needs a new approach, and to be tested and fine-tuned over time.

Organisations should also assess their approaches to data backup as they adopt AWS. In a hybrid cloud situation, this isn’t a simple task. For backup, as with monitoring, a mixture of traditional and native AWS tools may be the best option – at least in the short term. Although backing up cloud-ready applications may be relatively straightforward in AWS, replicating traditional enterprise backup methodologies in this environment without a dramatic increase in cost is challenging.

Looking at development in particular, AWS has a multitude of tools to support continuous integration and continuous delivery, including CodeDeploy, CodePipeline and CodeCommit, and supports an array of coding languages via APIs. Using the platform and its native tools in combination with a DevOps approach to developing cloud-ready applications for the platform can result in faster, cheaper and more efficient development processes compared with developing on-premise.

The recommendations above are among many others made in our new free white paper, How to make the most of Amazon Web Services, which is available to download. It’s based on years of experience working in partnership with AWS on projects of all sizes for a wide range of organisations.

As an AWS Managed Service Provider, Datacom is at the front line of new innovations in AWS and evolving best practice, as well as changes to pricing, SLAs and other aspects of the platform. We have AWS operations specialists, with blended software and infrastructure skills, who manage, for customers, applications that we have architected to take advantage of the unique features of AWS.

We are therefore in an ideal position to help customers across a wide range of areas related to AWS, including development and operations, designing and building cloud architecture, and integrating and managing complex hybrid cloud and/or multi-cloud environments.

For even more information and advice on how your organisation can take full advantage of AWS, please contact us on cloud@datacom.co.nz or cloud@datacom.com.au.

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