Software development is always easier when you have tools to assist you, such as integrated development environments and code libraries. However, now that programming has reached the level of the so-called cloud, the need for tools to help in development has grown even more. Programming for the cloud requires maintaining, not just the software, but the whole infrastructure that is supporting the software.
Amazon.com's various cloud offerings are a case in point. Developing for Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) can be done with a modest set of tools, including the Eclipse IDE and the command-line tools from Amazon.com itself. However, dealing with the software can be a big task, from provisioning to effectively managing servers and assets. That's where tools such as the RightScale Platform come in.
RightScale provides what it calls the RightScale Dashboard to help manage the infrastructure. The product comes with several price plans, including a free developer account that even includes a free trial run of Amazon EC2.
In this article, I take the developer account for a spin to see what it can do. RightScale also offers tools that go beyond what the free developer tool can do. Go here for a full comparison of RightScale's offerings.
When starting out with the free developer account, users log in to the site via the Web page, and can easily launch one of several prepackaged server templates. When creating an account in Amazon.com's cloud, developers need to start by specifying a server. The servers are equivalent to various familiar desktop server configurations, complete with an operating system and various startup and shutdown scripts.
The product offers templates, an area where the benefits of using RightScale are already apparent. Instead of the user having to fuss over configurations, RightScale has already done the work.
For this free trial, I chose the server called Mephisto all-in-one (per the directions for the free trial). For each server, users can get a full description. The description for this said it was a "blog application written in Ruby on Rails" and that the template "combines Load Balancer, Rails application [Mephisto] and MySQL all-in-one box." In other words, this is a preconfigured blogging application running on a server.
There is also the word "image," followed by the description, "RightImage CentOS5_0V3_0_0 (ami-d8a347b1)." This is also something preconfigured by RightScale; it's a custom server image that mimics an operating system on a desktop computer. RightScale offers several preconfigured images, including, for example, a Ubuntu installation running on an X86 system. Through the dashboard, programmers can launch individual images, or they can launch a template that's an image preconfigured with software. And they're free to launch just an image without using a template, if they prefer more customization.