Creating cloud infrastructures

If you need network services, there is little need to build up your own hardware. Try using cloud services and bring your infrastructure into the cloud. You need an in-house infrastructure? Try Eucalyptus…

Christian Baun has been involved in Linux/UNIX and open source since 1994, when he did his first Slackware 2.0 installation

Have you ever used spare computer parts or an old PC to build up your private web/FTP/mail/file-server? A tiny computer, somewhere in your flat, that runs 24/7. Have you spent weeks installing Linux and configuring the services you wanted? Have you ever calculated the energy consumption costs your machine causes? Do it and you will be amazed how much you pay for a computer that is idle for the most of the day.

Pull the plug and burn your hardware! Throw it away! In the cloud you can run the services you want for very little money. Amazon offers a variety of cloud services, called the Amazon Web Services (AWS). You can run virtual server instances inside the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), store your application data inside the Simple Storage Service (S3) and the Elastic Block Storage (EBS). Queues for storing messages can be created with the Simple Queue Service (SQS) and the database functionality is provided by SimpleDB and the Relational Database Service (RDS). With theses services it is quite easy to build up the infrastructure you want, inside the Amazon cloud, without ever touching a piece of hardware.

Using theses web services is quite easy and the best part of the story is, you pay as you go. There is no minimum fee. The price for a small Linux instance (1 virtual core, 32-bit platform, 1.6 GB memory, 160 GB storage) is $0.085 per hour. The price for S3 is starts at $0.150 per GB. The price for SQS is $0.000001 per request. Data transfer is charged separately, as well as the database storage. So, you only pay what you need and want.
For easy access to the AWS, a lot of tools exist. Some of the popular ones are:

S3Fox – a Firefox extension that gives you a user-friendly interface for the upload and download of multiple files and all aspects of S3 control.
–another Firefox extension. This one provides lots of EC2 management features.
– an easy-to-use command-line tool for uploading, retrieving and managing data in Amazon S3 that is ideal for shell scripts.
– an easy-to-use Python interface to AWS.

You don’t want to throw your server hardware away, but using the AWS sounds cool to you? Maybe you want your own private cloud that is interface-compatible to the AWS. With Eucalyptus, an open source solution exists. Eucalyptus provides the EC2, S3 and EBS functionality and you can use the same open source tools for managing your private cloud that you already know from the AWS. The Eucalyptus team provides packages for CentOS, Ubuntu, openSUSE and Debian, as well as source packages. The easiest way to install Eucalyptus is the Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition because this distribution already contains Eucalyptus. Give the cloud a try.

This article originally appeared in issue 85 of Linux User & Developer.
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