Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Sematext Blog, Janakiram MSV, Jim Malone

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
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
Pulzze Systems was happy to participate in such a premier event and thankful to be receiving the winning investment and global network support from G-Startup Worldwide. It is an exciting time for Pulzze to showcase the effectiveness of innovative technologies and enable them to make the world smarter and better. The reputable contest is held to identify promising startups around the globe that are assured to change the world through their innovative products and disruptive technologies. There w...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th 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 devices - comp...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Is the ongoing quest for agility in the data center forcing you to evaluate how to be a part of infrastructure automation efforts? As organizations evolve toward bimodal IT operations, they are embracing new service delivery models and leveraging virtualization to increase infrastructure agility. Therefore, the network must evolve in parallel to become equally agile. Read this essential piece of Gartner research for recommendations on achieving greater agility.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.