Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, AppNeta Blog, PagerDuty Blog, Stackify Blog, Dynatrace Blog

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that SD Times | BZ Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and commercial UAV markets.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. 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.
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 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 ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, will discuss the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information,
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...
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, will discuss some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and relate how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material will be delivered i...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy 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 worldw...
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, will provide a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services ...
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.