Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services Pt 2

Last time I started looking at Amazon Web Services and how it differed from Azure. I am going to continue looking at what it can do.

Virtual Machines

Lets look at what you can do with Virtual Machines. I selected to create a new Virtual Machine (or as AWS calls them an EC2 Instance)

First you choose a name for your VM and then the OS that runs on it. There are 5 main OSes to choose from Windows Server, Amazon Linux and a selection of the most common Linux flavours.

You can then download a certificate to secure your VM.

Like Azure, AWS takes a few moments to create your VM. While I wait I can see that AWS has configured a firewall so only my current IP can connect to it.

Once the VM is ready you can download an RDP file. However to get the login details you need to decrypt the password using the certificate you downloaded when you created the VM.

It is interesting to compare the difference in security between Azure and AWS. Azure allows the resetting of passwords of VMs directly from its console, however I suspect that in AWS if you loose your certificate (AWS states they don’t keep a copy of this) you would have to recreate your VM.

Like with the Websites the default name of the VM is much less user-friendly than what you get from Azure. However I suspect there are other options I haven’t spotted that may customise these.

Azure Portal vs AWS Console

I really like the Azure Portal. It feels like something that has been designed so you can easily access all the options for a specific Azure feature.

The AWS Console probably has all the same options as with Azure however I don’t think it looks half as good, and will take me a while looking through menus to find the equivalent options. Part of this is due to my unfamiliarity with AWS, so will get easier with time.


Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services

I am a big fan of Azure but I know zero about its biggest rival – Amazon Web Services or AWS.

So lets sign up for a free trial and see what it can do.Amazon Web Services

The AWS free trial is available from and lasts for 12 months. From memory I think the Azure free trial lasted only one month.

To start you need to login with your amazon account and create an AWS account. This requires your name and address and your payment info (you will only get billed if use services not covered by your free trial).

Interestingly AWS requires you to verify your identity via an automated phone call. (I don’t recall doing anything like this for Azure but please correct me if I am wrong.)

Once you are logged in you get a series of links displaying all the different services that are available. First impression is this is a simpler view to Azure’s portal with a similar amount of services. At the top right is an option to select which region you want to use, in Azure I use North Europe and West Europe, AWS has Ireland and Frankfurt.

Create a Web App

First thing to try is setting up a website. I selected create a web app and I get a page asking me for its basic details (very similar to Azure, however AWS asked what language your code is written in, Azure handles all of these) AWS websites appear to support a host of different options similar to Azure.

The actual creation of your website takes a few moments (like on Azure). However the default URL for websites is similar to which is not quite as nice as the Azure equivalent

Azure has a host of command lines available via powershell. AWS has a similar command line interface called AWS CLI, including the option to deploy from git to your website.

AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio is an extension that allows for the publishing of websites to AWS. (Just like you can publish to Azure)

As I learn more about AWS I will continue to blog about it. Amazon Web Services Pt 2

Copying settings to an Azure Website

The Software as a Service (SaaS) website that I work on has been sold to lots of clients now. Which is great news. the more Azure websites we have, the more websites we have to administer, especially if like us you take advantage of Traffic Manager which requires multiple website in different regions. Azure has some great options for making this administration easier. One job is adding all the settings onto the Azure portal, so far I have been manually adding these, but a quicker way is to use powershell.


PowerShell is everywhere these days. You can use it to control Servers, Active Directory and Exchange. So it is no surprise that you can use it to control Azure.

Open a powershell window and run the following command.


This command opens an IE window which you can login to Azure and download a file which contains settings that Azure can use. Save the *.publishsettings file and run the following command.

Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile “C:\MyPublishSettings\mysubscriptions.publishsettings”

This imports your Azure settings so that PowerShell can do clever things.

Select-AzureSubscription -Default “mysubscription”

This selects which of your Azure subscriptions to use. Now run the following to import settings into PowerShell.

$s = @{“DebugEmailAccount”=””;”SiteWarningBannerText”=””}

And finally run the following to import this settings into the Azure website you specified.

Set-AzureWebsite azure-websitename -AppSettings $s

Sounds easy doesn’t it. Well it is. The hardest part is getting the settings in the correct format to be imported but this is only string manipulation.

For my project I already have a build script which populates a settings.config file with all these settings, so I have just duplicated this to create a settings.config.importtoAzure file. Next time I have a website to create, I can create it on Azure and run the above script, pasting in the settings file that my build has already produced for me.

This only scratches the surface of what you can do with Azure and PowerShell, hopefully I will do far more in the future.

As A Service

In Cloud Computing there are a lot of terms that end aas or As a Service. Most of these I hadn’t heard of until I started writing this list.

Any service that is delivered over the internet instead of hosted locally on your network or PC could in theory be described as an As a Service.

19656eePaaS Platform As a Service

This is one of the big ones. Microsoft Azure provides a Platform as a Service which I am familiar with. Platform as a Service is where a provider provides a platform where you can build apps or websites.

SaaS Software As a Service

Another popular one. Software as a Service can be as simple as a website that runs a service that a customer wants to use, I work for a company that provides a SaaS product.

IaaS Infrastructure As a Service

The last of the big ones. A good example of IaaS is a Virtual Machine which can either be hosted on a server somewhere (a private cloud) or on the internet via a company such as Azure (public cloud) The Pizza as a Service diagram illustrates the differences between Saas, PaaS and Iaas.

NaaS Network As a Service

This is just a type of IaaS that specializes in providing networking. Anything that provides network connectivity could be included in this category.

CaaS Communications As a Service

Another subtype of IaaS this time specializing in communications, this could include Voice over IP or other similar technologies.

MONaaS Monitoring As a Service

If you have a SaaS, PaaS or IaaS you will most likely want to monitor that it is working, I certainly do. This is something that is often included in your IaaS or PaaS package. Azure has various tools for monitoring and this could be included in this category.

BaaS Backup As a Service

With the growth of cloud storage and the decrease in its cost, backing up to the cloud is a very attractive option. Any service that allows you to backup and restore from the internet can be included in this category. Your provider needs to manage your backups for it to be truly BaaS rather than just another place to store your files.

DaaS Desktop As a Service

This is where your desktop is visualized and stored in the cloud. I know very little about this as I have never used it, but I would imagine you need a strong internet connection for it to work reliably.

DBaaS Database As a Service

This is a simple one if your database is stored in the cloud like Azure SQL Database then it fits into this category. If you run your own sql server install on a VM then it doesn’t fit in this category as you are still managing it yourself and is IaaS

HaaS Hardware As a Service

HaaS this is another subcategory of IaaS which concentrates on hardware.

IDaaS Identity As a Service

This is where the management of who you are is managed in the cloud. Single Sign-On could be achieved if a website redirected determining if you are who you say you are to a particular IDaaS. Azure Active Directory is an example of this.

SaaS Storage As a Service

You get the idea now, storing files on a remote cloud product is an example of Storage as a Service. DropBox or OneDrive are good examples of this.

FoaaS F Off As a Service

.NetRocks mentioned this a few weeks ago and is a joke As a Service. The idea is that you can use this service to tell people to F off.

Writing this blog post has given me a better understanding of all the aaS that are out there. I am sure I haven’t explained some of these very well and no doubt missed some off.

Azure Traffic Manager

I have spent most of the day tweaking my Azure websites. Lots of fun!

Last week unfortunately Azure had some problems and many websites that were running in the North Europe data centre were unavailable for several hours. And you guessed it my websites were hosted here.

All hosting providers are going to have downtime from time to time and this is just something you have to take on the chin. The important thing to do in times like these is communicate with your customers about what is going on and that you are doing everything you can to restore service.

However Azure has some amazing features that you can configure to help manage when downtime occurs.

Azure is Microsoft’s global cloud platform. And it really is global, there are data centres in North Europe, West Europe, Brazil, Japan, two more in Asia and five in the US. In the event of problems it is highly unlikely that more than one of these would go down at once. If all of these are unavailable, I expect the planet earth is facing some kind of cataclysmic event and the fact that my website is down is not a priority.

IC750592To take advantage of these multiple data centres, Azure has something called a Traffic Manager.

Traffic Manager has various settings but I am using it in failover mode. This means that if one website goes down, the next one is used.

All you need to do is create a traffic manager, add two or more websites to it (called endpoints) and choose a page that needs to be monitored so Azure knows which websites are up and which are down.

If you are using SSL or custom domain names, there are a few extra steps you need to do. Your custom domain name needs pointing at the traffic manager, not the individual websites. The websites themselves have three domain names, the traffic manager address, the azure address and the custom domain name. The SSL certificate can then be assigned to each website that you have added to the traffic manager.

That was easy wasn’t it, and now if a website goes down traffic manager will use the next one. While testing this, the transition to the next website was almost immediate. I did notice that if you had a browser showing the website open during a problem you sometimes got an error page, I think this was probably due to browser caching, reopening a tab or browser fixed this issue.

Cloud Computing

I work for a company that provides a cloud computing website, but what is Cloud Computing?

Wikipedia defines it as “Cloud computing involves deploying groups of remote servers and software networks that allow centralized data storage and online access to computer services or resources.”

Erm. What does that mean? Well in simple terms it means storing you data on a remote server. Any time you submit information onto a website, you are submitting your information to the “Cloud”

But there is more that the Cloud can do for you. The search giant Google, which also develops the android mobile phone operating system, have developed a range of cloud computing products. The Google Drive product allows you to upload and even create files, these files are saved into the Cloud, once in the cloud they can be accessed from any device that has an internet connection. No longer do you run the risk of your favourite file being on a computer that won’t turn on or being on a dead hard drive, save it to the cloud and you will always have access to it.

Google isn’t the only one that does this, Microsoft have OneDrive which they are incorporating into the heart of their operating system, Apple and many other companies have released similar products.

This age of cloud computing allows a clearer separation between your data and your device. It won’t be long before whatever device you are using your files will be there to be worked on. You are in the office working on a spreadsheet, you save it to the Cloud, you can then continue working on it with your tablet while on the road. Just before bed you want to check if you added something to that doc, so you quickly check your phone. How cool is this!

But if I put my system administer hat on, Cloud computing goes far further than that. Microsoft Azure allows many of the services you would typically have running on your server, saved into the cloud. This has many advantages and allows you to concentrate on other problems while leaving the cloud to look after these services.