Class - Treat your virtual machines like cattle


Bruce Devlin - new TV-Bay Magazine
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The AWS Summit 2017 in London

For several years I have felt that I should attend the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in London, but never quite found the time to do it. After an exhilarating and educational day, I will now regret that I didnt go sooner.

The Summit is basically a way for newbies to learn about the scope of AWS, for professionals like myself to learn more about how to build systems from those tools and for programmers to get early access to new releases and the thinking behind the services. With the added perk of some free food and Intel giving away fidget spinners, whats not to love?

My goal was to concentrate on two themes the whole day speed of development and security. My thinking is that the ability to develop secure, scalable applications fast is the key to success in the media business over the next few years. As always at these events there were a couple of key phrases that stuck in my mind that will forever change the way I see the world.

Your VMs are cattle, not pets

One of the great presentations was on automating security so that you can audit what youre doing, analyse the impacts of your policies and rapidly implement remediation should an attack take place. The thrust of the talk was that creating your Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) in AWS can be done for the first time using the console, but for production, it should be done with code. That code should be version controlled, checked in and tested so that you can spin up and spin down your entire Virtual Factory at any time you like.

This approach is called Infrastructure as code. By doing this, you can respond quickly if your infrastructure is compromised. Your VPC is not a pet that you nurture and love and keep alive for as long as possible. Its a farm animal whose life expectancy is really, really short if the herd gets infected. This approach is important. If your deployment tests regularly tear down your entire VPC and rebuild it within a minute, then you KNOW that your response time to remove infection from your environment is a minute. Now that you know that, you move on to looking at data integrity to prevent reinfection. A great and obvious, with hindsight, observation. Dont be surprised if you see the mrmxf.com website developing icons of cows in the near future only you will get the joke

Who needs servers anyway?

The other great revelation for me was the use of AWS Lambda functions (Azure calls them cloud function). This gives you the ability to execute code without needing to spin up a Virtual Machine. Once you realise that nearly all AWS processes can trigger a lambda function before or after they start (these are called events) then you can see rapidly how you can build smart infrastructure. For example if you are spinning up a VP to do transcoding for a customer, the lambda function could be used to pre-configure the generic transcoder with the clients configuration. This keeps the transcoder generic and the system scalable.

Get in Line

You can see from my photo of the small lecture room that this was a really busy event where you could learn


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Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new

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