Favourite AWS Services

I’m a fan of Amazon Web Services. Mainly from a technical perspective, as it’s not necessarily cheaper to move from on-prem to on-cloud – so always read the small-print before uplifting your whole datacentre ;). Infact, it interested me so much I sat the Certified Solutions Architect exam last year and thoroughly enjoyed going through the material and labbing along the way.

I like to keep a track of updates to current AWS services, but also new ones that are released and thought I’d highlight 5 of my current favourite offerings.

5. Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)

EC2_Icon

EC2 is the bread and butter of AWS. It provides you with all the compute grunt you could ever wish for or need. Need 5 Linux VMs for a web server cluster? Or how about the ability to auto-scale when demand requires it, then spin those same servers down automatically when demand tails off? Don’t worry, EC2 can do just that, as well as a vast amount more.

To spin up an EC2 instance (VM) you have a few options. You can:

  • Use their quick start utility, which provides you with ~30 of the most popular AMI’s (Amazon Machine Images) to choose from. Think your standard, hardened versions of Amazon Linux, RedHat, SUSE, Fedora and then your Windows and Ubuntu variants too
  • Choose an AMI that you have created yourself, perhaps a specific build of server with pre-install software
  • Head over to the AWS Marketplace and utilise for free, or buy specific software that runs in the cloud. Think F5 from Big-IP, Splunk or Juniper etc
  • Launch a community AMI that has been created by a member of the community

It’s frighteningly easy to get up and running, just make sure to terminate the instance/s when you’re finished playing otherwise the costs can soon start to build without you even knowing.

Intro to EC2 Video

4. Kinesis

Kinesis_Icon

If you’re interested in processing or analyzing streams of data – think Twitter for example, then Kinesis and  is a really useful service.

You can use it to build custom applications to collect and analyze streaming data for a bespoke set of needs or requirements. One example could be monitoring Twitter for every time the tag #JustinBieber (whoever he is….) is seen, then pushing that data through Firehose to the analytics engine to present users with personalised content – graphs, diagrams, feeds etc. Powerful stuff.

As per AWS Kinesis FAQs , a Kinesis stream flow:

Kinesis_Flow

Amazon Kinesis Streams enables you to build custom applications that process or analyze streaming data for specialized needs. You can continuously add various types of data such as clickstreams, application logs, and social media to an Amazon Kinesis stream from hundreds of thousands of sources. Within seconds, the data will be available for your Amazon Kinesis Applications to read and process from the stream.

3. Trusted Advisor

Trusted_Advisor

Trusted Advisor is like having your own AWS architect on-hand, 24 hours a day, to audit your AWS account and tell you where it’s vulnerable, where you could save money and how you could increase performance. Whenever you want.

Trusted_Advisor_Checks

It’s pretty simple – if you use AWS, you should be using TA.

2. Identity & Access Management

IAM

IAM is certainly in the top 3 of the most important AWS services. With it you can pretty much control all access to all of your accounts resources, whether they be groups or individuals.

Straight out of the box you will want to create users (then swallow your root credentials to keep them safe…) and manage their identities by granting generic or bespoke permissions. This way they’ll only have access to the resources they need.

1. Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

VPC

As a Network bod myself, VPC is of real interest to me. It allows you to provision you own isolated CIDR block, allocate subnets and configure routing tables, all within AWS. You can then architect your solutions in a virtual network that you have defined and could, in theory replicate your on-prem, private IP schema’s in the cloud!

You can also create a hardware Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection between your corporate datacenter and your VPC and leverage the AWS cloud as an extension of your corporate datacenter.

AWS VPC FAQ.

I feel that the VPC gives a little bit back to the Network Engineer, as in they’ve just seen half their DC shifted to VM’s in the cloud so still get to play with IP subnetting and IP allocation in the Cloud.

A Quick AWS explanation of VPC can be found here.

If you want more AWS content than any normal person could ever be able to digest, then head over to the AWS YouTube channel.

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My Tech Visits

During the working day – over lunch usually, and when I have some time to waste I’ll frequent a number of tech related sites so I thought I’d jot them down here for reference.

Packet Pushers

Packet_Pushers_Logo

http://packetpushers.net/

I don’t visit the Packet Pushers website too often, but they are probably my most frequently listened to podcast. There are some informative blog posts on their site and you can also access all of the podcasts there too.

The Register

the_register_2

https://www.theregister.co.uk/

The Register is easily my number one IT news website I visit. It not only has up to date news, but the writers add their own satirical/comical slant on the news, which I really like. Highly recommended.

IPSpace

IP_Space

http://www.ipspace.net/

IPSpace is an networking orientated blog not affiliated to any vendors (for the record) that’s run by CCIE #1354 Ivan Pepelnjak. On this blog you’ll find excellent articles, webinars, books relating to architectures, real-life solutions, technologies and more.

Packet Life

Packet_Life

http://packetlife.net/

Packet Life is a blog by Jeremy Stretch, an extremely knowledgeable network engineer who enjoys sharing what he’s learned with his readers.

There are some fantastic networking cheat sheets on this site, along with lots of great tech posts, packet capture trace files, software and book recommendations and much, much more. Definitely worth a look.

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HP Proliant Gen8 Home Server

Home servers have become really popular over the last 5 years or so, whether they be your regular NAS or a more home server flavour, with MS Windows, Linux or a Hypervisor as an OS.

I decided to jump aboard the band-wagon, so picked up a Gen 8 HP Proliant from eBuyer to utilise as a mix of the below:

  1. Plex Media Server
  2. Home Lab for study

I have since added a 4TB WD Red hard drive and will be picking up 16GB (2×8) of Ram in the coming weeks to max out it’s two dimm slots. I will, at some point, also add additional disks and employ RAID – with 0 (Striping) or 1 (Mirroring) being the options.

Plex Media Server

Plex is a client-server media player system and allows you to consolidate all of your pictures, films, Music etc in one location, and access it all from anywhere with an internet connection. You can stream the movies on a range of devices (iPads, SmartPhones etc), but you do have to pay £4.99 for the privilege – but in my eyes it’s well worth it.

Home Lab

This was the main reason I picked up a decent home server. As I work away the Gen8 allows me to remotely connect onto my home server and lab/test away in my own virtualised environments!

I initially went with Xubuntu as my server OS, which is perfect for home use as it’s lightweight and you don’t need to be a Linux developer to navigate around it. However, although the Gen8 supports RedHat Linux (RHEL) out of the box, to go above a 640×480 resolution you have to create your own bespoke driver!

If I had to do this just for a useful res, I assumed there would be other issues down the line I’d encounter too, therefore decided to wuss out and rebuild it with something more friendly – Windows Server 2016 Essentials!

After a couple of weeks running Server 2016 I decided to start fresh again, therefore went for a Hypervisor. My choice was the most popular, VMWare’s ESXi. This now means that I can spin up as many VM’s as I desire (resource allowing) – for example I have a Server 2016 VM, which sits on my LAN happily as my Plex Server. I then access all of my VM’s using the vSphere Client below.

vSphere Client

Other VM’s include Linux distro’s – Mint, Ubuntu etc and also a Cisco 1000v virtual router so I can try my hand at some Ansible Playbooks.

Bug-Bears

There are a few issues I had/have with the Gen8, and for all it’s positives here are a few negatives.

  • iLO requires a licence to mount virtual cd – 60 day workaround
  • No DVI or HDMI, just VGA
  • NTFS pendrives not supported, only Fat32, but 4GB file limit
  • To install an OS you need to load the relevant disk drivers before the OS will see the Array you’ve created prior in the BIOS – I had them on a USB pen-drive and you can grab them from here. You can also circumvent this using the HP Intelligent Provisioning utility, but I prefer the old fashion way.

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