AWS Deployment Tools: Choosing the Right Application Service

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).

Avatar

Written by

David Clinton

A Linux system administrator with twenty years' experience as a high school teacher, David has been around the industry long enough to have witnessed decades of technology trend predictions; most of them turning out to be dead wrong.


Related Posts

Amanda Cross
Amanda Cross
— January 7, 2021

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— December 17, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS re:Invent
  • cloud security
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— December 4, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Glue Elastic Views
  • AWS re:Invent
Bryony Harrower
Bryony Harrower
— November 6, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • GCP
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 25, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • careers
  • champions
  • upskilling
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 14, 2020

New Content: AWS Data Analytics – Specialty Certification, Azure AI-900 Certification, Plus New Learning Paths, Courses, Labs, and More

This month our Content Team released two big certification Learning Paths: the AWS Certified Data Analytics - Speciality, and the Azure AI Fundamentals AI-900. In total, we released four new Learning Paths, 16 courses, 24 assessments, and 11 labs.  New content on Cloud Academy At any ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 15, 2020

New Content: Azure DP-100 Certification, Alibaba Cloud Certified Associate Prep, 13 Security Labs, and Much More

This past month our Content Team served up a heaping spoonful of new and updated content. Not only did our experts release the brand new Azure DP-100 Certification Learning Path, but they also created 18 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At any time, y...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 28, 2020

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 12 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Patrick Navarro
Patrick Navarro
— August 25, 2020

Overcoming Unprecedented Business Challenges with AWS

From auto-scaling applications with high availability to video conferencing that’s used by everyone, every day —  cloud technology has never been more popular or in-demand. But what does this mean for experienced cloud professionals and the challenges they face as they carve out a new p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Cloud Adoption
  • digital transformation
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 18, 2020

Constant Content: Cloud Academy’s Q3 2020 Roadmap

Hello —  Andy Larkin here, VP of Content at Cloud Academy. I am pleased to release our roadmap for the next three months of 2020 — August through October. Let me walk you through the content we have planned for you and how this content can help you gain skills, get certified, and...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Content updates
  • DevOps
  • GCP
  • Google Cloud
  • New content
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 5, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure AZ-303 and AZ-304, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Foundation, Python 3 Programming, 16 Hands-on Labs, and Much More

This month our Content Team did an amazing job at publishing and updating a ton of new content. Not only did our experts release the brand new AZ-303 and AZ-304 Certification Learning Paths, but they also created 16 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 16, 2020

Blog Digest: Which Certifications Should I Get?, The 12 Microsoft Azure Certifications, 6 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach, and More

This month, we were excited to announce that Cloud Academy was recognized in the G2 Summer 2020 reports! These reports highlight the top-rated solutions in the industry, as chosen by the source that matters most: customers. We're grateful to have been nominated as a High Performer in se...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs