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 an 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 flexibility 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 manages 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).
New Content: Platforms, Programming, and DevOps – Something for Everyone
This month our team of expert certification specialists released three new or updated learning paths, 16 courses, 13 hands-on labs, and four lab challenges! New content on Cloud Academy You can always visit our Content Roadmap to see what’s just released as well as what’s coming soon....
Mastering AWS Organizations Service Control Policies
Service Control Policies (SCPs) are IAM-like policies to manage permissions in AWS Organizations. SCPs restrict the actions allowed for accounts within the organization making each one of them compliant with your guidelines. SCPs are not meant to grant permissions; you should consider ...
New Content: Focus on DevOps and Programming Content this Month
This month our team of expert certification specialists released 12 new or updated learning paths, 15 courses, 25 hands-on labs, and four lab challenges! New content on Cloud Academy You can always visit our Content Roadmap to see what’s just released as well as what’s coming soon. Ja...
New Content: Get Ready for the CISM Cert Exam & Learn About Alibaba, Plus All the AWS, GCP, and Azure Courses You Know You Can Count On
This month our team of intrepid certification specialists released five learning paths, seven courses, 19 hands-on labs, and three lab challenges! One particularly interesting new learning path is Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) Foundations. After completing this learn...
Which Certifications Should I Get?
The old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and companies. With all that in mind, the s...
The 12 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 cloud computing. As the market leader and most ma...
AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide
Want to take a really impactful step in your technical career? Explore the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certificate. Its new version (SAA-C02) was released on March 23, 2020. The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate Certification (or Sol Arch Associate for short) offers some ...
New Content: AWS Terraform, Java Programming Lab Challenges, Azure DP-900 & DP-300 Certification Exam Prep, Plus Plenty More Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Big Data Courses
This month our Content Team continues building the catalog of courses for everyone learning about AWS, GCP, and Microsoft Azure. In addition, this month’s updates include several Java programming lab challenges and a couple of courses on big data. In total, we released five new learning...
Where Should You Be Focusing Your AWS Security Efforts?
Another day, another re:Invent session! This time I listened to Stephen Schmidt’s session, “AWS Security: Where we've been, where we're going.” Amongst covering the highlights of AWS security during 2020, a number of newly added AWS features/services were discussed, including: AWS Audit...
AWS re:Invent: 2020 Keynote Top Highlights and More
We’ve gotten through the first five days of the special all-virtual 2020 edition of AWS re:Invent. It’s always a really exciting time for practitioners in the field to see what features and services AWS has cooked up for the year ahead. This year’s conference is a marathon and not a...
WARNING: Great Cloud Content Ahead
At Cloud Academy, content is at the heart of what we do. We work with the world’s leading cloud and operations teams to develop video courses and learning paths that accelerate teams and drive digital transformation. First and foremost, we listen to our customers’ needs and we stay ahea...
Excelling in AWS, Azure, and Beyond – How Danut Prisacaru Prepares for the Future
Meet Danut Prisacaru. Danut has been a Software Architect for the past 10 years and has been involved in Software Engineering for 30 years. He’s passionate about software and learning, and jokes that coding is basically the only thing he can do well (!). We think his enthusiasm shines t...