Into the Amazon EC2 Cloud

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2011-11-08

After what seems like years, I've follwed eWEEK Labs Editor-in-Chief Jason Brooks into Amazon's EC2. I'm setting up the database needed to run the exercises in "Baseball Hacks-Tips & Tools for Analyzing and Winning with Statistics" written by Joseph Adler and published by O'Reilly. My virtual machine is running in a micro instance of Ubuntu.

With a swipe of my credit card I was able to get an AWS (Amazon Web Services) account set up. Next up I needed to get MySQL installed on the instance. With the help of some excellent step-by-step instructions from Robot Media I passed that hurdle.

As part of the Robot Media instructions, I used a community AMI (Amazon Machine Image) as the starting point for creating my EC2 instance. Unfortunately, that instance was two versions old, so I've been sitting through a smooth running, but nonetheless tiresome upgrade.

Now that my EC2 instance is up-to-date, I'm just about ready to get started with "Baseball Hacks." I've run into a bit of a problem in that the 2011 season database from is a little larger than the myphpadmin console is configured to allow. There are some directions for a workaround, so I hope to be passed that by the time I leave work tonight.

In many ways, the virtual instance I've spun up is much like the virtual machines I've been using for years in the eWEEK Labs VMware vSphere test environment. But in some important ways the systems are very different. For example, I didn't really think that much about storage requirements for my instance. We have plenty of capacity at eWEEK Labs, but I generally do look at the storage array as I'm standing up a new system.

I was also immediately aware of the cost of the Amazon EC2 instance. Even at pennies a day, that's still money I have to process on an expense report. Naturally, eWEEK Labs pays an energy bill to run our test environment but I'm not directly responsible for making sure the check gets put in the mail.

Finally, I spent more time getting my EC2 instance into shape than I was expecting. Certainly my choice of a community AMI had a lot to do with that. But as I started looking at the plethora of AMI choices available, it's clear to me that while some aspects of cloud computing are easier than if you had to stand up the instance on your own hardware, there is still an awful lot of technical know-how that goes into using these virtual resources. And that's worth considering when thinking about the strategic use of cloud services.

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