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

Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 5, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solution Architect Lab Challenge, Azure Hands-on Labs, Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security, and Much More

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the craziness of Black Friday has died down, it's now time for the busiest season of the year. Whether you're a last-minute shopper or you already have your shopping done, the holidays bring so much more excitement than any other time of year. Since our...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS solution architect
  • AZ-203
  • Azure
  • cyber security
  • FCCS
  • Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— December 4, 2019

Understanding Enterprise Cloud Migration

What is enterprise cloud migration? Cloud migration is about moving your data, applications, and even infrastructure from your on-premises computers or infrastructure to a virtual pool of on-demand, shared resources that offer compute, storage, and network services at scale. Why d...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Data Migration
Wendy Dessler
Wendy Dessler
— November 27, 2019

6 Reasons Why You Should Get an AWS Certification This Year

In the past decade, the rise of cloud computing has been undeniable. Businesses of all sizes are moving their infrastructure and applications to the cloud. This is partly because the cloud allows businesses and their employees to access important information from just about anywhere. ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Certifications
  • certified
Avatar
Andrea Colangelo
— November 26, 2019

AWS Regions and Availability Zones: The Simplest Explanation You Will Ever Find Around

The basics of AWS Regions and Availability Zones We’re going to treat this article as a sort of AWS 101 — it’ll be a quick primer on AWS Regions and Availability Zones that will be useful for understanding the basics of how AWS infrastructure is organized. We’ll define each section,...

Read more
  • AWS
Avatar
Dzenan Dzevlan
— November 20, 2019

Application Load Balancer vs. Classic Load Balancer

What is an Elastic Load Balancer? This post covers basics of what an Elastic Load Balancer is, and two of its examples: Application Load Balancers and Classic Load Balancers. For additional information — including a comparison that explains Network Load Balancers — check out our post o...

Read more
  • ALB
  • Application Load Balancer
  • AWS
  • Elastic Load Balancer
  • ELB
Albert Qian
Albert Qian
— November 13, 2019

Advantages and Disadvantages of Microservices Architecture

What are microservices? Let's start our discussion by setting a foundation of what microservices are. Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other through simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Docker
  • Kubernetes
  • Microservices
Nisar Ahmad
Nisar Ahmad
— November 12, 2019

Kubernetes Services: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud

Kubernetes is a popular open-source container orchestration platform that allows us to deploy and manage multi-container applications at scale. Businesses are rapidly adopting this revolutionary technology to modernize their applications. Cloud service providers — such as Amazon Web Ser...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— October 31, 2019

AWS Internet of Things (IoT): The 3 Services You Need to Know

The Internet of Things (IoT) embeds technology into any physical thing to enable never-before-seen levels of connectivity. IoT is revolutionizing industries and creating many new market opportunities. Cloud services play an important role in enabling deployment of IoT solutions that min...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS IoT Events
  • AWS IoT SiteWise
  • AWS IoT Things Graph
  • IoT
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— October 23, 2019

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, 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 compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Valery Calderón Briz
Valery Calderón Briz
— October 22, 2019

How to Go Serverless Like a Pro

So, no servers? Yeah, I checked and there are definitely no servers. Well...the cloud service providers do need servers to host and run the code, but we don’t have to worry about it. Which operating system to use, how and when to run the instances, the scalability, and all the arch...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Lambda
  • Serverless
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— October 16, 2019

AWS Security: Bastion Hosts, NAT instances and VPC Peering

Effective security requires close control over your data and resources. Bastion hosts, NAT instances, and VPC peering can help you secure your AWS infrastructure. Welcome to part four of my AWS Security overview. In part three, we looked at network security at the subnet level. This ti...

Read more
  • AWS
Avatar
Sudhi Seshachala
— October 9, 2019

Top 13 Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Best Practices

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) brings a host of advantages to the table, including static private IP addresses, Elastic Network Interfaces, secure bastion host setup, DHCP options, Advanced Network Access Control, predictable internal IP ranges, VPN connectivity, movement of interna...

Read more
  • AWS
  • best practices
  • VPC