AWS, DevOps

It has been more than a decade since AWS was launched by Amazon. AWS began at a time when infrastructure was confined to hardware servers. Virtualisation was on the horizon, but VMware had not yet hit the mainstream.

Fast-forward to today, and AWS has pioneered the move to virtualisation in the cloud. It innovates at a pace that keeps it ahead of the competition. It is the leading cloud vendor, and its endless list of features and services puts it head and shoulders above other platform options for DevOps.

Let’s look at some of the features of AWS that make it the leading cloud provider for any DevOps team.

AWS CloudFormation

DevOps teams create and retire cloud instances and services much more frequently than traditional development teams. This requires a programmatic way to handle infrastructure. That’s what AWS CloudFormation enables. It allows you to define a ‘template’ of AWS resources like EC2 instances, ECS containers, and S3 storage buckets you’d like to create, and sets up the entire stack without you having to stitch everything together yourself. With powerful automation rules, you can tightly control how much AWS resources you use, all done programmatically.

AWS ECS

While EC2 instances are the most common type of instance type AWS customers use, AWS was quick to spot the rise of containers and responded with their EC2 Container Service (ECS). It lets you run containers inside EC2 instances. The advantage of this option is that it lets you leverage the mature security and management features that you’re already familiar with as an AWS customer. Also, you only pay for the EC2 instances, and storage you use to run ECS containers. This makes the move to containers seamless.

AWS CodePipeline

CodePipeline is another revolutionary feature from AWS that simplifies the way you manage your CI/CD toolset. It integrates with tools like GitHub, Jenkins, and CodeDeploy enabling you to visually control the flow of app updates from build to production. It splits your entire application lifecycle into a number of stages with each stage consisting of an action that would be initiated on your code. As you push a build to the Git repository CodePipeline initiates the sequence of actions, and passes your code to each consecutive stage automatically. CodePipeline not only lets you automate your application delivery, but importantly, makes it effortless to manage the automation.

AWS CloudWatch

AWS CloudWatch is a capable monitoring tool for AWS resources. It tracks every AWS resource you use, and provides performance data in a unified console. CloudWatch Logs lets you view detailed logs for deeper troubleshooting. And if you’d like to use a third-party monitoring tool like Sumo Logic or PagerDuty, that’s easy to do as well. With the numerous services in the AWS universe, it’s easy to lose track of usage and end up with a hefty bill at the end of the month, but with CloudWatch alerts, you can set limits on your resources and optimize your spend continually.  

Flexible instance types & billing

With around 60 instances as of this writing, and more being added every few months, AWS boasts of a wide variety of instance types. Azure is equally diverse with around 80 instances. By comparison, Google Cloud has a meagre number of around 20 machine types.  

AWS instances range from the smallest t2.nano instances (with 0.5 GiB of memory) to powerful GPU instances. At the most recent re:Invent conference, AWS announced their most powerful instance yet—the F1. These instances include field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that you can use to create custom hardware accelerations for your application.

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Source: HardwareZone.com

AWS also has a complex but extremely flexible billing system. It allows short-term billing by the hour for EC2 instances, letting you to scale up and down without any commitment. On the other hand, if you’d like to save on costs, you can opt for a long-term ‘Reserved’ instance, which comes with a one-year or three-year lock-in, and substantial discounts of up to 75%. You can also bid for ‘Spot’ instances as they are available and enjoy a discount of up to 45%.

With a wide range of instance types, and a pricing model to suit teams of every size, AWS is a great choice for DevOps teams that don't want to compromise on performance, or flexibility. 

The broadest suite of services

The list of AWS services is truly extensive, with services ranging from core EC2 instances to the experimental GameLift.

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Source: Amazon.com

As shown in the red box above, AWS’s core services include offerings for compute instances (EC2), data storage (S3), networking (VPC), and databases (RDS). This is where AWS makes most of its money, and these services are foundational to any DevOps stack.

In the blue box, there’s a huge list of complementary services that perform various functions like monitoring (Cloudwatch), infrastructure creation and configuration (CloudFormation), DevOps pipeline management (codepipeline), continuous delivery (CodeDeploy), notification (SNS), and streaming data (Kinesis).

The complementary services are what set AWS apart from the competition. Whether it’s development, QA, or Ops, there are tools to fit into every part of the DevOps lifecycle. These services are so well integrated that it feels like controlling your infrastructure from a single pane of glass. DevOps tooling is all about tying together numerous tools towards the common goals of continuous integration and continuous delivery. In that sense, AWS provides the most comprehensive and well-integrated suite of DevOps tools available in a single platform.

Serverless computing redefines Ops

One of the most successful new products of AWS is Lambda, allowing you to deploy apps as functions without having to worry about provisioning and maintaining servers. This frees up DevOps teams to focus exclusively on building new features for their apps.

This doesn’t mean Ops has been replaced; rather, Lambda enables a different way of managing infrastructure. Lambda automates infrastructure management and deployment, but needs oversight. You will still have to troubleshoot error logs, deal with failed deployments, and secure your system against vulnerabilities. All this takes traditional Ops expertise packaged differently for a modern app architecture.

The role of Ops has always evolved. The DevOps movement has blurred the lines between Dev and Ops, but Ops hasn’t gone away—it has merely taken on a new form. Lambda is the next step in that evolution.

Conclusion

With integrated monitoring and container solutions, flexible instance types and pricing models, a complementary suite of services and innovative AWS Lambda functions, AWS is a universe of DevOps tools that’s ever-expanding. It’s no stretch of the imagination to call AWS the leading cloud platform for DevOps today.

AWS is highly cost-effective, but only if you’re using the correct instances for your workloads! Save at least 10% on your AWS bill by following our tips and tricks – including a video demo of how to automatically start up and shut down instances using AWS Lambda! Read the blog here

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