Tag Archives: templates

Manage Kubernetes Clusters on AWS Using CoreOS Tectonic

Post Syndicated from Arun Gupta original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/kubernetes-clusters-aws-coreos-tectonic/

There are multiple ways to run a Kubernetes cluster on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The first post in this series explained how to manage a Kubernetes cluster on AWS using kops. This second post explains how to manage a Kubernetes cluster on AWS using CoreOS Tectonic.

Tectonic overview

Tectonic delivers the most current upstream version of Kubernetes with additional features. It is a commercial offering from CoreOS and adds the following features over the upstream:

  • Installer
    Comes with a graphical installer that installs a highly available Kubernetes cluster. Alternatively, the cluster can be installed using AWS CloudFormation templates or Terraform scripts.
  • Operators
    An operator is an application-specific controller that extends the Kubernetes API to create, configure, and manage instances of complex stateful applications on behalf of a Kubernetes user. This release includes an etcd operator for rolling upgrades and a Prometheus operator for monitoring capabilities.
  • Console
    A web console provides a full view of applications running in the cluster. It also allows you to deploy applications to the cluster and start the rolling upgrade of the cluster.
  • Monitoring
    Node CPU and memory metrics are powered by the Prometheus operator. The graphs are available in the console. A large set of preconfigured Prometheus alerts are also available.
  • Security
    Tectonic ensures that cluster is always up to date with the most recent patches/fixes. Tectonic clusters also enable role-based access control (RBAC). Different roles can be mapped to an LDAP service.
  • Support
    CoreOS provides commercial support for clusters created using Tectonic.

Tectonic can be installed on AWS using a GUI installer or Terraform scripts. The installer prompts you for the information needed to boot the Kubernetes cluster, such as AWS access and secret key, number of master and worker nodes, and instance size for the master and worker nodes. The cluster can be created after all the options are specified. Alternatively, Terraform assets can be downloaded and the cluster can be created later. This post shows using the installer.

CoreOS License and Pull Secret

Even though Tectonic is a commercial offering, a cluster for up to 10 nodes can be created by creating a free account at Get Tectonic for Kubernetes. After signup, a CoreOS License and Pull Secret files are provided on your CoreOS account page. Download these files as they are needed by the installer to boot the cluster.

IAM user permission

The IAM user to create the Kubernetes cluster must have access to the following services and features:

  • Amazon Route 53
  • Amazon EC2
  • Elastic Load Balancing
  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon VPC
  • Security groups

Use the aws-policy policy to grant the required permissions for the IAM user.

DNS configuration

A subdomain is required to create the cluster, and it must be registered as a public Route 53 hosted zone. The zone is used to host and expose the console web application. It is also used as the static namespace for the Kubernetes API server. This allows kubectl to be able to talk directly with the master.

The domain may be registered using Route 53. Alternatively, a domain may be registered at a third-party registrar. This post uses a kubernetes-aws.io domain registered at a third-party registrar and a tectonic subdomain within it.

Generate a Route 53 hosted zone using the AWS CLI. Download jq to run this command:

ID=$(uuidgen) && \
aws route53 create-hosted-zone \
--name tectonic.kubernetes-aws.io \
--caller-reference $ID \
| jq .DelegationSet.NameServers

The command shows an output such as the following:

[
  "ns-1924.awsdns-48.co.uk",
  "ns-501.awsdns-62.com",
  "ns-1259.awsdns-29.org",
  "ns-749.awsdns-29.net"
]

Create NS records for the domain with your registrar. Make sure that the NS records can be resolved using a utility like dig web interface. A sample output would look like the following:

The bottom of the screenshot shows NS records configured for the subdomain.

Download and run the Tectonic installer

Download the Tectonic installer (version 1.7.1) and extract it. The latest installer can always be found at coreos.com/tectonic. Start the installer:

./tectonic/tectonic-installer/$PLATFORM/installer

Replace $PLATFORM with either darwin or linux. The installer opens your default browser and prompts you to select the cloud provider. Choose Amazon Web Services as the platform. Choose Next Step.

Specify the Access Key ID and Secret Access Key for the IAM role that you created earlier. This allows the installer to create resources required for the Kubernetes cluster. This also gives the installer full access to your AWS account. Alternatively, to protect the integrity of your main AWS credentials, use a temporary session token to generate temporary credentials.

You also need to choose a region in which to install the cluster. For the purpose of this post, I chose a region close to where I live, Northern California. Choose Next Step.

Give your cluster a name. This name is part of the static namespace for the master and the address of the console.

To enable in-place update to the Kubernetes cluster, select the checkbox next to Automated Updates. It also enables update to the etcd and Prometheus operators. This feature may become a default in future releases.

Choose Upload “tectonic-license.txt” and upload the previously downloaded license file.

Choose Upload “config.json” and upload the previously downloaded pull secret file. Choose Next Step.

Let the installer generate a CA certificate and key. In this case, the browser may not recognize this certificate, which I discuss later in the post. Alternatively, you can provide a CA certificate and a key in PEM format issued by an authorized certificate authority. Choose Next Step.

Use the SSH key for the region specified earlier. You also have an option to generate a new key. This allows you to later connect using SSH into the Amazon EC2 instances provisioned by the cluster. Here is the command that can be used to log in:

ssh –i <key> [email protected]<ec2-instance-ip>

Choose Next Step.

Define the number and instance type of master and worker nodes. In this case, create a 6 nodes cluster. Make sure that the worker nodes have enough processing power and memory to run the containers.

An etcd cluster is used as persistent storage for all of Kubernetes API objects. This cluster is required for the Kubernetes cluster to operate. There are three ways to use the etcd cluster as part of the Tectonic installer:

  • (Default) Provision the cluster using EC2 instances. Additional EC2 instances are used in this case.
  • Use an alpha support for cluster provisioning using the etcd operator. The etcd operator is used for automated operations of the etcd master nodes for the cluster itself, in addition to for etcd instances that are created for application usage. The etcd cluster is provisioned within the Tectonic installer.
  • Bring your own pre-provisioned etcd cluster.

Use the first option in this case.

For more information about choosing the appropriate instance type, see the etcd hardware recommendation. Choose Next Step.

Specify the networking options. The installer can create a new public VPC or use a pre-existing public or private VPC. Make sure that the VPC requirements are met for an existing VPC.

Give a DNS name for the cluster. Choose the domain for which the Route 53 hosted zone was configured earlier, such as tectonic.kubernetes-aws.io. Multiple clusters may be created under a single domain. The cluster name and the DNS name would typically match each other.

To select the CIDR range, choose Show Advanced Settings. You can also choose the Availability Zones for the master and worker nodes. By default, the master and worker nodes are spread across multiple Availability Zones in the chosen region. This makes the cluster highly available.

Leave the other values as default. Choose Next Step.

Specify an email address and password to be used as credentials to log in to the console. Choose Next Step.

At any point during the installation, you can choose Save progress. This allows you to save configurations specified in the installer. This configuration file can then be used to restore progress in the installer at a later point.

To start the cluster installation, choose Submit. At another time, you can download the Terraform assets by choosing Manually boot. This allows you to boot the cluster later.

The logs from the Terraform scripts are shown in the installer. When the installation is complete, the console shows that the Terraform scripts were successfully applied, the domain name was resolved successfully, and that the console has started. The domain works successfully if the DNS resolution worked earlier, and it’s the address where the console is accessible.

Choose Download assets to download assets related to your cluster. It contains your generated CA, kubectl configuration file, and the Terraform state. This download is an important step as it allows you to delete the cluster later.

Choose Next Step for the final installation screen. It allows you to access the Tectonic console, gives you instructions about how to configure kubectl to manage this cluster, and finally deploys an application using kubectl.

Choose Go to my Tectonic Console. In our case, it is also accessible at http://cluster.tectonic.kubernetes-aws.io/.

As I mentioned earlier, the browser does not recognize the self-generated CA certificate. Choose Advanced and connect to the console. Enter the login credentials specified earlier in the installer and choose Login.

The Kubernetes upstream and console version are shown under Software Details. Cluster health shows All systems go and it means that the API server and the backend API can be reached.

To view different Kubernetes resources in the cluster choose, the resource in the left navigation bar. For example, all deployments can be seen by choosing Deployments.

By default, resources in the all namespace are shown. Other namespaces may be chosen by clicking on a menu item on the top of the screen. Different administration tasks such as managing the namespaces, getting list of the nodes and RBAC can be configured as well.

Download and run Kubectl

Kubectl is required to manage the Kubernetes cluster. The latest version of kubectl can be downloaded using the following command:

curl -LO https://storage.googleapis.com/kubernetes-release/release/$(curl -s https://storage.googleapis.com/kubernetes-release/release/stable.txt)/bin/darwin/amd64/kubectl

It can also be conveniently installed using the Homebrew package manager. To find and access a cluster, Kubectl needs a kubeconfig file. By default, this configuration file is at ~/.kube/config. This file is created when a Kubernetes cluster is created from your machine. However, in this case, download this file from the console.

In the console, choose admin, My Account, Download Configuration and follow the steps to download the kubectl configuration file. Move this file to ~/.kube/config. If kubectl has already been used on your machine before, then this file already exists. Make sure to take a backup of that file first.

Now you can run the commands to view the list of deployments:

~ $ kubectl get deployments --all-namespaces
NAMESPACE         NAME                                    DESIRED   CURRENT   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
kube-system       etcd-operator                           1         1         1            1           43m
kube-system       heapster                                1         1         1            1           40m
kube-system       kube-controller-manager                 3         3         3            3           43m
kube-system       kube-dns                                1         1         1            1           43m
kube-system       kube-scheduler                          3         3         3            3           43m
tectonic-system   container-linux-update-operator         1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   default-http-backend                    1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   kube-state-metrics                      1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   kube-version-operator                   1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   prometheus-operator                     1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-channel-operator               1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-console                        2         2         2            2           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-identity                       2         2         2            2           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-ingress-controller             1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-monitoring-auth-alertmanager   1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-monitoring-auth-prometheus     1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-prometheus-operator            1         1         1            1           40m
tectonic-system   tectonic-stats-emitter                  1         1         1            1           40m

This output is similar to the one shown in the console earlier. Now, this kubectl can be used to manage your resources.

Upgrade the Kubernetes cluster

Tectonic allows the in-place upgrade of the cluster. This is an experimental feature as of this release. The clusters can be updated either automatically, or with manual approval.

To perform the update, choose Administration, Cluster Settings. If an earlier Tectonic installer, version 1.6.2 in this case, is used to install the cluster, then this screen would look like the following:

Choose Check for Updates. If any updates are available, choose Start Upgrade. After the upgrade is completed, the screen is refreshed.

This is an experimental feature in this release and so should only be used on clusters that can be easily replaced. This feature may become a fully supported in a future release. For more information about the upgrade process, see Upgrading Tectonic & Kubernetes.

Delete the Kubernetes cluster

Typically, the Kubernetes cluster is a long-running cluster to serve your applications. After its purpose is served, you may delete it. It is important to delete the cluster as this ensures that all resources created by the cluster are appropriately cleaned up.

The easiest way to delete the cluster is using the assets downloaded in the last step of the installer. Extract the downloaded zip file. This creates a directory like <cluster-name>_TIMESTAMP. In that directory, give the following command to delete the cluster:

TERRAFORM_CONFIG=$(pwd)/.terraformrc terraform destroy --force

This destroys the cluster and all associated resources.

You may have forgotten to download the assets. There is a copy of the assets in the directory tectonic/tectonic-installer/darwin/clusters. In this directory, another directory with the name <cluster-name>_TIMESTAMP contains your assets.

Conclusion

This post explained how to manage Kubernetes clusters using the CoreOS Tectonic graphical installer.  For more details, see Graphical Installer with AWS. If the installation does not succeed, see the helpful Troubleshooting tips. After the cluster is created, see the Tectonic tutorials to learn how to deploy, scale, version, and delete an application.

Future posts in this series will explain other ways of creating and running a Kubernetes cluster on AWS.

Arun

From Data Lake to Data Warehouse: Enhancing Customer 360 with Amazon Redshift Spectrum

Post Syndicated from Dylan Tong original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/from-data-lake-to-data-warehouse-enhancing-customer-360-with-amazon-redshift-spectrum/

Achieving a 360o-view of your customer has become increasingly challenging as companies embrace omni-channel strategies, engaging customers across websites, mobile, call centers, social media, physical sites, and beyond. The promise of a web where online and physical worlds blend makes understanding your customers more challenging, but also more important. Businesses that are successful in this medium have a significant competitive advantage.

The big data challenge requires the management of data at high velocity and volume. Many customers have identified Amazon S3 as a great data lake solution that removes the complexities of managing a highly durable, fault tolerant data lake infrastructure at scale and economically.

AWS data services substantially lessen the heavy lifting of adopting technologies, allowing you to spend more time on what matters most—gaining a better understanding of customers to elevate your business. In this post, I show how a recent Amazon Redshift innovation, Redshift Spectrum, can enhance a customer 360 initiative.

Customer 360 solution

A successful customer 360 view benefits from using a variety of technologies to deliver different forms of insights. These could range from real-time analysis of streaming data from wearable devices and mobile interactions to historical analysis that requires interactive, on demand queries on billions of transactions. In some cases, insights can only be inferred through AI via deep learning. Finally, the value of your customer data and insights can’t be fully realized until it is operationalized at scale—readily accessible by fleets of applications. Companies are leveraging AWS for the breadth of services that cover these domains, to drive their data strategy.

A number of AWS customers stream data from various sources into a S3 data lake through Amazon Kinesis. They use Kinesis and technologies in the Hadoop ecosystem like Spark running on Amazon EMR to enrich this data. High-value data is loaded into an Amazon Redshift data warehouse, which allows users to analyze and interact with data through a choice of client tools. Redshift Spectrum expands on this analytics platform by enabling Amazon Redshift to blend and analyze data beyond the data warehouse and across a data lake.

The following diagram illustrates the workflow for such a solution.

This solution delivers value by:

  • Reducing complexity and time to value to deeper insights. For instance, an existing data model in Amazon Redshift may provide insights across dimensions such as customer, geography, time, and product on metrics from sales and financial systems. Down the road, you may gain access to streaming data sources like customer-care call logs and website activity that you want to blend in with the sales data on the same dimensions to understand how web and call center experiences maybe correlated with sales performance. Redshift Spectrum can join these dimensions in Amazon Redshift with data in S3 to allow you to quickly gain new insights, and avoid the slow and more expensive alternative of fully integrating these sources with your data warehouse.
  • Providing an additional avenue for optimizing costs and performance. In cases like call logs and clickstream data where volumes could be many TBs to PBs, storing the data exclusively in S3 yields significant cost savings. Interactive analysis on massive datasets may now be economically viable in cases where data was previously analyzed periodically through static reports generated by inexpensive batch processes. In some cases, you can improve the user experience while simultaneously lowering costs. Spectrum is powered by a large-scale infrastructure external to your Amazon Redshift cluster, and excels at scanning and aggregating large volumes of data. For instance, your analysts maybe performing data discovery on customer interactions across millions of consumers over years of data across various channels. On this large dataset, certain queries could be slow if you didn’t have a large Amazon Redshift cluster. Alternatively, you could use Redshift Spectrum to achieve a better user experience with a smaller cluster.

Proof of concept walkthrough

To make evaluation easier for you, I’ve conducted a Redshift Spectrum proof-of-concept (PoC) for the customer 360 use case. For those who want to replicate the PoC, the instructions, AWS CloudFormation templates, and public data sets are available in the GitHub repository.

The remainder of this post is a journey through the project, observing best practices in action, and learning how you can achieve business value. The walkthrough involves:

  • An analysis of performance data from the PoC environment involving queries that demonstrate blending and analysis of data across Amazon Redshift and S3. Observe that great results are achievable at scale.
  • Guidance by example on query tuning, design, and data preparation to illustrate the optimization process. This includes tuning a query that combines clickstream data in S3 with customer and time dimensions in Amazon Redshift, and aggregates ~1.9 B out of 3.7 B+ records in under 10 seconds with a small cluster!
  • Guidance and measurements to help assess deciding between two options: accessing and analyzing data exclusively in Amazon Redshift, or using Redshift Spectrum to access data left in S3.

Stream ingestion and enrichment

The focus of this post isn’t stream ingestion and enrichment on Kinesis and EMR, but be mindful of performance best practices on S3 to ensure good streaming and query performance:

  • Use random object keys: The data files provided for this project are prefixed with SHA-256 hashes to prevent hot partitions. This is important to ensure that optimal request rates to support PUT requests from the incoming stream in addition to certain queries from large Amazon Redshift clusters that could send a large number of parallel GET requests.
  • Micro-batch your data stream: S3 isn’t optimized for small random write workloads. Your datasets should be micro-batched into large files. For instance, the “parquet-1” dataset provided batches >7 million records per file. The optimal file size for Redshift Spectrum is usually in the 100 MB to 1 GB range.

If you have an edge case that may pose scalability challenges, AWS would love to hear about it. For further guidance, talk to your solutions architect.

Environment

The project consists of the following environment:

  • Amazon Redshift cluster: 4 X dc1.large
  • Data:
    • Time and customer dimension tables are stored on all Amazon Redshift nodes (ALL distribution style):
      • The data originates from the DWDATE and CUSTOMER tables in the Star Schema Benchmark
      • The customer table contains attributes for 3 million customers.
      • The time data is at the day-level granularity, and spans 7 years, from the start of 1992 to the end of 1998.
    • The clickstream data is stored in an S3 bucket, and serves as a fact table.
      • Various copies of this dataset in CSV and Parquet format have been provided, for reasons to be discussed later.
      • The data is a modified version of the uservisits dataset from AMPLab’s Big Data Benchmark, which was generated by Intel’s Hadoop benchmark tools.
      • Changes were minimal, so that existing test harnesses for this test can be adapted:
        • Increased the 751,754,869-row dataset 5X to 3,758,774,345 rows.
        • Added surrogate keys to support joins with customer and time dimensions. These keys were distributed evenly across the entire dataset to represents user visits from six customers over seven years.
        • Values for the visitDate column were replaced to align with the 7-year timeframe, and the added time surrogate key.

Queries across the data lake and data warehouse 

Imagine a scenario where a business analyst plans to analyze clickstream metrics like ad revenue over time and by customer, market segment and more. The example below is a query that achieves this effect: 

The query part highlighted in red retrieves clickstream data in S3, and joins the data with the time and customer dimension tables in Amazon Redshift through the part highlighted in blue. The query returns the total ad revenue for three customers over the last three months, along with info on their respective market segment.

Unfortunately, this query takes around three minutes to run, and doesn’t enable the interactive experience that you want. However, there’s a number of performance optimizations that you can implement to achieve the desired performance.

Performance analysis

Two key utilities provide visibility into Redshift Spectrum:

  • EXPLAIN
    Provides the query execution plan, which includes info around what processing is pushed down to Redshift Spectrum. Steps in the plan that include the prefix S3 are executed on Redshift Spectrum. For instance, the plan for the previous query has the step “S3 Seq Scan clickstream.uservisits_csv10”, indicating that Redshift Spectrum performs a scan on S3 as part of the query execution.
  • SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY
    Statistics for Redshift Spectrum queries are stored in this table. While the execution plan presents cost estimates, this table stores actual statistics for past query runs.

You can get the statistics of your last query by inspecting the SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY table with the condition (query = pg_last_query_id()). Inspecting the previous query reveals that the entire dataset of nearly 3.8 billion rows was scanned to retrieve less than 66.3 million rows. Improving scan selectivity in your query could yield substantial performance improvements.

Partitioning

Partitioning is a key means to improving scan efficiency. In your environment, the data and tables have already been organized, and configured to support partitions. For more information, see the PoC project setup instructions. The clickstream table was defined as:

CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE clickstream.uservisits_csv10
…
PARTITIONED BY(customer int4, visitYearMonth int4)

The entire 3.8 billion-row dataset is organized as a collection of large files where each file contains data exclusive to a particular customer and month in a year. This allows you to partition your data into logical subsets by customer and year/month. With partitions, the query engine can target a subset of files:

  • Only for specific customers
  • Only data for specific months
  • A combination of specific customers and year/months

You can use partitions in your queries. Instead of joining your customer data on the surrogate customer key (that is, c.c_custkey = uv.custKey), the partition key “customer” should be used instead:

SELECT c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, t.prettyMonthYear, SUM(uv.adRevenue)
…
ON c.c_custkey = uv.customer
…
ORDER BY c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, uv.yearMonthKey  ASC

This query should run approximately twice as fast as the previous query. If you look at the statistics for this query in SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY, you see that only half the dataset was scanned. This is expected because your query is on three out of six customers on an evenly distributed dataset. However, the scan is still inefficient, and you can benefit from using your year/month partition key as well:

SELECT c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, t.prettyMonthYear, SUM(uv.adRevenue)
…
ON c.c_custkey = uv.customer
…
ON uv.visitYearMonth = t.d_yearmonthnum
…
ORDER BY c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, uv.visitYearMonth ASC

All joins between the tables are now using partitions. Upon reviewing the statistics for this query, you should observe that Redshift Spectrum scans and returns the exact number of rows, 66,270,117. If you run this query a few times, you should see execution time in the range of 8 seconds, which is a 22.5X improvement on your original query!

Predicate pushdown and storage optimizations 

Previously, I mentioned that Redshift Spectrum performs processing through large-scale infrastructure external to your Amazon Redshift cluster. It is optimized for performing large scans and aggregations on S3. In fact, Redshift Spectrum may even out-perform a medium size Amazon Redshift cluster on these types of workloads with the proper optimizations. There are two important variables to consider for optimizing large scans and aggregations:

  • File size and count. As a general rule, use files 100 MB-1 GB in size, as Redshift Spectrum and S3 are optimized for reading this object size. However, the number of files operating on a query is directly correlated with the parallelism achievable by a query. There is an inverse relationship between file size and count: the bigger the files, the fewer files there are for the same dataset. Consequently, there is a trade-off between optimizing for object read performance, and the amount of parallelism achievable on a particular query. Large files are best for large scans as the query likely operates on sufficiently large number of files. For queries that are more selective and for which fewer files are operating, you may find that smaller files allow for more parallelism.
  • Data format. Redshift Spectrum supports various data formats. Columnar formats like Parquet can sometimes lead to substantial performance benefits by providing compression and more efficient I/O for certain workloads. Generally, format types like Parquet should be used for query workloads involving large scans, and high attribute selectivity. Again, there are trade-offs as formats like Parquet require more compute power to process than plaintext. For queries on smaller subsets of data, the I/O efficiency benefit of Parquet is diminished. At some point, Parquet may perform the same or slower than plaintext. Latency, compression rates, and the trade-off between user experience and cost should drive your decision.

To help illustrate how Redshift Spectrum performs on these large aggregation workloads, run a basic query that aggregates the entire ~3.7 billion record dataset on Redshift Spectrum, and compared that with running the query exclusively on Amazon Redshift:

SELECT uv.custKey, COUNT(uv.custKey)
FROM <your clickstream table> as uv
GROUP BY uv.custKey
ORDER BY uv.custKey ASC

For the Amazon Redshift test case, the clickstream data is loaded, and distributed evenly across all nodes (even distribution style) with optimal column compression encodings prescribed by the Amazon Redshift’s ANALYZE command.

The Redshift Spectrum test case uses a Parquet data format with each file containing all the data for a particular customer in a month. This results in files mostly in the range of 220-280 MB, and in effect, is the largest file size for this partitioning scheme. If you run tests with the other datasets provided, you see that this data format and size is optimal and out-performs others by ~60X. 

Performance differences will vary depending on the scenario. The important takeaway is to understand the testing strategy and the workload characteristics where Redshift Spectrum is likely to yield performance benefits. 

The following chart compares the query execution time for the two scenarios. The results indicate that you would have to pay for 12 X DC1.Large nodes to get performance comparable to using a small Amazon Redshift cluster that leverages Redshift Spectrum. 

Chart showing simple aggregation on ~3.7 billion records

So you’ve validated that Spectrum excels at performing large aggregations. Could you benefit by pushing more work down to Redshift Spectrum in your original query? It turns out that you can, by making the following modification:

The clickstream data is stored at a day-level granularity for each customer while your query rolls up the data to the month level per customer. In the earlier query that uses the day/month partition key, you optimized the query so that it only scans and retrieves the data required, but the day level data is still sent back to your Amazon Redshift cluster for joining and aggregation. The query shown here pushes aggregation work down to Redshift Spectrum as indicated by the query plan:

In this query, Redshift Spectrum aggregates the clickstream data to the month level before it is returned to the Amazon Redshift cluster and joined with the dimension tables. This query should complete in about 4 seconds, which is roughly twice as fast as only using the partition key. The speed increase is evident upon reviewing the SVL_S3QUERY_SUMMARY table:

  • Bytes scanned is 21.6X less because of the Parquet data format.
  • Only 90 records are returned back to the Amazon Redshift cluster as a result of the push-down, instead of ~66.2 million, leading to substantially less join overhead, and about 530 MB less data sent back to your cluster.
  • No adverse change in average parallelism.

Assessing the value of Amazon Redshift vs. Redshift Spectrum

At this point, you might be asking yourself, why would I ever not use Redshift Spectrum? Well, you still get additional value for your money by loading data into Amazon Redshift, and querying in Amazon Redshift vs. querying S3.

In fact, it turns out that the last version of our query runs even faster when executed exclusively in native Amazon Redshift, as shown in the following chart:

Chart comparing Amazon Redshift vs. Redshift Spectrum with pushdown aggregation over 3 months of data

As a general rule, queries that aren’t dominated by I/O and which involve multiple joins are better optimized in native Amazon Redshift. For instance, the performance difference between running the partition key query entirely in Amazon Redshift versus with Redshift Spectrum is twice as large as that that of the pushdown aggregation query, partly because the former case benefits more from better join performance.

Furthermore, the variability in latency in native Amazon Redshift is lower. For use cases where you have tight performance SLAs on queries, you may want to consider using Amazon Redshift exclusively to support those queries.

On the other hand, when you perform large scans, you could benefit from the best of both worlds: higher performance at lower cost. For instance, imagine that you wanted to enable your business analysts to interactively discover insights across a vast amount of historical data. In the example below, the pushdown aggregation query is modified to analyze seven years of data instead of three months:

SELECT c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, t.prettyMonthYear, uv.totalRevenue
…
WHERE customer <= 3 and visitYearMonth >= 199201
… 
FROM dwdate WHERE d_yearmonthnum >= 199201) as t
…
ORDER BY c.c_name, c.c_mktsegment, uv.visitYearMonth ASC

This query requires scanning and aggregating nearly 1.9 billion records. As shown in the chart below, Redshift Spectrum substantially speeds up this query. A large Amazon Redshift cluster would have to be provisioned to support this use case. With the aid of Redshift Spectrum, you could use an existing small cluster, keep a single copy of your data in S3, and benefit from economical, durable storage while only paying for what you use via the pay per query pricing model.

Chart comparing Amazon Redshift vs. Redshift Spectrum with pushdown aggregation over 7 years of data

Summary

Redshift Spectrum lowers the time to value for deeper insights on customer data queries spanning the data lake and data warehouse. It can enable interactive analysis on datasets in cases that weren’t economically practical or technically feasible before.

There are cases where you can get the best of both worlds from Redshift Spectrum: higher performance at lower cost. However, there are still latency-sensitive use cases where you may want native Amazon Redshift performance. For more best practice tips, see the 10 Best Practices for Amazon Redshift post.

Please visit the Amazon Redshift Spectrum PoC Environment Github page. If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

 


Additional Reading

Learn more about how Amazon Redshift Spectrum extends data warehousing out to exabytes – no loading required.


About the Author

Dylan Tong is an Enterprise Solutions Architect at AWS. He works with customers to help drive their success on the AWS platform through thought leadership and guidance on designing well architected solutions. He has spent most of his career building on his expertise in data management and analytics by working for leaders and innovators in the space.

 

 

Deploy a Data Warehouse Quickly with Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL and Tableau Server

Post Syndicated from Jorge A. Lopez original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/deploy-a-data-warehouse-quickly-with-amazon-redshift-amazon-rds-for-postgresql-and-tableau-server/

One of the benefits of a data warehouse environment using both Amazon Redshift and Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL is that you can leverage the advantages of each service. Amazon Redshift is a high performance, petabyte-scale data warehouse service optimized for the online analytical processing (OLAP) queries typical of analytic reporting and business intelligence applications. On the other hand, a service like RDS excels at transactional OLTP workloads such as inserting, deleting, or updating rows.

In the recent JOIN Amazon Redshift AND Amazon RDS PostgreSQL WITH dblink post, we showed how you can deploy such an environment. Now, you can deploy a similar architecture using the Modern Data Warehouse on AWS Quick Start. The Quick Start is an automated deployment that uses AWS CloudFormation templates to launch, configure, and run the services required to deploy a data warehousing environment on AWS, based on Amazon Redshift and RDS for PostgreSQL.

The Quick Start also includes an instance of Tableau Server, running on Amazon EC2. This gives you the ability to host and serve analytic dashboards, workbooks and visualizations, supported by a trial license. You can play with the sample data source and dashboard, or create your own analyses by uploading your own data sets.

For more information about the Modern Data Warehouse on AWS Quick Start, download the full deployment guide. If you’re ready to get started, use one of the buttons below:

Option 1: Deploy Quick Start into a new VPC on AWS

Option 2: Deploy Quick Start into an existing VPC

If you have questions, please leave a comment below.


Next Steps

You can also join us for the webinar Unlock Insights and Reduce Costs by Modernizing Your Data Warehouse on AWS on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Pearson, the education and publishing company, will present best practices and lessons learned during their journey to Amazon Redshift and Tableau.

[$] Escape from QuickBooks (with data in hand)

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/729087/rss

When a small business contemplates getting away from a proprietary
accounting tool like QuickBooks in favor of free software like GnuCash, the
first order of business is usually finding a way to liberate that
business’s accounting data for input into a new system. Strangely enough,
Intuit, the creator of QuickBooks, never quite got around to making that
easy to do. But it turns out
that, with a bit of effort, this move can be made. Getting there involves
wandering through an undocumented wilderness; this article is at attempt to
make things easier for the next people to come along.

AWS CloudFormation Supports Amazon Kinesis Analytics Applications

Post Syndicated from Ryan Nienhuis original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/aws-cloudformation-supports-amazon-kinesis-analytics-applications/

You can now provision and manage resources for Amazon Kinesis Analytics applications using AWS CloudFormation.  Kinesis Analytics is the easiest way to process streaming data in real time with standard SQL, without having to learn new programming languages or processing frameworks. Kinesis Analytics enables you to query streaming data or build entire streaming applications using SQL. Using the service, you gain actionable insights and can respond to your business and customer needs promptly.

Customers can create CloudFormation templates that easily create or update Kinesis Analytics applications. Typically, a template is used as a way to manage code across different environments, or to prototype a new streaming data solution quickly.

We have created two sample templates using past AWS Big Data Blog posts that referenced Kinesis Analytics.

For more information about the new feature, see the AWS Cloudformation User Guide.

 

Use CloudFormation StackSets to Provision Resources Across Multiple AWS Accounts and Regions

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/use-cloudformation-stacksets-to-provision-resources-across-multiple-aws-accounts-and-regions/

AWS CloudFormation helps AWS customers implement an Infrastructure as Code model. Instead of setting up their environments and applications by hand, they build a template and use it to create all of the necessary resources, collectively known as a CloudFormation stack. This model removes opportunities for manual error, increases efficiency, and ensures consistent configurations over time.

Today I would like to tell you about a new feature that makes CloudFormation even more useful. This feature is designed to help you to address the challenges that you face when you use Infrastructure as Code in situations that include multiple AWS accounts and/or AWS Regions. As a quick review:

Accounts – As I have told you in the past, many organizations use a multitude of AWS accounts, often using AWS Organizations to arrange the accounts into a hierarchy and to group them into Organizational Units, or OUs (read AWS Organizations – Policy-Based Management for Multiple AWS Accounts to learn more). Our customers use multiple accounts for business units, applications, and developers. They often create separate accounts for development, testing, staging, and production on a per-application basis.

Regions – Customers also make great use of the large (and ever-growing) set of AWS Regions. They build global applications that span two or more regions, implement sophisticated multi-region disaster recovery models, replicate S3, Aurora, PostgreSQL, and MySQL data in real time, and choose locations for storage and processing of sensitive data in accord with national and regional regulations.

This expansion into multiple accounts and regions comes with some new challenges with respect to governance and consistency. Our customers tell us that they want to make sure that each new account is set up in accord with their internal standards. Among other things, they want to set up IAM users and roles, VPCs and VPC subnets, security groups, Config Rules, logging, and AWS Lambda functions in a consistent and reliable way.

Introducing StackSet
In order to address these important customer needs, we are launching CloudFormation StackSet today. You can now define an AWS resource configuration in a CloudFormation template and then roll it out across multiple AWS accounts and/or Regions with a couple of clicks. You can use this to set up a baseline level of AWS functionality that addresses the cross-account and cross-region scenarios that I listed above. Once you have set this up, you can easily expand coverage to additional accounts and regions.

This feature always works on a cross-account basis. The master account owns one or more StackSets and controls deployment to one or more target accounts. The master account must include an assumable IAM role and the target accounts must delegate trust to this role. To learn how to do this, read Prerequisites in the StackSet Documentation.

Each StackSet references a CloudFormation template and contains lists of accounts and regions. All operations apply to the cross-product of the accounts and regions in the StackSet. If the StackSet references three accounts (A1, A2, and A3) and four regions (R1, R2, R3, and R4), there are twelve targets:

  • Region R1: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.
  • Region R2: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.
  • Region R3: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.
  • Region R4: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.

Deploying a template initiates creation of a CloudFormation stack in an account/region pair. Templates are deployed sequentially to regions (you control the order) to multiple accounts within the region (you control the amount of parallelism). You can also set an error threshold that will terminate deployments if stack creation fails.

You can use your existing CloudFormation templates (taking care to make sure that they are ready to work across accounts and regions), create new ones, or use one of our sample templates. We are launching with support for the AWS partition (all public regions except those in China), and expect to expand it to to the others before too long.

Using StackSets
You can create and deploy StackSets from the CloudFormation Console, via the CloudFormation APIs, or from the command line.

Using the Console, I start by clicking on Create StackSet. I can use my own template or one of the samples. I’ll use the last sample (Add config rule encrypted volumes):

I click on View template to learn more about the template and the rule:

I give my StackSet a name. The template that I selected accepts an optional parameter, and I can enter it at this time:

Next, I choose the accounts and regions. I can enter account numbers directly, reference an AWS organizational unit, or upload a list of account numbers:

I can set up the regions and control the deployment order:

I can also set the deployment options. Once I am done I click on Next to proceed:

I can add tags to my StackSet. They will be applied to the AWS resources created during the deployment:

The deployment begins, and I can track the status from the Console:

I can open up the Stacks section to see each stack. Initially, the status of each stack is OUTDATED, indicating that the template has yet to be deployed to the stack; this will change to CURRENT after a successful deployment. If a stack cannot be deleted, the status will change to INOPERABLE.

After my initial deployment, I can click on Manage StackSet to add additional accounts, regions, or both, to create additional stacks:

Now Available
This new feature is available now and you can start using it today at no extra charge (you pay only for the AWS resources created on your behalf).

Jeff;

PS – If you create some useful templates and would like to share them with other AWS users, please send a pull request to our AWS Labs GitHub repo.

TVStreamCMS Brings Pirate Streaming Site Clones to The Masses

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tvstreamcms-brings-pirate-streaming-site-clones-to-the-masses-170723/

In recent years many pirates have moved from more traditional download sites and tools, to streaming portals.

These streaming sites come in all shapes and sizes, and there is fierce competition among site owners to grab the most traffic. More traffic means more money, after all.

While building a streaming from scratch is quite an operation, there are scripts on the market that allow virtually anyone to set up their own streaming index in just a few minutes.

TVStreamCMS is one of the leading players in this area. To find out more we spoke to one of the people behind the project, who prefers to stay anonymous, but for the sake of this article, we’ll call him Rick.

“The idea came up when I wanted to make my own streaming site. I saw that they make a lot of money, and many people had them,” Rick tells us.

After discovering that there were already a few streaming site scripts available, Rick saw an opportunity. None of the popular scripts at the time offered automatic updates with freshly pirated content, a gap that was waiting to be filled.

“I found out that TVStreamScript and others on ThemeForest like MTDB were available, but these were not automatized. Instead, they were kinda generic and hard to update. We wanted to make our own site, but as we made it, we also thought about reselling it.”

Soon after TVStreamCMS was born. In addition to using it for his own project, Rick also decided to offer it to others who wanted to run their own streaming portal, for a monthly subscription fee.

TVStreamCMS website

According to Rick, the script’s automated content management system has been its key selling point. The buyers don’t have to update or change much themselves, as pretty much everything is automatized.

This has generated hundreds of sales over the years, according to the developer. And several of the sites that run on the script are successfully “stealing” traffic from the original, such as gomovies.co, which ranks well above the real GoMovies in Google’s search results.

“Currently, a lot of the sites competing against the top level streaming sites are using our script. This includes 123movies.co, gomovies.co and putlockers.tv, keywords like yesmovies fmovies gomovies 123movies, even in different Languages like Portuguese, French and Italian,” Rick says.

The pirated videos that appear on these sites come from a database maintained by the TVStreamCMS team. These are hosted on their own servers, but also by third parties such as Google and Openload.

When we looked at one of the sites we noticed a few dead links, but according to Rick, these are regularly replaced.

“Dead links are maintained by our team, DMCA removals are re-uploaded, and so on. This allows users not to worry about re-uploading or adding content daily and weekly as movies and episodes release,” Rick explains.

While this all sounds fine and dandy for prospective pirates, there are some significant drawbacks.

Aside from the obvious legal risks that come with operating one of these sites, there is also a financial hurdle. The full package costs $399 plus a monthly fee of $99, and the basic option is $399 and $49 per month.

TVStreamCMS subscription plans

There are apparently plenty of site owners who don’t mind paying this kind of money. That said, not everyone is happy with the script. TorrentFreak spoke to a source at one of the larger streaming sites, who believes that these clones are misleading their users.

TVStreamCMS is not impressed by the criticism. They know very well what they are doing. Their users asked for these clone templates, and they are delivering them, so both sides can make more money.

“We’re are in the business to make money and grow the sales,” Rick says.

“So we have made templates looking like 123movies, Yesmovies, Fmovies and Putlocker to accommodate the demands of the buyers. A similar design gets buyers traffic and is very, very effective for new sites, as users who come from Google they think it is the real website.”

The fact that 123Movies changed its name to GoMovies and recently changed to a GoStream.is URL, only makes it easier for clones to get traffic, according to the developer.

“This provides us with a lot of business because every time they change their name the buyers come back and want another site with the new name. GoMovies, for instance, and now Gostream,” Rick notes.

Of course, the infringing nature of the clone sites means that there are many copyright holders who would rather see the script and its associated sites gone. Previously, the Hollywood group FACT managed to shut down TVstreamScript, taking down hundreds of sites that relied on it, and it’s likely that TVStreamCMS is being watched too.

For now, however, more and more clones continue to flood the web with pirated streams.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Guest post: How EmailOctopus built an email marketing platform using Amazon SES

Post Syndicated from Brent Meyer original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/ses/guest-post-how-emailoctopus-built-an-email-marketing-platform-using-amazon-ses/

The following guest post was written by Tom Evans, COO of EmailOctopus.


Our product, EmailOctopus, grew from a personal need. We were working on another business venture, and as our email subscriber base grew, the costs of using the larger email service providers became prohibitively expensive for an early-stage startup.

At this point we were already using Amazon SES to send sign up confirmations to our users. We loved Amazon SES’ low pricing and high deliverability, but being a transactional email service, we missed some tracking features offered by our marketing provider. We decided to develop a simple interface to make it easier for us to build and track the performance of marketing emails on top of the Amazon SES platform.

After sharing our accomplishments with other founders, and with no other SaaS solutions on the market that met the same need, we began to turn our basic script into a polished email marketing application. We named our application EmailOctopus. Over 4 years later, and with over 1.5 billion emails delivered through Amazon SES, our mission remains the same: to make contacting your customers as easy and inexpensive as possible.

EmailOctopus is now a fully fledged platform, with thousands of users sending marketing campaigns every day. Our platform integrates directly with our customers’ AWS accounts and provides them with an easy-to-use front end on top of the SES platform. EmailOctopus users can upload or register subscribers who have opted into their correspondence (through an import or one of our many integrations), then send a one-off campaign or an automated marketing series, all while closely tracking the performance of those emails and allowing the recipients to opt-out.

Scaling EmailOctopus to handle millions of emails per day

Building an email marketing platform from scratch has presented a number of challenges, both technical and operational. EmailOctopus has quickly grown from a side project to a mature business that has sent over 1.5 billion emails through Amazon SES.

One of the biggest challenges of our growth has been dealing with a rapidly expanding database. Email marketing generates a huge amount of data. We log every view, bounce, click, spam report, open and unsubscribe for every email sent through our platform. A single campaign can easily generate over 1 million of these events.

Our event processing system sits on a number of microservices spread over EC2 and Lambda, which allows us to selectively scale our services based on demand. Figure 1, below, demonstrates just how irregular this demand is. We save over $500 a month using an on-demand serverless model.

Figure 1. Number of events processed over time.

This model helps us manage our costs and ensures we only pay for the computing power we need.  We rely heavily on CloudFormation scripts to edit that infrastructure; these scripts allow every change to be version-controlled and propagated across all of our environments. In preparing for this blog post, we took a look at how that template had changed over the years—we’d forgotten just how much it had evolved. As our user base grew from 1 customer to 10,000, a single EC2 instance writing to a MySQL database just didn’t cut it. We now rely on a large portion of the AWS suite to reliably consume our event data, as illustrated in Figure 2, below.

Figure 2. Our current event processing infrastructure.

Operationally, our business has needed to make changes to scale too. Processes that worked fine with a handful of clients do not work so well with 10,000 users. We pride ourselves on providing our customers with a superior and personal service; to maintain that commitment, we dedicate 10% of our development time to improving our internal tools. One of these projects resulted in a dashboard which quickly provides us with detailed information on each user and their journey through the platform. The days of asking our support team to assemble database queries are long gone!

What makes EmailOctopus + SES different from the competition?

Amazon SES uses proprietary content filtering technologies and monitors the status of its services rigorously. This means that you’re likely to see increased deliverability on your communication, while saving up to 10x on your current email marketing costs. EmailOctopus pricing plans range from $0 to $109 per month (depending on the number of recipients you need to store), and the cost of sending email through Amazon SES is also very low: you pay nothing for the first 62,000 emails you send through Amazon SES each month, and $0.10 per 1,000 emails after that. Need to send a million emails in a month? You can do it for less than $100 with EmailOctopus + Amazon SES.

Our easy-to-use interface and integrations make it easy to add new subscribers, and our email templates help you create trackable, beautiful, responsive emails. We even offer trigger-based automated email delivery—perfect for onboarding new customers.

I’m ready to get started!

Great! We’ve made it easy to start using EmailOctopus with Amazon SES. First, if you don’t already have one, create an Amazon Web Services account. Once you’ve done that, head over to our website and create an EmailOctopus account. From there, we’ll walk you through the quick and easy process of linking the two services together.

If you’ve never used Amazon SES before, you will also need to provide some information about the types of communication you plan to send. This important step in the process ensures that all new Amazon SES users are reputable, and that they will not have a negative impact on other users who send email through Amazon SES. Once you’ve finished that step, you’ll be ready to start sending emails using EmailOctopus and Amazon SES.

To learn more about what EmailOctopus can do for your business, visit our website at https://emailoctopus.com.

 

Launch – .NET Core Support In AWS CodeStar and AWS Codebuild

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/launch-net-core-support-in-aws-codestar-and-aws-codebuild/

A few months ago, I introduced the AWS CodeStar service, which allows you to quickly develop, build, and deploy applications on AWS. AWS CodeStar helps development teams to increase the pace of releasing applications and solutions while reducing some of the challenges of building great software.

When the CodeStar service launched in April, it was released with several project templates for Amazon EC2, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and AWS Lambda using five different programming languages; JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby, and PHP. Each template provisions the underlying AWS Code Services and configures an end-end continuous delivery pipeline for the targeted application using AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodePipeline, and AWS CodeDeploy.

As I have participated in some of the AWS Summits around the world discussing AWS CodeStar, many of you have shown curiosity in learning about the availability of .NET templates in CodeStar and utilizing CodeStar to deploy .NET applications. Therefore, it is with great pleasure and excitement that I announce that you can now develop, build, and deploy cross-platform .NET Core applications with the AWS CodeStar and AWS CodeBuild services.

AWS CodeBuild has added the ability to build and deploy .NET Core application code to both Amazon EC2 and AWS Lambda. This new CodeBuild capability has enabled the addition of two new project templates in AWS CodeStar for .NET Core applications.  These new project templates enable you to deploy .NET Code applications to Amazon EC2 Linux Instances, and provides everything you need to get started quickly, including .NET Core sample code and a full software development toolchain.

Of course, I can’t wait to try out the new addition to the project templates within CodeStar and the update .NET application build options with CodeBuild. For my test scenario, I will use CodeStar to create, build, and deploy my .NET Code ASP.Net web application on EC2. Then, I will extend my ASP.Net application by creating a .NET Lambda function to be compiled and deployed with CodeBuild as a part of my application’s pipeline. This Lambda function can then be called and used within my ASP.Net application to extend the functionality of my web application.

So, let’s get started!

First, I’ll log into the CodeStar console and start a new CodeStar project. I am presented with the option to select a project template.


Right now, I would like to focus on building .NET Core projects, therefore, I’ll filter the project templates by selecting the C# in the Programming Languages section. Now, CodeStar only shows me the new .NET Core project templates that I can use to build web applications and services with ASP.NET Core.

I think I’ll use the ASP.NET Core web application project template for my first CodeStar .NET Core application. As you can see by the project template information display, my web application will be deployed on Amazon EC2, which signifies to me that my .NET Core code will be compiled and packaged using AWS CodeBuild and deployed to EC2 using the AWS CodeDeploy service.


My hunch about the services is confirmed on the next screen when CodeStar shows the AWS CodePipeline and the AWS services that will be configured for my new project. I’ll name this web application project, ASPNetCore4Tara, and leave the default Project ID that CodeStar generates from the project name. Yes, I know that this is one of the goofiest names I could ever come up with, but, hey, it will do for this test project so I’ll go ahead and click the Next button. I should mention that you have the option to edit your Amazon EC2 configuration for your project on this screen before CodeStar starts configuring and provisioning the services needed to run your application.

Since my ASP.Net Core web application will be deployed to an Amazon EC2 instance, I will need to choose an Amazon EC2 Key Pair for encryption of the login used to allow me to SSH into this instance. For my ASPNetCore4Tara project, I will use an existing Amazon EC2 key pair I have previously used for launching my other EC2 instances. However, if I was creating this project and I did not have an EC2 key pair or if I didn’t have access to the .pem file (private key file) for an existing EC2 key pair, I would have to first visit the EC2 console and create a new EC2 key pair to use for my project. This is important because if you remember, without having the EC2 key pair with the associated .pem file, I would not be able to log into my EC2 instance.

With my EC2 key pair selected and confirmation that I have the related private file checked, I am ready to click the Create Project button.


After CodeStar completes the creation of the project and the provisioning of the project related AWS services, I am ready to view the CodeStar sample application from the application endpoint displayed in the CodeStar dashboard. This sample application should be familiar to you if have been working with the CodeStar service or if you had an opportunity to read the blog post about the AWS CodeStar service launch. I’ll click the link underneath Application Endpoints to view the sample ASP.NET Core web application.

Now I’ll go ahead and clone the generated project and connect my Visual Studio IDE to the project repository. I am going to make some changes to the application and since AWS CodeBuild now supports .NET Core builds and deployments to both Amazon EC2 and AWS Lambda, I will alter my build specification file appropriately for the changes to my web application that will include the use of the Lambda function.  Don’t worry if you are not familiar with how to clone the project and connect it to the Visual Studio IDE, CodeStar provides in-console step-by-step instructions to assist you.

First things first, I will open up the Visual Studio IDE and connect to AWS CodeCommit repository provisioned for my ASPNetCore4Tara project. It is important to note that the Visual Studio 2017 IDE is required for .NET Core projects in AWS CodeStar and the AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio 2017 will need to be installed prior to connecting your project repository to the IDE.

In order to connect to my repo within Visual Studio, I will open up Team Explorer and select the Connect link under the AWS CodeCommit option under Hosted Service Providers. I will click Ok to keep my default AWS profile toolkit credentials.

I’ll then click Clone under the Manage Connections and AWS CodeCommit hosted provider section.

Once I select my aspnetcore4tara repository in the Clone AWS CodeCommit Repository dialog, I only have to enter my IAM role’s HTTPS Git credentials in the Git Credentials for AWS CodeCommit dialog and my process is complete. If you’re following along and receive a dialog for Git Credential Manager login, don’t worry just your enter the same IAM role’s Git credentials.


My project is now connected to the aspnetcore4tara CodeCommit repository and my web application is loaded to editing. As you will notice in the screenshot below, the sample project is structured as a standard ASP.NET Core MVC web application.

With the project created, I can make changes and updates. Since I want to update this project with a .NET Lambda function, I’ll quickly start a new project in Visual Studio to author a very simple C# Lambda function to be compiled with the CodeStar project. This AWS Lambda function will be included in the CodeStar ASP.NET Core web application project.

The Lambda function I’ve created makes a call to the REST API of NASA’s popular Astronomy Picture of the Day website. The API sends back the latest planetary image and related information in JSON format. You can see the Lambda function code below.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

using System.Net.Http;
using Amazon.Lambda.Core;

// Assembly attribute to enable the Lambda function's JSON input to be converted into a .NET class.
[assembly: LambdaSerializer(typeof(Amazon.Lambda.Serialization.Json.JsonSerializer))]

namespace NASAPicOfTheDay
{
    public class SpacePic
    {
        HttpClient httpClient = new HttpClient();
        string nasaRestApi = "https://api.nasa.gov/planetary/apod?api_key=DEMO_KEY";

        /// <summary>
        /// A simple function that retreives NASA Planetary Info and 
        /// Picture of the Day
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="context"></param>
        /// <returns>nasaResponse-JSON String</returns>
        public async Task<string> GetNASAPicInfo(ILambdaContext context)
        {
            string nasaResponse;
            
            //Call NASA Picture of the Day API
            nasaResponse = await httpClient.GetStringAsync(nasaRestApi);
            Console.WriteLine("NASA API Response");
            Console.WriteLine(nasaResponse);
            
            //Return NASA response - JSON format
            return nasaResponse; 
        }
    }
}

I’ll now publish this C# Lambda function and test by using the Publish to AWS Lambda option provided by the AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio with NASAPicOfTheDay project. After publishing the function, I can test it and verify that it is working correctly within Visual Studio and/or the AWS Lambda console. You can learn more about building AWS Lambda functions with C# and .NET at: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/lambda/latest/dg/dotnet-programming-model.html

 

Now that I have my Lambda function completed and tested, all that is left is to update the CodeBuild buildspec.yml file within my aspnetcore4tara CodeStar project to include publishing and deploying of the Lambda function.

To accomplish this, I will create a new folder named functions and copy the folder that contains my Lambda function .NET project to my aspnetcore4tara web application project directory.

 

 

To build and publish my AWS Lambda function, I will use commands in the buildspec.yml file from the aws-lambda-dotnet tools library, which helps .NET Core developers develop AWS Lambda functions. I add a file, funcprof, to the NASAPicOfTheDay folder which contains customized profile information for use with aws-lambda-dotnet tools. All that is left is to update the buildspec.yml file used by CodeBuild for the ASPNetCore4Tara project build to include the packaging and the deployment of the NASAPictureOfDay AWS Lambda function. The updated buildspec.yml is as follows:

version: 0.2
phases:
  env:
  variables:
    basePath: 'hold'
  install:
    commands:
      - echo set basePath for project
      - basePath=$(pwd)
      - echo $basePath
      - echo Build restore and package Lambda function using AWS .NET Tools...
      - dotnet restore functions/*/NASAPicOfTheDay.csproj
      - cd functions/NASAPicOfTheDay
      - dotnet lambda package -c Release -f netcoreapp1.0 -o ../lambda_build/nasa-lambda-function.zip
  pre_build:
    commands:
      - echo Deploy Lambda function used in ASPNET application using AWS .NET Tools. Must be in path of Lambda function build 
      - cd $basePath
      - cd functions/NASAPicOfTheDay
      - dotnet lambda deploy-function NASAPicAPI -c Release -pac ../lambda_build/nasa-lambda-function.zip --profile-location funcprof -fd 'NASA API for Picture of the Day' -fn NASAPicAPI -fh NASAPicOfTheDay::NASAPicOfTheDay.SpacePic::GetNASAPicInfo -frun dotnetcore1.0 -frole arn:aws:iam::xxxxxxxxxxxx:role/lambda_exec_role -framework netcoreapp1.0 -fms 256 -ft 30  
      - echo Lambda function is now deployed - Now change directory back to Base path
      - cd $basePath
      - echo Restore started on `date`
      - dotnet restore AspNetCoreWebApplication/AspNetCoreWebApplication.csproj
  build:
    commands:
      - echo Build started on `date`
      - dotnet publish -c release -o ./build_output AspNetCoreWebApplication/AspNetCoreWebApplication.csproj
artifacts:
  files:
    - AspNetCoreWebApplication/build_output/**/*
    - scripts/**/*
    - appspec.yml
    

That’s it! All that is left is for me to add and commit all my file additions and updates to the AWS CodeCommit git repository provisioned for my ASPNetCore4Tara project. This kicks off the AWS CodePipeline for the project which will now use AWS CodeBuild new support for .NET Core to build and deploy both the ASP.NET Core web application and the .NET AWS Lambda function.

 

Summary

The support for .NET Core in AWS CodeStar and AWS CodeBuild opens the door for .NET developers to take advantage of the benefits of Continuous Integration and Delivery when building .NET based solutions on AWS.  Read more about .NET Core support in AWS CodeStar and AWS CodeBuild here or review product pages for AWS CodeStar and/or AWS CodeBuild for more information on using the services.

Enjoy building .NET projects more efficiently with Amazon Web Services using .NET Core with AWS CodeStar and AWS CodeBuild.

Tara

 

Take the Journey: Build Your First Serverless Web Application

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/build-your-first-serverless-application/

I realized at a young age that I really liked writing those special statements that would control the computer and make it work in the manner in which I desired. This technique of controlling the computer and building things on the machine, I learned from my teachers was called writing code, and it fascinated me. Even now, what seems like centuries later, I still get the thrill of writing code, building cool solutions, and tackling all the associated challenges of this craft. It is no wonder then, that I am a huge fan of serverless computing and serverless architectures.

Serverless Computing allows me to do what I enjoy, which is write code, without having to provision and/or configure servers. Using the AWS Serverless Platform means that all the heavy lifting of server management is handled by AWS, allowing you to focus on building your application.

If you enjoy coding like I do and have yet to dive into building serverless applications, boy do I have some sensational news for you. You can build your own serverless web application with our new Serverless Web Application Guide, which provides step-by-step instructions for you to create and deploy your serverless web application on AWS.

 

The Serverless Web Application Guide is a hands-on tutorial that will assist you in building a fully scalable, serverless web application using the following AWS Services:

  • AWS Lambda: a managed service for serverless compute that allows you to run code without provisioning or managing servers
  • Amazon S3: a managed service that provides simple, durable, scalable object storage
  • Amazon Cognito: a managed service that allows you to add user sign-up, and data synchronization to your application
  • Amazon API Gateway: a managed service which you can create, publish, and maintain secure APIs
  • Amazon DynamoDB: a fast and flexible NoSQL managed cloud database with support for various document and key-value storage models

The application you will build is a simple web application designed for a fictional transportation service. The application will enable users to register and login into the website to request rides from a very unique transportation fleet. You will accomplish this by using the aforementioned AWS services with the serverless application architecture shown in the diagram below.

 
The guide breaks up the each step to build your serverless web application into five separate modules.

 

  1. Static Web Hosting: Amazon S3 hosts static web resources including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and image files that are loaded in the user’s browser.
  2. User Management: Amazon Cognito provides user management and authentication functions to secure the backend API.
  3. Serverless Backend: Amazon DynamoDB provides a persistence layer where data can be stored by the API’s Lambda function.
  4. RESTful APIs: JavaScript executed in the browser sends and receives data from a public backend API built using AWS Lambda and API Gateway.
  5. Resource Cleanup: All the resources created throughout the tutorial will be terminated.

To be successful in building the application, you must remember to complete each module in sequential order, as the modules are dependent on resources created in the previous one. Some of the guide’s modules provide CloudFormation templates to aid you in generating the necessary resources to build the application if you do not wish to create them manually.

 

Summary

Now that you know all about this fantastic new guide for building a serverless web application, you are ready to journey into the world of AWS serverless computing and have some fun writing the code to build the application. The guide is great for beginners and yet still has cool features that even seasoned serverless computing developers will enjoy building. And to top it off, you don’t have to worry about the cost. Each service used is eligible for the AWS Free Tier and is only estimated to cost less than $0.25 if you are outside of Free Tier usage limits.

Take the plunge today and dive into building serverless applications on the AWS serverless platform with this new and exciting Serverless Web Application Guide.

 

Tara

New – API & CloudFormation Support for Amazon CloudWatch Dashboards

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-api-cloudformation-support-for-amazon-cloudwatch-dashboards/

We launched CloudWatch Dashboards a couple of years ago. In the post that I wrote for the launch, I showed you how to interactively create a dashboard that displayed chosen CloudWatch metrics in graphical form. After the launch, we added additional features including a full screen mode, a dark theme, control over the range of the Y axis, simplified renaming, persistent storage, and new visualization options.

New API & CLI
While console support is wonderful for interactive use, many customers have asked us to support programmatic creation and manipulation of dashboards and the widgets within. They would like to dynamically build and maintain dashboards, adding and removing widgets as the corresponding AWS resources are created and destroyed. Other customers are interested in setting up and maintaining a consistent set of dashboards across two or more AWS accounts.

I am happy to announce that API, CLI, and AWS CloudFormation support for CloudWatch Dashboards is available now and that you can start using it today!

There are four new API functions (and equivalent CLI commands):

ListDashboards / aws cloudwatch list-dashboards – Fetch a list of all dashboards within an account, or a subset that share a common prefix.

GetDashboard / aws cloudwatch get-dashboard – Fetch details for a single dashboard.

PutDashboard / aws cloudwatch put-dashboard – Create a new dashboard or update an existing one.

DeleteDashboards / aws cloudwatch delete-dashboards – Delete one or more dashboards.

Dashboard Concepts
I want to show you how to use these functions and commands. Before I dive in, I should review a couple of important dashboard concepts and attributes.

Global – Dashboards are part of an AWS account, and are not associated with a specific AWS Region. Each account can have up to 500 dashboards.

Named – Each dashboard has a name that is unique within the AWS account. Names can be up to 255 characters long.

Grid Model – Each dashboard is composed of a grid of cells. The grid is 24 cells across and as tall as necessary. Each widget on the dashboard is positioned at a particular set of grid coordinates, and has a size that spans an integral number of grid cells.

Widgets (Visualizations) – Each widget can display text or a set of CloudWatch metrics. Text is specified using Markdown; metrics can be displayed as single values, line charts, or stacked area charts. Each dashboard can have up to 100 widgets. Widgets that display metrics can also be associated with a CloudWatch Alarm.

Dashboards have a JSON representation that you can now see and edit from within the console. Simply click on the Action menu and choose View/edit source:

Here’s the source for my dashboard:

You can use this JSON as a starting point for your own applications. As you can see, there’s an entry in the widgets array for each widget on the dashboard; each entry describes one widget, starting with its type, position, and size.

Creating a Dashboard Using the API
Let’s say I want to create a dashboard that has a widget for each of my EC2 instances in a particular region. I’ll use Python and the AWS SDK for Python, and start as follows (excuse the amateur nature of my code):

import boto3
import json

cw  = boto3.client("cloudwatch")
ec2 = boto3.client("ec2")

x, y          = [0, 0]
width, height = [3, 3]
max_width     = 12
widgets       = []

Then I simply iterate over the instances, creating a widget dictionary for each one, and appending it to the widgets array:

instances = ec2.describe_instances()
for r in instances['Reservations']:
    for i in r['Instances']:

        widget = {'type'      : 'metric',
                  'x'         : x,
                  'y'         : y,
                  'height'    : height,
                  'width'     : width,
                  'properties': {'view'    : 'timeSeries',
                                 'stacked' : False,
                                 'metrics' : [['AWS/EC2', 'NetworkIn', 'InstanceId', i['InstanceId']],
                                              ['.',       'NetworkOut', '.',         '.']
                                             ],
                                 'period'  : 300,
                                 'stat'    : 'Average',
                                 'region'  : 'us-east-1',
                                 'title'   : i['InstanceId']
                                }
                 }

        widgets.append(widget)

I update the position (x and y) within the loop, and form a grid (if I don’t specify positions, the widgets will be laid out left to right, top to bottom):

        x += width
        if (x + width > max_width):
            x = 0
            y += height

After I have processed all of the instances, I create a JSON version of the widget array:

body   = {'widgets' : widgets}
body_j = json.dumps(body)

And I create or update my dashboard:

cw.put_dashboard(DashboardName = "EC2_Networking",
                 DashboardBody = body_j)

I run the code, and get the following dashboard:

The CloudWatch team recommends that dashboards created programmatically include a text widget indicating that the dashboard was generated automatically, along with a link to the source code or CloudFormation template that did the work. This will discourage users from making manual, out-of-band changers to the dashboards.

As I mentioned earlier, each metric widget can also be associated with a CloudWatch Alarm. You can create the alarms programmatically or by using a CloudFormation template such as the Sample CPU Utilization Alarm. If you decide to do this, the alarm threshold will be displayed in the widget. To learn more about this, read Tara Walker’s recent post, Amazon CloudWatch Launches Alarms on Dashboards.

Going one step further, I could use CloudWatch Events and a Lamba Function to track the creation and deletion of certain resources and update a dashboard in concert with the changes. To learn how to do this, read Keeping CloudWatch Dashboards up to Date Using AWS Lambda.

Accessing a Dashboard Using the CLI
I can also access and manipulate my dashboards from the command line. For example, I can generate a simple list:

$ aws cloudwatch list-dashboards --output table
----------------------------------------------
|               ListDashboards               |
+--------------------------------------------+
||             DashboardEntries             ||
|+-----------------+----------------+-------+|
||  DashboardName  | LastModified   | Size  ||
|+-----------------+----------------+-------+|
||  Disk-Metrics   |  1496405221.0  |  316  ||
||  EC2_Networking |  1498090434.0  |  2830 ||
||  Main-Metrics   |  1498085173.0  |  234  ||
|+-----------------+----------------+-------+|

And I can get rid of the Disk-Metrics dashboard:

$ aws cloudwatch delete-dashboards --dashboard-names Disk-Metrics

I can also retrieve the JSON that defines a dashboard:

Creating a Dashboard Using CloudFormation
Dashboards can also be specified in CloudFormation templates. Here’s a simple template in YAML (the DashboardBody is still specified in JSON):

Resources:
  MyDashboard:
    Type: "AWS::CloudWatch::Dashboard"
    Properties:
      DashboardName: SampleDashboard
      DashboardBody: '{"widgets":[{"type":"text","x":0,"y":0,"width":6,"height":6,"properties":{"markdown":"Hi there from CloudFormation"}}]}'

I place the template in a file and then create a stack using the console or the CLI:

$ aws cloudformation create-stack --stack-name MyDashboard --template-body file://dash.yaml
{
    "StackId": "arn:aws:cloudformation:us-east-1:xxxxxxxxxxxx:stack/MyDashboard/a2a3fb20-5708-11e7-8ffd-500c21311262"
}

Here’s the dashboard:

Available Now
This feature is available now and you can start using it today. You can create 3 dashboards with up to 50 metrics per dashboard at no charge; additional dashboards are priced at $3 per month, as listed on the CloudWatch Pricing page. You can make up to 1 million calls to the new API functions each month at no charge; beyond that you pay $.01 for every 1,000 calls.

Jeff;

Blue/Green Deployments with Amazon EC2 Container Service

Post Syndicated from Nathan Taber original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/bluegreen-deployments-with-amazon-ecs/

This post and accompanying code was generously contributed by:

Jeremy Cowan
Solutions Architect
Anuj Sharma
DevOps Cloud Architect
Peter Dalbhanjan
Solutions Architect

Deploying software updates in traditional non-containerized environments is hard and fraught with risk. When you write your deployment package or script, you have to assume that the target machine is in a particular state. If your staging environment is not an exact mirror image of your production environment, your deployment could fail. These failures frequently cause outages that persist until you re-deploy the last known good version of your application. If you are an Operations Manager, this is what keeps you up at night.

Increasingly, customers want to do testing in production environments without exposing customers to the new version until the release has been vetted. Others want to expose a small percentage of their customers to the new release to gather feedback about a feature before it’s released to the broader population. This is often referred to as canary analysis or canary testing. In this post, I introduce patterns to implement blue/green and canary deployments using Application Load Balancers and target groups.

If you’d like to try this approach to blue/green deployments, we have open sourced the code and AWS CloudFormation templates in the ecs-blue-green-deployment GitHub repo. The workflow builds an automated CI/CD pipeline that deploys your service onto an ECS cluster and offers a controlled process to swap target groups when you’re ready to promote the latest version of your code to production. You can quickly set up the environment in three steps and see the blue/green swap in action. We’d love for you to try it and send us your feedback!

Benefits of blue/green

Blue/green deployments are a type of immutable deployment that help you deploy software updates with less risk. The risk is reduced by creating separate environments for the current running or “blue” version of your application, and the new or “green” version of your application.

This type of deployment gives you an opportunity to test features in the green environment without impacting the current running version of your application. When you’re satisfied that the green version is working properly, you can gradually reroute the traffic from the old blue environment to the new green environment by modifying DNS. By following this method, you can update and roll back features with near zero downtime.

A typical blue/green deployment involves shifting traffic between 2 distinct environments.

This ability to quickly roll traffic back to the still-operating blue environment is one of the key benefits of blue/green deployments. With blue/green, you should be able to roll back to the blue environment at any time during the deployment process. This limits downtime to the time it takes to realize there’s an issue in the green environment and shift the traffic back to the blue environment. Furthermore, the impact of the outage is limited to the portion of traffic going to the green environment, not all traffic. If the blast radius of deployment errors is reduced, so is the overall deployment risk.

Containers make it simpler

Historically, blue/green deployments were not often used to deploy software on-premises because of the cost and complexity associated with provisioning and managing multiple environments. Instead, applications were upgraded in place.

Although this approach worked, it had several flaws, including the ability to roll back quickly from failures. Rollbacks typically involved re-deploying a previous version of the application, which could affect the length of an outage caused by a bad release. Fixing the issue took precedence over the need to debug, so there were fewer opportunities to learn from your mistakes.

Containers can ease the adoption of blue/green deployments because they’re easily packaged and behave consistently as they’re moved between environments. This consistency comes partly from their immutability. To change the configuration of a container, update its Dockerfile and rebuild and re-deploy the container rather than updating the software in place.

Containers also provide process and namespace isolation for your applications, which allows you to run multiple versions of them side by side on the same Docker host without conflicts. Given their small sizes relative to virtual machines, you can binpack more containers per host than VMs. This lets you make more efficient use of your computing resources, reducing the cost of blue/green deployments.

Fully Managed Updates with Amazon ECS

Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) performs rolling updates when you update an existing Amazon ECS service. A rolling update involves replacing the current running version of the container with the latest version. The number of containers Amazon ECS adds or removes from service during a rolling update is controlled by adjusting the minimum and maximum number of healthy tasks allowed during service deployments.

When you update your service’s task definition with the latest version of your container image, Amazon ECS automatically starts replacing the old version of your container with the latest version. During a deployment, Amazon ECS drains connections from the current running version and registers your new containers with the Application Load Balancer as they come online.

Target groups

A target group is a logical construct that allows you to run multiple services behind the same Application Load Balancer. This is possible because each target group has its own listener.

When you create an Amazon ECS service that’s fronted by an Application Load Balancer, you have to designate a target group for your service. Ordinarily, you would create a target group for each of your Amazon ECS services. However, the approach we’re going to explore here involves creating two target groups: one for the blue version of your service, and one for the green version of your service. We’re also using a different listener port for each target group so that you can test the green version of your service using the same path as the blue service.

With this configuration, you can run both environments in parallel until you’re ready to cut over to the green version of your service. You can also do things such as restricting access to the green version to testers on your internal network, using security group rules and placement constraints. For example, you can target the green version of your service to only run on instances that are accessible from your corporate network.

Swapping Over

When you’re ready to replace the old blue service with the new green service, call the ModifyListener API operation to swap the listener’s rules for the target group rules. The change happens instantaneously. Afterward, the green service is running in the target group with the port 80 listener and the blue service is running in the target group with the port 8080 listener. The diagram below is an illustration of the approach described.

Scenario

Two services are defined, each with their own target group registered to the same Application Load Balancer but listening on different ports. Deployment is completed by swapping the listener rules between the two target groups.

The second service is deployed with a new target group listening on a different port but registered to the same Application Load Balancer.

By using 2 listeners, requests to blue services are directed to the target group with the port 80 listener, while requests to the green services are directed to target group with the port 8080 listener.

After automated or manual testing, the deployment can be completed by swapping the listener rules on the Application Load Balancer and sending traffic to the green service.

Caveats

There are a few caveats to be mindful of when using this approach. This method:

  • Assumes that your application code is completely stateless. Store state outside of the container.
  • Doesn’t gracefully drain connections. The swapping of target groups is sudden and abrupt. Therefore, be cautious about using this approach if your service has long-running transactions.
  • Doesn’t allow you to perform canary deployments. While the method gives you the ability to quickly switch between different versions of your service, it does not allow you to divert a portion of the production traffic to a canary or control the rate at which your service is deployed across the cluster.

Canary testing

While this type of deployment automates much of the heavy lifting associated with rolling deployments, it doesn’t allow you to interrupt the deployment if you discover an issue midstream. Rollbacks using the standard Amazon ECS deployment require updating the service’s task definition with the last known good version of the container. Then, you wait for Amazon ECS to schedule and deploy it across the cluster. If the latest version introduces a breaking change that went undiscovered during testing, this might be too slow.

With canary testing, if you discover the green environment is not operating as expected, there is no impact on the blue environment. You can route traffic back to it, minimizing impaired operation or downtime, and limiting the blast radius of impact.

This type of deployment is particularly useful for A/B testing where you want to expose a new feature to a subset of users to get their feedback before making it broadly available.

For canary style deployments, you can use a variation of the blue/green swap that involves deploying the blue and the green service to the same target group. Although this method is not as fast as the swap, it allows you to control the rate at which your containers are replaced by adjusting the task count for each service. Furthermore, it gives you the ability to roll back by adjusting the number of tasks for the blue and green services respectively. Unlike the swap approach described above, connections to your containers are drained gracefully. We plan to address canary style deployments for Amazon ECS in a future post.

Conclusion

With AWS, you can operationalize your blue/green deployments using Amazon ECS, an Application Load Balancer, and target groups. I encourage you to adapt the code published to the ecs-blue-green-deployment GitHub repo for your use cases and look forward to reading your feedback.

If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to read the Blue/Green Deployments on AWS and Practicing Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS whitepapers.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

AWS Hot Startups – June 2017

Post Syndicated from Tina Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-june-2017/

Thanks for stopping by for another round of AWS Hot Startups! This month we are featuring:

  • CloudRanger – helping companies understand the cloud with visual representation.
  • quintly – providing social media analytics for brands on a single dashboard.
  • Tango Card – reinventing rewards programs for businesses and their customers worldwide.

Don’t forget to check out May’s Hot Startups in case you missed them.

CloudRanger (Letterkenny, Ireland)   

The idea for CloudRanger started where most great ideas do – at a bar in Las Vegas. During a late-night conversation with his friends at re:Invent 2014, Dave Gildea (Founder and CEO) used cocktail napkins and drink coasters to visually illustrate servers and backups, and the light on his phone to represent scheduling. By the end of the night, the idea for automated visual server management was born. With CloudRanger, companies can easily create backup and retention policies, visual scheduling, and simple restoration of snapshots and AMIs. The team behind CloudRanger believes that when servers and cloud resources are represented visually, they are easier to manage and understand. Users are able to see their servers, which turns them into a tangible and important piece of business inventory.

CloudRanger is an excellent platform for MSPs who manage many different AWS accounts, and need a quick method to display many servers and audit certain attributes. The company’s goal is to give anyone the ability to create backup policies in multiple regions, apply them using a tag-based methodology, and manage backups. Servers can be scheduled from one simple dashboard, and restoration is easy and step-by-step. With CloudRanger’s visual representation of resources, customers are encouraged to fully understand their backup policies, schedules, and servers.

As an AWS Partner, CloudRanger has built a globally redundant system after going all-in with AWS. They are using over 25 AWS services for everything including enterprise-level security, automation and 24/7 runtimes, and an emphasis on Machine Learning for efficiency in the sales process. CloudRanger continues to rely more on AWS as new services and features are released, and are replacing current services with AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild. CloudRanger was also named Startup Company of the Year at a recent Irish tech event!

To learn more about CloudRanger, visit their website.

quintly (Cologne, Germany)

In 2010, brothers Alexander Peiniger and Frederik Peiniger started a journey to help companies track their social media profiles and improve their strategies against competitors. The startup began under the name “Social.Media.Tracking” and then “AllFacebook Stats” before officially becoming quintly in 2013. With quintly, brands and agencies can analyze, benchmark, and optimize their social media activities on a global scale. The innovative dashboarding system gives clients an overview across all social media profiles on the most important networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) and then derives an optimal social media strategy from those profiles. Today, quintly has users in over 180 countries and paying clients in over 65 countries including major agency networks and Fortune 500 companies.

Getting an overview of a brand’s social media activities can be time-consuming, and turning insights into actions is a challenge that not all brands master. Quintly offers a variety of features designed to help clients improve their social media reach. With their web-based SaaS product, brands and agencies can compare their social media performance against competitors and their best practices. Not only can clients learn from their own historic performance, but they can leverage data from any other brand around the world.

Since the company’s founding, quintly built and operates its SaaS offering on top of AWS services, leveraging Amazon EC2, Amazon ECS, Elastic Load Balancing, and Amazon Route53 to host their Docker-based environment. Large amounts of data are stored in Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon RDS, and they use Amazon CloudWatch to monitor and seamlessly scale to the current needs. In addition, quintly is using Amazon Machine Learning to add additional attributes to the data and to drive better decisions for their clients. With the help of AWS, quintly has been able to focus on their core business while having a scalable and well-performing solution to solve their technical needs.

For more on quintly, check out their Social Media Analytics blog.

Tango Card (Seattle, Washington)

Based in the heart of West Seattle, Tango Card is revolutionizing rewards programs for companies around the world. Too often customers redeem points in a loyalty or rebate program only to wait weeks for their prize to arrive. Companies generously give their employees appreciation gifts, but the gifts can be generic and impersonal. With Tango Card, companies can choose from a variety of rewards that fit the needs of their specific program, event, or business incentive. The extensive Rewards Catalog includes options for e-gift cards that are sure to excite any recipient. There are plenty of options for everyone from traditional e-gift cards to nonprofit donations to cash equivalent rewards.

Tango Card uses a combination of desired rewards, modern technology, and expert service to change the rewards and incentive experience. The Reward Delivery Platform offers solutions including Blast Rewards, Reward Link, and Rewards as a Service API (RaaS). Blast Rewards enables companies to purchase and send e-gift cards in bulk in just one business day. Reward Link lets recipients choose from an assortment of e-gift cards, prepaid cards, digital checks, and donations and is delivered instantly. Finally, Rewards as a Service is a robust digital gift card API that is built to support apps and platforms. With RaaS, Tango Card can send out e-gift cards on company-branded email templates or deliver them directly within a user interface.

The entire Tango Card Reward Delivery Platform leverages many AWS services. They use Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) for rapid deployment of containerized micro services, and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) for low overhead managed databases. Tango Card is also leveraging Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), AWS Key Management Service (KMS), and AWS Identity and Access Management (IMS).

To learn more about Tango Card, check out their blog!

I would also like to thank Alexander Moss-Bolanos for helping with the Hot Startups posts this year.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next month!

-Tina Barr

Validating AWS CloudFormation Templates

Post Syndicated from Remek Hetman original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/validating-aws-cloudformation-templates/

For their continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline path, many companies use tools like Jenkins, Chef, and AWS CloudFormation. Usually, the process is managed by two or more teams. One team is responsible for designing and developing an application, CloudFormation templates, and so on. The other team is generally responsible for integration and deployment.

One of the challenges that a CI/CD team has is to validate the CloudFormation templates provided by the development team. Validation provides early warning about any incorrect syntax and ensures that the development team follows company policies in terms of security and the resources created by CloudFormation templates.

In this post, I focus on the validation of AWS CloudFormation templates for syntax as well as in the context of business rules.

Scripted validation solution

For CloudFormation syntax validation, one option is to use the AWS CLI to call the validate-template command. For security and resource management, another approach is to run a Jenkins pipeline from an Amazon EC2 instance under an EC2 role that has been granted only the necessary permissions.

What if you need more control over your CloudFormation templates, such as managing parameters or attributes? What if you have many development teams where permissions to the AWS environment required by one team are either too open or not open enough for another team?

To have more control over the contents of your CloudFormation template, you can use the cf-validator Python script, which shows you how to validate different template aspects. With this script, you can validate:

  • JSON syntax
  • IAM capabilities
  • Root tags
  • Parameters
  • CloudFormation resources
  • Attributes
  • Reference resources

You can download this script from the cf-validator GitHub repo. Use the following command to run the script:

python cf-validator.py

The script takes the following parameters:

  • –cf_path [Required]

    The location of the CloudFormation template in JSON format. Supported location types:

    • File system – Path to the CloudFormation template on the file system
    • Web – URL, for example, https://my-file.com/my_cf.json
    • Amazon S3 – Amazon S3 bucket, for example, s3://my_bucket/my_cf.json
  • –cf_rules [Required]

    The location of the JSON file with the validation rules. This parameter supports the same locations as –cf_path. The next section of this post has more information about defining rules.

  • –cf_res [Optional]

    The location of the JSON file with the defined AWS resources, which need to be confirmed before launching the CloudFormation template. A later section of this post has more information about resource validation.

  • –allow_cap [Optional][yes/no]

    Controls whether you allow the creation of IAM resources by the CloudFormation template, such as policies, rules, or IAM users. The default value is no.

  • –region [Optional]

    The AWS region where the existing resources were created. The default value is us-east-1.

Defining rules

All rules are defined in the JSON format file. Rules consist of the following keys:

  • “allow_root_keys”

    Lists allowed root CloudFormation keys. Example of root keys are Parameters, Resources, Output, and so on. An empty list means that any key is allowed.

  • “allow_parameters”

    Lists allowed CloudFormation parameters. For instance, to force each CloudFormation template to use only the set of parameters defined in your pipeline, list them under this key. An empty list means that any parameter is allowed.

  • “allow_resources”

    Lists the AWS resources allowed for creation by a CloudFormation template. The format of the resource is the same as resource types in CloudFormation, but without the “AWS::” prefix. Examples:  EC2::Instance, EC2::Volume, and so on. If you allow the creation of all resources from the given group, you can use a wildcard. For instance, if you allow all resources related to CloudFormation, you can add CloudFormation::* to the list instead of typing CloudFormation::Init, CloudFormation:Stack, and so on. An empty list means that all resources are allowed.

  • “require_ref_attributes”

    Lists attributes (per resource) that have to be defined in CloudFormation. The value must be referenced and cannot be hardcoded. For instance, you can require that each EC2 instance must be created from a specific AMI where Image ID has to be a passed-in parameter. An empty list means that you are not requiring specific attributes to be present for a given resource.

  • “allow_additional_attributes”

    Lists additional attributes (per resource) that can be defined and have any value in the CloudFormation template. An empty list means that any additional attribute is allowed. If you specify additional attributes for this key, then any resource attribute defined in a CloudFormation template that is not listed in this key or in the require_ref_attributes key causes validation to fail.

  • “not_allow_attributes”

    Lists attributes (per resource) that are not allowed in the CloudFormation template. This key takes precedence over the require_ref_attributes and allow_additional_attributes keys.

Rule file example

The following is an example of a rule file:

{
  "allow_root_keys" : ["AWSTemplateFormatVersion", "Description", "Parameters", "Conditions", "Resources", "Outputs"],
  "allow_parameters" : [],
  "allow_resources" : [
    "CloudFormation::*",
    "CloudWatch::Alarm",
    "EC2::Instance",
    "EC2::Volume",
    "EC2::VolumeAttachment",
    "ElasticLoadBalancing::LoadBalancer",
    "IAM::Role",
    "IAM::Policy",
    "IAM::InstanceProfile"
  ],
  "require_ref_attributes" :
    {
      "EC2::Instance" : [ "InstanceType", "ImageId", "SecurityGroupIds", "SubnetId", "KeyName", "IamInstanceProfile" ],
      "ElasticLoadBalancing::LoadBalancer" : ["SecurityGroups", "Subnets"]
    },
  "allow_additional_attributes" : {},
  "not_allow_attributes" : {}
}

Validating resources

You can use the –cf_res parameter to validate that the resources you are planning to reference in the CloudFormation template exist and are available. As a value for this parameter, point to the JSON file with defined resources. The format should be as follows:

[
  { "Type" : "SG",
    "ID" : "sg-37c9b448A"
  },
  { "Type" : "AMI",
    "ID" : "ami-e7e523f1"
  },
  { "Type" : "Subnet",
    "ID" : "subnet-034e262e"
  }
]

Summary

At this moment, this CloudFormation template validation script supports only security groups, AMIs, and subnets. But anyone with some knowledge of Python and the boto3 package can add support for additional resources type, as needed.

For more tips please visit our AWS CloudFormation blog

Continuous Delivery of Nested AWS CloudFormation Stacks Using AWS CodePipeline

Post Syndicated from Prakash Palanisamy original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/continuous-delivery-of-nested-aws-cloudformation-stacks-using-aws-codepipeline/

In CodePipeline Update – Build Continuous Delivery Workflows for CloudFormation Stacks, Jeff Barr discusses infrastructure as code and how to use AWS CodePipeline for continuous delivery. In this blog post, I discuss the continuous delivery of nested CloudFormation stacks using AWS CodePipeline, with AWS CodeCommit as the source repository and AWS CodeBuild as a build and testing tool. I deploy the stacks using CloudFormation change sets following a manual approval process.

Here’s how to do it:

In AWS CodePipeline, create a pipeline with four stages:

  • Source (AWS CodeCommit)
  • Build and Test (AWS CodeBuild and AWS CloudFormation)
  • Staging (AWS CloudFormation and manual approval)
  • Production (AWS CloudFormation and manual approval)

Pipeline stages, the actions in each stage, and transitions between stages are shown in the following diagram.

CloudFormation templates, test scripts, and the build specification are stored in AWS CodeCommit repositories. These files are used in the Source stage of the pipeline in AWS CodePipeline.

The AWS::CloudFormation::Stack resource type is used to create child stacks from a master stack. The CloudFormation stack resource requires the templates of the child stacks to be stored in the S3 bucket. The location of the template file is provided as a URL in the properties section of the resource definition.

The following template creates three child stacks:

  • Security (IAM, security groups).
  • Database (an RDS instance).
  • Web stacks (EC2 instances in an Auto Scaling group, elastic load balancer).
Description: Master stack which creates all required nested stacks

Parameters:
  TemplatePath:
    Type: String
    Description: S3Bucket Path where the templates are stored
  VPCID:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::VPC::Id"
    Description: Enter a valid VPC Id
  PrivateSubnet1:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::Subnet::Id"
    Description: Enter a valid SubnetId of private subnet in AZ1
  PrivateSubnet2:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::Subnet::Id"
    Description: Enter a valid SubnetId of private subnet in AZ2
  PublicSubnet1:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::Subnet::Id"
    Description: Enter a valid SubnetId of public subnet in AZ1
  PublicSubnet2:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::Subnet::Id"
    Description: Enter a valid SubnetId of public subnet in AZ2
  S3BucketName:
    Type: String
    Description: Name of the S3 bucket to allow access to the Web Server IAM Role.
  KeyPair:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::KeyPair::KeyName"
    Description: Enter a valid KeyPair Name
  AMIId:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::Image::Id"
    Description: Enter a valid AMI ID to launch the instance
  WebInstanceType:
    Type: String
    Description: Enter one of the possible instance type for web server
    AllowedValues:
      - t2.large
      - m4.large
      - m4.xlarge
      - c4.large
  WebMinSize:
    Type: String
    Description: Minimum number of instances in auto scaling group
  WebMaxSize:
    Type: String
    Description: Maximum number of instances in auto scaling group
  DBSubnetGroup:
    Type: String
    Description: Enter a valid DB Subnet Group
  DBUsername:
    Type: String
    Description: Enter a valid Database master username
    MinLength: 1
    MaxLength: 16
    AllowedPattern: "[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9]*"
  DBPassword:
    Type: String
    Description: Enter a valid Database master password
    NoEcho: true
    MinLength: 1
    MaxLength: 41
    AllowedPattern: "[a-zA-Z0-9]*"
  DBInstanceType:
    Type: String
    Description: Enter one of the possible instance type for database
    AllowedValues:
      - db.t2.micro
      - db.t2.small
      - db.t2.medium
      - db.t2.large
  Environment:
    Type: String
    Description: Select the appropriate environment
    AllowedValues:
      - dev
      - test
      - uat
      - prod

Resources:
  SecurityStack:
    Type: "AWS::CloudFormation::Stack"
    Properties:
      TemplateURL:
        Fn::Sub: "https://s3.amazonaws.com/${TemplatePath}/security-stack.yml"
      Parameters:
        S3BucketName:
          Ref: S3BucketName
        VPCID:
          Ref: VPCID
        Environment:
          Ref: Environment
      Tags:
        - Key: Name
          Value: SecurityStack

  DatabaseStack:
    Type: "AWS::CloudFormation::Stack"
    Properties:
      TemplateURL:
        Fn::Sub: "https://s3.amazonaws.com/${TemplatePath}/database-stack.yml"
      Parameters:
        DBSubnetGroup:
          Ref: DBSubnetGroup
        DBUsername:
          Ref: DBUsername
        DBPassword:
          Ref: DBPassword
        DBServerSecurityGroup:
          Fn::GetAtt: SecurityStack.Outputs.DBServerSG
        DBInstanceType:
          Ref: DBInstanceType
        Environment:
          Ref: Environment
      Tags:
        - Key: Name
          Value:   DatabaseStack

  ServerStack:
    Type: "AWS::CloudFormation::Stack"
    Properties:
      TemplateURL:
        Fn::Sub: "https://s3.amazonaws.com/${TemplatePath}/server-stack.yml"
      Parameters:
        VPCID:
          Ref: VPCID
        PrivateSubnet1:
          Ref: PrivateSubnet1
        PrivateSubnet2:
          Ref: PrivateSubnet2
        PublicSubnet1:
          Ref: PublicSubnet1
        PublicSubnet2:
          Ref: PublicSubnet2
        KeyPair:
          Ref: KeyPair
        AMIId:
          Ref: AMIId
        WebSG:
          Fn::GetAtt: SecurityStack.Outputs.WebSG
        ELBSG:
          Fn::GetAtt: SecurityStack.Outputs.ELBSG
        DBClientSG:
          Fn::GetAtt: SecurityStack.Outputs.DBClientSG
        WebIAMProfile:
          Fn::GetAtt: SecurityStack.Outputs.WebIAMProfile
        WebInstanceType:
          Ref: WebInstanceType
        WebMinSize:
          Ref: WebMinSize
        WebMaxSize:
          Ref: WebMaxSize
        Environment:
          Ref: Environment
      Tags:
        - Key: Name
          Value: ServerStack

Outputs:
  WebELBURL:
    Description: "URL endpoint of web ELB"
    Value:
      Fn::GetAtt: ServerStack.Outputs.WebELBURL

During the Validate stage, AWS CodeBuild checks for changes to the AWS CodeCommit source repositories. It uses the ValidateTemplate API to validate the CloudFormation template and copies the child templates and configuration files to the appropriate location in the S3 bucket.

The following AWS CodeBuild build specification validates the CloudFormation templates listed under the TEMPLATE_FILES environment variable and copies them to the S3 bucket specified in the TEMPLATE_BUCKET environment variable in the AWS CodeBuild project. Optionally, you can use the TEMPLATE_PREFIX environment variable to specify a path inside the bucket. This updates the configuration files to use the location of the child template files. The location of the template files is provided as a parameter to the master stack.

version: 0.1

environment_variables:
  plaintext:
    CHILD_TEMPLATES: |
      security-stack.yml
      server-stack.yml
      database-stack.yml
    TEMPLATE_FILES: |
      master-stack.yml
      security-stack.yml
      server-stack.yml
      database-stack.yml
    CONFIG_FILES: |
      config-prod.json
      config-test.json
      config-uat.json

phases:
  install:
    commands:
      npm install jsonlint -g
  pre_build:
    commands:
      - echo "Validating CFN templates"
      - |
        for cfn_template in $TEMPLATE_FILES; do
          echo "Validating CloudFormation template file $cfn_template"
          aws cloudformation validate-template --template-body file://$cfn_template
        done
      - |
        for conf in $CONFIG_FILES; do
          echo "Validating CFN parameters config file $conf"
          jsonlint -q $conf
        done
  build:
    commands:
      - echo "Copying child stack templates to S3"
      - |
        for child_template in $CHILD_TEMPLATES; do
          if [ "X$TEMPLATE_PREFIX" = "X" ]; then
            aws s3 cp "$child_template" "s3://$TEMPLATE_BUCKET/$child_template"
          else
            aws s3 cp "$child_template" "s3://$TEMPLATE_BUCKET/$TEMPLATE_PREFIX/$child_template"
          fi
        done
      - echo "Updating template configurtion files to use the appropriate values"
      - |
        for conf in $CONFIG_FILES; do
          if [ "X$TEMPLATE_PREFIX" = "X" ]; then
            echo "Replacing \"TEMPLATE_PATH_PLACEHOLDER\" for \"$TEMPLATE_BUCKET\" in $conf"
            sed -i -e "s/TEMPLATE_PATH_PLACEHOLDER/$TEMPLATE_BUCKET/" $conf
          else
            echo "Replacing \"TEMPLATE_PATH_PLACEHOLDER\" for \"$TEMPLATE_BUCKET/$TEMPLATE_PREFIX\" in $conf"
            sed -i -e "s/TEMPLATE_PATH_PLACEHOLDER/$TEMPLATE_BUCKET\/$TEMPLATE_PREFIX/" $conf
          fi
        done

artifacts:
  files:
    - master-stack.yml
    - config-*.json

After the template files are copied to S3, CloudFormation creates a test stack and triggers AWS CodeBuild as a test action.

Then the AWS CodeBuild build specification executes validate-env.py, the Python script used to determine whether resources created using the nested CloudFormation stacks conform to the specifications provided in the CONFIG_FILE.

version: 0.1

environment_variables:
  plaintext:
    CONFIG_FILE: env-details.yml

phases:
  install:
    commands:
      - pip install --upgrade pip
      - pip install boto3 --upgrade
      - pip install pyyaml --upgrade
      - pip install yamllint --upgrade
  pre_build:
    commands:
      - echo "Validating config file $CONFIG_FILE"
      - yamllint $CONFIG_FILE
  build:
    commands:
      - echo "Validating resources..."
      - python validate-env.py
      - exit $?

Upon successful completion of the test action, CloudFormation deletes the test stack and proceeds to the UAT stage in the pipeline.

During this stage, CloudFormation creates a change set against the UAT stack and then executes the change set. This updates the UAT environment and makes it available for acceptance testing. The process continues to a manual approval action. After the QA team validates the UAT environment and provides an approval, the process moves to the Production stage in the pipeline.

During this stage, CloudFormation creates a change set for the nested production stack and the process continues to a manual approval step. Upon approval (usually by a designated executive), the change set is executed and the production deployment is completed.
 

Setting up a continuous delivery pipeline

 
I used a CloudFormation template to set up my continuous delivery pipeline. The codepipeline-cfn-codebuild.yml template, available from GitHub, sets up a full-featured pipeline.

When I use the template to create my pipeline, I specify the following:

  • AWS CodeCommit repositories.
  • SNS topics to send approval notifications.
  • S3 bucket name where the artifacts will be stored.

The CFNTemplateRepoName points to the AWS CodeCommit repository where CloudFormation templates, configuration files, and build specification files are stored.

My repo contains following files:

The continuous delivery pipeline is ready just seconds after clicking Create Stack. After it’s created, the pipeline executes each stage. Upon manual approvals for the UAT and Production stages, the pipeline successfully enables continuous delivery.


 

Implementing a change in nested stack

 
To make changes to a child stack in a nested stack (for example, to update a parameter value or add or change resources), update the master stack. The changes must be made in the appropriate template or configuration files and then checked in to the AWS CodeCommit repository. This triggers the following deployment process:

 

Conclusion

 
In this post, I showed how you can use AWS CodePipeline, AWS CloudFormation, AWS CodeBuild, and a manual approval process to create a continuous delivery pipeline for both infrastructure as code and application deployment.

For more information about AWS CodePipeline, see the AWS CodePipeline documentation. You can get started in just a few clicks. All CloudFormation templates, AWS CodeBuild build specification files, and the Python script that performs the validation are available in codepipeline-nested-cfn GitHub repository.


About the author

 
Prakash Palanisamy is a Solutions Architect for Amazon Web Services. When he is not working on Serverless, DevOps or Alexa, he will be solving problems in Project Euler. He also enjoys watching educational documentaries.

How to Create an AMI Builder with AWS CodeBuild and HashiCorp Packer – Part 2

Post Syndicated from Heitor Lessa original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/how-to-create-an-ami-builder-with-aws-codebuild-and-hashicorp-packer-part-2/

Written by AWS Solutions Architects Jason Barto and Heitor Lessa

 
In Part 1 of this post, we described how AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeCommit, and HashiCorp Packer can be used to build an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) from the latest version of Amazon Linux. In this post, we show how to use AWS CodePipeline, AWS CloudFormation, and Amazon CloudWatch Events to continuously ship new AMIs. We use Ansible by Red Hat to harden the OS on the AMIs through a well-known set of security controls outlined by the Center for Internet Security in its CIS Amazon Linux Benchmark.

You’ll find the source code for this post in our GitHub repo.

At the end of this post, we will have the following architecture:

Requirements

 
To follow along, you will need Git and a text editor. Make sure Git is configured to work with AWS CodeCommit, as described in Part 1.

Technologies

 
In addition to the services and products used in Part 1 of this post, we also use these AWS services and third-party software:

AWS CloudFormation gives developers and systems administrators an easy way to create and manage a collection of related AWS resources, provisioning and updating them in an orderly and predictable fashion.

Amazon CloudWatch Events enables you to react selectively to events in the cloud and in your applications. Specifically, you can create CloudWatch Events rules that match event patterns, and take actions in response to those patterns.

AWS CodePipeline is a continuous integration and continuous delivery service for fast and reliable application and infrastructure updates. AWS CodePipeline builds, tests, and deploys your code every time there is a code change, based on release process models you define.

Amazon SNS is a fast, flexible, fully managed push notification service that lets you send individual messages or to fan out messages to large numbers of recipients. Amazon SNS makes it simple and cost-effective to send push notifications to mobile device users or email recipients. The service can even send messages to other distributed services.

Ansible is a simple IT automation system that handles configuration management, application deployment, cloud provisioning, ad-hoc task-execution, and multinode orchestration.

Getting Started

 
We use CloudFormation to bootstrap the following infrastructure:

Component Purpose
AWS CodeCommit repository Git repository where the AMI builder code is stored.
S3 bucket Build artifact repository used by AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild.
AWS CodeBuild project Executes the AWS CodeBuild instructions contained in the build specification file.
AWS CodePipeline pipeline Orchestrates the AMI build process, triggered by new changes in the AWS CodeCommit repository.
SNS topic Notifies subscribed email addresses when an AMI build is complete.
CloudWatch Events rule Defines how the AMI builder should send a custom event to notify an SNS topic.
Region AMI Builder Launch Template
N. Virginia (us-east-1)
Ireland (eu-west-1)

After launching the CloudFormation template linked here, we will have a pipeline in the AWS CodePipeline console. (Failed at this stage simply means we don’t have any data in our newly created AWS CodeCommit Git repository.)

Next, we will clone the newly created AWS CodeCommit repository.

If this is your first time connecting to a AWS CodeCommit repository, please see instructions in our documentation on Setup steps for HTTPS Connections to AWS CodeCommit Repositories.

To clone the AWS CodeCommit repository (console)

  1. From the AWS Management Console, open the AWS CloudFormation console.
  2. Choose the AMI-Builder-Blogpost stack, and then choose Output.
  3. Make a note of the Git repository URL.
  4. Use git to clone the repository.

For example: git clone https://git-codecommit.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/AMI-Builder_repo

To clone the AWS CodeCommit repository (CLI)

# Retrieve CodeCommit repo URL
git_repo=$(aws cloudformation describe-stacks --query 'Stacks[0].Outputs[?OutputKey==`GitRepository`].OutputValue' --output text --stack-name "AMI-Builder-Blogpost")

# Clone repository locally
git clone ${git_repo}

Bootstrap the Repo with the AMI Builder Structure

 
Now that our infrastructure is ready, download all the files and templates required to build the AMI.

Your local Git repo should have the following structure:

.
├── ami_builder_event.json
├── ansible
├── buildspec.yml
├── cloudformation
├── packer_cis.json

Next, push these changes to AWS CodeCommit, and then let AWS CodePipeline orchestrate the creation of the AMI:

git add .
git commit -m "My first AMI"
git push origin master

AWS CodeBuild Implementation Details

 
While we wait for the AMI to be created, let’s see what’s changed in our AWS CodeBuild buildspec.yml file:

...
phases:
  ...
  build:
    commands:
      ...
      - ./packer build -color=false packer_cis.json | tee build.log
  post_build:
    commands:
      - egrep "${AWS_REGION}\:\sami\-" build.log | cut -d' ' -f2 > ami_id.txt
      # Packer doesn't return non-zero status; we must do that if Packer build failed
      - test -s ami_id.txt || exit 1
      - sed -i.bak "s/<<AMI-ID>>/$(cat ami_id.txt)/g" ami_builder_event.json
      - aws events put-events --entries file://ami_builder_event.json
      ...
artifacts:
  files:
    - ami_builder_event.json
    - build.log
  discard-paths: yes

In the build phase, we capture Packer output into a file named build.log. In the post_build phase, we take the following actions:

  1. Look up the AMI ID created by Packer and save its findings to a temporary file (ami_id.txt).
  2. Forcefully make AWS CodeBuild to fail if the AMI ID (ami_id.txt) is not found. This is required because Packer doesn’t fail if something goes wrong during the AMI creation process. We have to tell AWS CodeBuild to stop by informing it that an error occurred.
  3. If an AMI ID is found, we update the ami_builder_event.json file and then notify CloudWatch Events that the AMI creation process is complete.
  4. CloudWatch Events publishes a message to an SNS topic. Anyone subscribed to the topic will be notified in email that an AMI has been created.

Lastly, the new artifacts phase instructs AWS CodeBuild to upload files built during the build process (ami_builder_event.json and build.log) to the S3 bucket specified in the Outputs section of the CloudFormation template. These artifacts can then be used as an input artifact in any later stage in AWS CodePipeline.

For information about customizing the artifacts sequence of the buildspec.yml, see the Build Specification Reference for AWS CodeBuild.

CloudWatch Events Implementation Details

 
CloudWatch Events allow you to extend the AMI builder to not only send email after the AMI has been created, but to hook up any of the supported targets to react to the AMI builder event. This event publication means you can decouple from Packer actions you might take after AMI completion and plug in other actions, as you see fit.

For more information about targets in CloudWatch Events, see the CloudWatch Events API Reference.

In this case, CloudWatch Events should receive the following event, match it with a rule we created through CloudFormation, and publish a message to SNS so that you can receive an email.

Example CloudWatch custom event

[
        {
            "Source": "com.ami.builder",
            "DetailType": "AmiBuilder",
            "Detail": "{ \"AmiStatus\": \"Created\"}",
            "Resources": [ "ami-12cd5guf" ]
        }
]

Cloudwatch Events rule

{
  "detail-type": [
    "AmiBuilder"
  ],
  "source": [
    "com.ami.builder"
  ],
  "detail": {
    "AmiStatus": [
      "Created"
    ]
  }
}

Example SNS message sent in email

{
    "version": "0",
    "id": "f8bdede0-b9d7...",
    "detail-type": "AmiBuilder",
    "source": "com.ami.builder",
    "account": "<<aws_account_number>>",
    "time": "2017-04-28T17:56:40Z",
    "region": "eu-west-1",
    "resources": ["ami-112cd5guf "],
    "detail": {
        "AmiStatus": "Created"
    }
}

Packer Implementation Details

 
In addition to the build specification file, there are differences between the current version of the HashiCorp Packer template (packer_cis.json) and the one used in Part 1.

Variables

  "variables": {
    "vpc": "{{env `BUILD_VPC_ID`}}",
    "subnet": "{{env `BUILD_SUBNET_ID`}}",
         “ami_name”: “Prod-CIS-Latest-AMZN-{{isotime \”02-Jan-06 03_04_05\”}}”
  },
  • ami_name: Prefixes a name used by Packer to tag resources during the Builders sequence.
  • vpc and subnet: Environment variables defined by the CloudFormation stack parameters.

We no longer assume a default VPC is present and instead use the VPC and subnet specified in the CloudFormation parameters. CloudFormation configures the AWS CodeBuild project to use these values as environment variables. They are made available throughout the build process.

That allows for more flexibility should you need to change which VPC and subnet will be used by Packer to launch temporary resources.

Builders

  "builders": [{
    ...
    "ami_name": “{{user `ami_name`| clean_ami_name}}”,
    "tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}”,
    },
    "run_tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}",
    },
    "run_volume_tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}",
    },
    "snapshot_tags": {
      "Name": “{{user `ami_name`}}",
    },
    ...
    "vpc_id": "{{user `vpc` }}",
    "subnet_id": "{{user `subnet` }}"
  }],

We now have new properties (*_tag) and a new function (clean_ami_name) and launch temporary resources in a VPC and subnet specified in the environment variables. AMI names can only contain a certain set of ASCII characters. If the input in project deviates from the expected characters (for example, includes whitespace or slashes), Packer’s clean_ami_name function will fix it.

For more information, see functions on the HashiCorp Packer website.

Provisioners

  "provisioners": [
    {
        "type": "shell",
        "inline": [
            "sudo pip install ansible"
        ]
    }, 
    {
        "type": "ansible-local",
        "playbook_file": "ansible/playbook.yaml",
        "role_paths": [
            "ansible/roles/common"
        ],
        "playbook_dir": "ansible",
        "galaxy_file": "ansible/requirements.yaml"
    },
    {
      "type": "shell",
      "inline": [
        "rm .ssh/authorized_keys ; sudo rm /root/.ssh/authorized_keys"
      ]
    }

We used shell provisioner to apply OS patches in Part 1. Now, we use shell to install Ansible on the target machine and ansible-local to import, install, and execute Ansible roles to make our target machine conform to our standards.

Packer uses shell to remove temporary keys before it creates an AMI from the target and temporary EC2 instance.

Ansible Implementation Details

 
Ansible provides OS patching through a custom Common role that can be easily customized for other tasks.

CIS Benchmark and Cloudwatch Logs are implemented through two Ansible third-party roles that are defined in ansible/requirements.yaml as seen in the Packer template.

The Ansible provisioner uses Ansible Galaxy to download these roles onto the target machine and execute them as instructed by ansible/playbook.yaml.

For information about how these components are organized, see the Playbook Roles and Include Statements in the Ansible documentation.

The following Ansible playbook (ansible</playbook.yaml) controls the execution order and custom properties:

---
- hosts: localhost
  connection: local
  gather_facts: true    # gather OS info that is made available for tasks/roles
  become: yes           # majority of CIS tasks require root
  vars:
    # CIS Controls whitepaper:  http://bit.ly/2mGAmUc
    # AWS CIS Whitepaper:       http://bit.ly/2m2Ovrh
    cis_level_1_exclusions:
    # 3.4.2 and 3.4.3 effectively blocks access to all ports to the machine
    ## This can break automation; ignoring it as there are stronger mechanisms than that
      - 3.4.2 
      - 3.4.3
    # CloudWatch Logs will be used instead of Rsyslog/Syslog-ng
    ## Same would be true if any other software doesn't support Rsyslog/Syslog-ng mechanisms
      - 4.2.1.4
      - 4.2.2.4
      - 4.2.2.5
    # Autofs is not installed in newer versions, let's ignore
      - 1.1.19
    # Cloudwatch Logs role configuration
    logs:
      - file: /var/log/messages
        group_name: "system_logs"
  roles:
    - common
    - anthcourtney.cis-amazon-linux
    - dharrisio.aws-cloudwatch-logs-agent

Both third-party Ansible roles can be easily configured through variables (vars). We use Ansible playbook variables to exclude CIS controls that don’t apply to our case and to instruct the CloudWatch Logs agent to stream the /var/log/messages log file to CloudWatch Logs.

If you need to add more OS or application logs, you can easily duplicate the playbook and make changes. The CloudWatch Logs agent will ship configured log messages to CloudWatch Logs.

For more information about parameters you can use to further customize third-party roles, download Ansible roles for the Cloudwatch Logs Agent and CIS Amazon Linux from the Galaxy website.

Committing Changes

 
Now that Ansible and CloudWatch Events are configured as a part of the build process, commiting any changes to the AWS CodeComit Git Repository will triger a new AMI build process that can be followed through the AWS CodePipeline console.

When the build is complete, an email will be sent to the email address you provided as a part of the CloudFormation stack deployment. The email serves as notification that an AMI has been built and is ready for use.

Summary

 
We used AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, Packer, and Ansible to build a pipeline that continuously builds new, hardened CIS AMIs. We used Amazon SNS so that email addresses subscribed to a SNS topic are notified upon completion of the AMI build.

By treating our AMI creation process as code, we can iterate and track changes over time. In this way, it’s no different from a software development workflow. With that in mind, software patches, OS configuration, and logs that need to be shipped to a central location are only a git commit away.

Next Steps

 
Here are some ideas to extend this AMI builder:

  • Hook up a Lambda function in Cloudwatch Events to update EC2 Auto Scaling configuration upon completion of the AMI build.
  • Use AWS CodePipeline parallel steps to build multiple Packer images.
  • Add a commit ID as a tag for the AMI you created.
  • Create a scheduled Lambda function through Cloudwatch Events to clean up old AMIs based on timestamp (name or additional tag).
  • Implement Windows support for the AMI builder.
  • Create a cross-account or cross-region AMI build.

Cloudwatch Events allow the AMI builder to decouple AMI configuration and creation so that you can easily add your own logic using targets (AWS Lambda, Amazon SQS, Amazon SNS) to add events or recycle EC2 instances with the new AMI.

If you have questions or other feedback, feel free to leave it in the comments or contribute to the AMI Builder repo on GitHub.