The right application deployment tools can make the process more effective. But choosing can be a challenge.
It’s no secret that coding and deploying complex web applications is a tricky business. Visualizing the most efficient process and structural design needed to get your product out the door can be the toughest task of all. So choosing the right tools to help you along is critical. But which tools to choose is often by no means obvious.
AWS offers three distinct services aimed at simplifying and automating project deployment and management: Elastic Beanstalk, CloudFormation, and OpsWorks. Why three deployment tools? Because each service offers its own unique features and workflow style that’s ideal for different sets of contexts.
Since I’ve personally always found distinguishing between the use-cases of each of these services a little intimidating, I’ll share what I’ve learned over time (AWS has a FAQ offering an overview of their set of deployment tools from a OpsWorks perspective). Hopefully, you’ll add your own hard-earned observations in the comments.
Deployment tools: Elastic Beanstalk
Elastic Beanstalk is probably the easiest of the three to describe. For all intents and purposes, all you need to do is provide your application code created in one of a dozen or so platforms (Ruby, PHP, Node.js, Docker, etc.) and Beanstalk will pretty much invisibly build the necessary AWS infrastructure around it. You don’t need to get your hands dirty in administration but, to allow all that to happen, you give up some flexibilty and control.
Ideal customer: development teams that don’t want to know about anything that even smells like IP addressing schemes.
Greatest strength: simplicity.
Deployment tools: CloudFormation
CloudFormation is all about JSON formatted templates. AWS describes it as a “building block service that enables customers to provision and manage almost any AWS resource.”
You have to choose your environment tier (web app or worker) and the AWS resources your application will use (EC2 instance and EBS volume types, RDS engine, etc), so you’ll definitely have more configuration work up front. But the payoff comes in the power of fully scripted deployments and, (as I’ve seen it described) an effectively automatically documented infrastructure. CloudFormation also allows you to directly integrate Git repos into your workflow.
Ideal customer: people with projects for which the ability to reliably and predictably reproduce an environment is important.
Greatest strength: scripting (templates).
Deployment tools: OpsWorks
Conceptually, OpsWorks is probably the hardest of these three services to properly digest. It’s built on a framework of stacks and layers. The project, at the top level, is defined by its stack which, in turn, is made up of layers. Each layer is essentially one or more EC2 instances running a pre-defined service like, for instance, a PHP/Apache web server. OpsWorks built-in layers, which on their own are somewhat narrow in scope, can be customized using chef recipes…but that could add a significant learning curve to the mix. I think it’s fair to characterize OpsWorks as the most hands-on of AWS’s three deployment services, and therefore the most complex.
Ideal customer: developers who need to quickly model application configurations. Being able to easily swap layers in and out can speed up and improve that process.
Greatest strength: a balance of the simplicity of Elastic Beanstalk and the flexibility of CloudFormation (if that description is helpful).
WaitCondition Controls the Pace of AWS CloudFormation Templates
AWS's WaitCondition can be used with CloudFormation templates to ensure required resources are running.As you may already be aware, AWS CloudFormation is used for infrastructure automation by allowing you to write JSON templates to automatically install, configure, and bootstrap your ...
The 9 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?
As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud.As the market leader and most mature p...
Two New EC2 Instance Types Announced at AWS re:Invent 2018 – Monday Night Live
The announcements at re:Invent just keep on coming! Let’s look at what benefits these two new EC2 instance types offer and how these two new instances could be of benefit to you. If you're not too familiar with Amazon EC2, you might want to familiarize yourself by creating your first Am...
Google Cloud Certification: Preparation and Prerequisites
Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has evolved from being a niche player to a serious competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. In 2018, research firm Gartner placed Google in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for the first time. In t...
Understanding AWS VPC Egress Filtering Methods
In order to understand AWS VPC egress filtering methods, you first need to understand that security on AWS is governed by a shared responsibility model where both vendor and subscriber have various operational responsibilities. AWS assumes responsibility for the underlying infrastructur...
S3 FTP: Build a Reliable and Inexpensive FTP Server Using Amazon’s S3
Is it possible to create an S3 FTP file backup/transfer solution, minimizing associated file storage and capacity planning administration headache?FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a fast and convenient way to transfer large files over the Internet. You might, at some point, have conf...
Microservices Architecture: Advantages and Drawbacks
Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other through simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).Microservices have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The modular architectural style,...
What Are Best Practices for Tagging AWS Resources?
There are many use cases for tags, but what are the best practices for tagging AWS resources? In order for your organization to effectively manage resources (and your monthly AWS bill), you need to implement and adopt a thoughtful tagging strategy that makes sense for your business. The...
How to Optimize Amazon S3 Performance
Amazon S3 is the most common storage options for many organizations, being object storage it is used for a wide variety of data types, from the smallest objects to huge datasets. All in all, Amazon S3 is a great service to store a wide scope of data types in a highly available and resil...
How to Optimize Cloud Costs with Spot Instances: New on Cloud Academy
One of the main promises of cloud computing is access to nearly endless capacity. However, it doesn’t come cheap. With the introduction of Spot Instances for Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (AWS EC2) in 2009, spot instances have been a way for major cloud providers to sell sp...
What are the Benefits of Machine Learning in the Cloud?
A Comparison of Machine Learning Services on AWS, Azure, and Google CloudArtificial intelligence and machine learning are steadily making their way into enterprise applications in areas such as customer support, fraud detection, and business intelligence. There is every reason to beli...
How to Use AWS CLI
The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) is for managing your AWS services from a terminal session on your own client, allowing you to control and configure multiple AWS services.So you’ve been using AWS for awhile and finally feel comfortable clicking your way through all the services....