Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Mike Wood, Mehdi Daoudi, Mark Leake, Todd Matters, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud Computing Expo: How to Port an Application to EC2

Using the cloud for pay-as-you-go hosting

Mike Brittain's Blog

There are a variety of notions to how cloud computing is defined. I tend to think that what this really boils down to is the ability to procure hardware or services that you wouldn’t normally have access to in a physical sense. Rather than buying 20 new servers, you can spin them up on-demand, and also dump them whenever you want. It’s the “utility” or “pay-as-you-go” model.

I don’t see any difference between spinning up one server to run some prototypes, or spinning up 100 to crunch through a huge data set. People seem to be getting caught up in the notion that unless you are doing some sort of parallel processing with lots of nodes, you aren’t doing “cloud computing”. I disagree.

I also don’t believe that virtualization is necessarily the same as cloud computing. To me, virtualization means that you’re essentially splitting up fixed resources you already have into smaller chunks for other people to use. This is your accounting and human resources departments sharing space on the same machine, but keeping them logically partitioned. Providers are now selling virtualization under the cloud label. But if I have to buy (or rent) 20 physical machines to virtualize into slices, then I’m still committed to 20 machines. If I need more or fewer resources, I may need to work through a contract or serve out a lease term. It’s no longer pay-as-you-go, it’s a major expenditure.

Software as a Service

I love the software as a service model. I like having someone else running a database or mail service so that I don’t have to hire a team or own the plant to support it. With the service being off-site, I don’t have to worry about local disasters (though be sure to watch out for providers without their own SLA or disaster recovery plans). Our clients are again becoming thin. Laptops will have fewer and fewer local applications installed, and simply access various online applications and databases.

Again, pay as you go.

Additionally, fewer staff to manage services in-house. This means you won’t/can’t strangle your sysadmin when hosted email goes down for six hours. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

The best part about this model, though, is that you focus your own resources on what you’re best at. Does an online marketing agency need to know how to administer an Exchange server? Or should that be outsourced to a company that has the expertise to run mail for over a hundred other companies?

Cloud != Scale

This seems like a typical misconception: If I build my application on a cloud computing platform, then it will automatically scale. Environments like EC2 provide the ability to scale your application horizontally. Your application, however, still needs to be able to benefit from horizontal scaling. If you can only handle 5 concurrent users per node, then adding more boxes isn’t going to get you to 10,000 users very quickly. This seems obvious, but many people are still missing this point.

I don’t think there are many case studies yet of companies with applications “in the cloud” who also have suffered large amounts of traffic. And when we do see more of these applications, they will tend to have been built by early adopters who are probably experts in their fields. These cloud services are not yet open and approachable enough so that you have your average developer poking around and building applications that have the DNA for failure. Google has done a good job with promoting AppEngine using videos and hack-a-thons.

Decent architecture is always going to be foundational for scale. Your application has to benefit from the availability of additional nodes.

Redundancy and Planning for Failure

Amazon gets a lot of heat when S3 goes down, or when Gmail is unavailable. This is all a lot of finger pointing, especially by people have not started using cloud services — The “I told you so” crowd. Truth be told, the day after the recent S3 outage, my company had an application that was offline for nearly the same amount of time as S3’s outage. Are we any better? No.

It’s incredibly important to have a failover option for your own application. Before I left Heavy, we designed our storage on S3 so that it could be replicated to physical disks that we have at RackSpace. When S3 went out, we just flipped over to the physical disks. Eventually there will be a time when we don’t have enough disk to store what we keep at S3. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be replicated to another cloud storage service.

Consider having a backup hosting service in place, either physical or using another cloud provider. Your physical service could be provided by a managed hosting provider, or on some other dedicated hardware outside of your own office. You don’t need to own your own servers for a backup solution.

If you don’t have much money to spend on physical machines to host your fully operating site or application, think about how you can reduce the site to a version that can be hosted on a minimal number of servers. Can you maintain a read-only backup? Can you host a backup of your most popular content (i.e. the top 5%), and temporarily turn off access to the rest of the site?

Abstraction Layers

Something that I have talked a lot about, but haven’t had enough time to spend building, is a good abstraction layer on top of cloud storage. Everyone seems to have slightly different APIs. On the other hand, about 85% of the features overlap from provider to provider. Why not write an abstraction layer to handle the 85% and use multiple services? This could probably work pretty well for flipping back and forth between (or replicating amongst) various cloud storage services like S3, CloudFS, Nirvanix, and also physical disks.

I don’t know many details about SimpleDB and AppEngine’s datastore, but it seems to me that you may be able to apply this 85% rule to those as well. You could probably even treat MySQL and PostgreSQL the same way. You couldn’t use all of the joins and transactions you normally would want to use, but then again, writing an application specifically for cloud computing platforms seems to be a different sort of animal. We’ve basically been doing the same thing for years with the so-called database abstraction layers. You can say that you’ve got a layer that allows you to flip from one database engine to another, but chances are, you have some engine-specific code that you’ve been using that doesn’t translate well.

Porting an Application to EC2

I ported an application at Heavy that ran on physical machines we had available at RackSpace onto EC2. How much effort did it take for the application developers? Almost none. We didn’t buy into using SimpleDB — we just ran MySQL on EC2 instances. We split our team so that we had a couple of us building a few tools for managing our EC2 instances, and the other developers went about their business building a web application that could run on a standard LAMP stack. Additionally, if EC2 ever goes out of commission, we have the code and databases backed. They can easily be deployed to physical machines.

It’s worth saying this again… I ported an application from physical machines to the cloud. This application was not written for a specific cloud service. We were very concerned about lock-in from the beginning.

Conclusions

What did we gain by hosting our application on EC2? Initially nothing. We had the physical machines to run the application. But as our traffic increases, we can fire up new instances on demand. If traffic drops off, so does out monthly bill. It’s variable cost web hosting.

Does hosting your application on EC2 solve scaling problems? No. If you can’t improve performance of your application by adding additional servers, then there are bottlenecks to solve. Running your service on the cloud doesn’t mean it scales.

Furthermore, the cloud is not self-healing. In other words, it doesn’t automatically monitor your application and grow your infrastructure. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t build your application to do this. Read Don MacAskill’s SkyNet posting (http://blogs.smugmug.com/don/2008/06/03/skynet-lives-aka-ec2-smugmug/) to get some idea of how that can work.

I look forward to reading your comments.

More Stories By Mike Brittain

Mike Brittain is the engineering architect at CafeMom. He has over a decade of experience in LAMP development, and has become involved in cloud computing and mobile phone applications over the last two years. His other projects include One tsp., a recipe management site, and planning his next big ski trip.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
When growing capacity and power in the data center, the architectural trade-offs between server scale-up vs. scale-out continue to be debated. Both approaches are valid: scale-out adds multiple, smaller servers running in a distributed computing model, while scale-up adds fewer, more powerful servers that are capable of running larger workloads. It’s worth noting that there are additional, unique advantages that scale-up architectures offer. One big advantage is large memory and compute capacity...
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.