Some months ago, I shared my first impressions about Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). On the one hand I was fascinated by the new technical possibilities of cloud computing, on the other hand I was quite disappointed by Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) simplistic command line interface. As if they heard my complaints, Amazon released the beta version of its AWS Management Console a few weeks later. Ever since, I have been very anxious to have a look at this new cloud management tool.
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Cloud computing for Windows admins ^
I think, the new user interface will make Amazon's cloud more attractive for Windows shops. Even if cloud computing is not an option for your organization at the moment, it can't be wrong for an IT pro to stay in the touch with the latest developments in the cloud computing field. The AWS Management Console now makes it easy for every admin who has experience with virtualization solutions to get started with cloud computing.
I will summarize my impressions of AWS Management Console in four articles. However, I will only cover its feature with regard to EC2. The tool also supports Amazon Elastic MapReduce and Amazon CloudFront, which are both services that are not of primary interest to Windows admins.
Overview of the AWS Management console ^
When I first tried EC2, which belongs to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) family, I was quite surprised that a "web service" comes without a web-browser-based user interface. EC2 had to be managed with the Amazon API command tools, a set of Java utilities. These tools are still required because the AWS Management Console doesn't offer all the features of the command tools.
However, the web interface now supports the most important functions: Launch/reboot/terminate Instances (virtual machines), bundle Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) (create your own virtual machine images), manage Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (create and delete virtual disks), manage Elastic IPs (allocate and attach IPs to virtual machines), manage Security Groups (configure firewall settings for Instances), and manage Key Pairs (crypto keys required to access Instances).
Public AMIs ^
The number of AMIs seems to have increased since my last test. However, most of them are public images created by EC2 users. These images are not really helpful for productive environments because Amazon doesn't guarantee that they are reliable or secure. Amazon itself only provides a few images. I was surprised that they still don't offer Windows Server 2008 AMIs. All images are based on Windows Server 2003. I wouldn't expect them to offer Windows Server 2008 R2 anytime soon because the situation doesn't look any better for Linux. EC2 officially only supports Fedora 8 images. The current Fedora version is 11! However, Fedora 8 is still supported by the Fedora Project and the kernel and the packages of the images I tried were up to date. It is also possible to install your own operating system, but this will be the topic of another article.
In the next post in this series, I will describe how an Instance, i.e. a virtual machine, can be configured and launched with the AWS Management Console.