7 Tips on How to Work the Magic With DevOps for AWS Cloud Management

If you look at it, both Cloud and DevOps have gained importance because they help address some key transitions in IT. Cloud and DevOps have played a big role in helping IT address some of the biggest transformative shifts of our times. One, the rise of the service economy; two, the unprecedented, almost continuous, pace of disruption and thirdly, the infusion of digital into every facet of our lives. These are the shifts that are driving business in the 21st century. And DevOps for AWS Cloud Management is a match made in heaven.

Are you a DevOps engineer looking for AWS cloud management, then you’re at the right place. Read on to know how AWS and DevOps practices are a go-to combo.

The Backdrop

Cloud has finally come of age in the last few years. Gartner has projected that the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 18 percent in 2017 to a total $246.8 billion, up from $209.2 billion in 2016. Out of this, the highest growth is expected to come from cloud system infrastructure services (infrastructure as a service [IaaS]), which is projected to grow 36.8 percent in 2017 to reach $34.6 billion.

IDC too has it’s views:

worldwide public cloud services market report from IDC Image Source: IDC 2017 Forecast on Public IT Spending

Several companies are hosting enterprise applications in AWS, suggesting that CIOs have become more comfortable hosting critical software in the public cloud. As per Forrester, the first wave of cloud computing was created by Amazon Web Services, which launched with a few simple compute and storage services in 2006. A decade later, AWS is operating at an $11 billion run rate.

“As a mindset, cloud is really about how you do your computing rather than where you do it.”

And with public cloud like AWS, it already provides a set of flexible services designed to enable companies to more rapidly and reliably build and deliver products using AWS and DevOps practices. These services simplify provisioning and managing infrastructure, deploying application code, automating software release processes, and monitoring your application and infrastructure performance.

“In simple words: AWS Cloud Management becomes much simpler through the use of DevOps and vice-versa.”

An essential element of DevOps is that development and operations are bound together, which means that configuration of the infrastructure is part of the code itself. This basically means that unlike the traditional process of doing development on one machine and deployment on another one, the machine becomes part of the application. This is almost impossible without cloud, because in order to get better reliability and performance, the infrastructure needs scale up and down as needed.

On its part, DevOps has gained its spotlight in the software development field, and is growing from strength to strength. DevOps has seen a tremendous increase in adoption in the recent years, becoming an essential component of software-centric organizations. But when DevOps and Cloud come together is when real magic is created.

Below are few useful tips to ensure that you get the most from your DevOps for AWS Cloud Management.

1. Templatize your Cloud Architecture

“Build your Cloud as Code.”

Using AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or creating your own templates, you can describe the AWS resources including the deployment configuration, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application.

 AWS CloudFormation’s sample templateImage Source: AWS CloudFormation Docs

This allows developers and systems administrators an easy way to create and manage a collection of related AWS resources, provisioning and updating them in an orderly and predictable fashion.

This not only allows the source control of VPC design, application deployment architecture, network security design and application configuration in JSON format. In case you require multi-cloud support for safely creating and managing the cloud infrastructure at scale, you can consider using Terraform. This can help everyone in your team to understand your cloud design.

One great thing about CloudFormation is that you don’t need to figure out the order for provisioning AWS services or the subtitles of making those dependencies work. Once the AWS resources are deployed, it is possible to modify and update them in a controlled and predictable way, similar to the manner in which you apply version control to your AWS infrastructure.

“The best part is that CloudFormation is available at no additional charge, and customers need to pay only for the AWS resources needed to run your applications.”

2. Automate with AWS Cloud Management Tools

Cloud makes it easier for you to automate everything using APIs. AWS provides a bunch of services that help organizations practice DevOps, and these are built first for use with AWS. These tools have the capability to automate manual tasks, help teams manage complex environments at scale, and keep engineers in control of the high velocity that is enabled by DevOps.  

AWS cloud automation tools help you use automation so you can build faster and more efficiently.

AWS Automation Tools

You might want to first and foremost automate the build and deploy process of your applications.  You can leverage Jenkins or CodePipeline to CodeDeploy to automate your build-test-release-deploy process. This will enable anyone from your team to deploy a new piece of code into production, potentially saving hundreds of hours every month for your engineers.

Using AWS services, you can also automate manual tasks or processes including deployments, development & test workflows, container management, and configuration management.

Doing manual work in the Cloud through console can be quite problematic. You simply cannot deal with the complexity and configuration required for your applications without automating everything from provisioning, config, build, release, deployment, monitor and troubleshooting issues.

“In Cloud, the only thing you should trust is your automation. Automate IT.”

3. Free up Engineers’ Time Using Managed DB and Search

In most cases, there is absolutely no reason for you to run your own SQL databases. AWS offers some great services – RDS and ElasticSearch. These can free you from the worry of the AWS Cloud Management processes by managing the complexity and handling underlying infrastructure.

Amazon Elasticsearch Service makes it easy to deploy, operate, and scale Elasticsearch for log analytics, full text search, application monitoring, and more. Similarly, the Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while managing time-consuming database administration tasks, freeing you up to focus on your applications and business.

These managed offerings from AWS make everything from patch management, horizontal scalability to read replicas a breeze. The best part is that these will free up your engineers’ time to focus on more business initiatives by offloading a large chunk of operational work to AWS.

4. Simplify Troubleshooting Through Centralized Log Management

“DevOps allows you to do frequent deploys, so you debug quickly and do the release. With Centralized Log Management, debugging gets quicker and faster.”

The most important debug information of your applications that you need for troubleshooting will be in the log files. Therefore, you need a centralized system to collect and manage it. You can use Amazon CloudWatch Logs to monitor, store, and access your log files from Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, AWS CloudTrail, and other sources. The ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana) or EKK stack (Amazon Elasticsearch Service, Amazon Kinesis, and Kibana) is a solution that eliminates the undifferentiated heavy lifting of deploying, managing, and scaling your log aggregation solution. With the EKK stack, you can focus on analyzing logs and debugging your application, instead of managing and scaling the system that aggregates the logs.

You should look at using CloudWatch Logs to stream all logs from your servers into ELK stack provided by AWS. You can look at Sumologic or Loggly for doing this as well if you need advanced analytics and grouping of logs data. This will allow engineers to look at information for troubleshooting problems or handling issues without worrying about SSH access to systems.

5. Get Round-the-Clock Cloud Visibility

DevOps is a continuous process. Put it in action for round-the-clock cloud visibility. And Every business needs visibility into their cloud usage by users, operations, applications, access and network flow standpoint.

DevOps is a Continuous Process

You can do this easily in AWS using AWS’ DevOps tools like CloudTrail logs, VPC Flow logs, RDS Logs and ELB/CloudFront logs. You will have everything needed to audit what happened and when from where to understand any incident. This will help you understand and troubleshoot events faster.

AWS CloudTrail is a service that enables governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account. With CloudTrail, you can log, continuously monitor, and retain events related to API calls across your AWS infrastructure. CloudTrail provides a history of AWS API calls for your account, including API calls made through the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, command line tools, and other AWS services. This history simplifies security analysis, resource change tracking, and troubleshooting.

Similarly, VPC Flow Logs is a feature that enables you to capture information about the IP traffic going to and from network interfaces in your VPC. Flow log data is stored using Amazon CloudWatch Logs. After you’ve created a flow log, you can view and retrieve its data in Amazon CloudWatch Logs.

Flow logs can help you with a number of tasks; for example, to troubleshoot why specific traffic is not reaching an instance, which in turn can help you diagnose overly restrictive security group rules.

You can also use flow logs as a security tool to monitor the traffic that is reaching your instance.

You can also monitor the MySQL error log, the slow query log, and the general log directly through the Amazon RDS console, the Amazon RDS API, the Amazon RDS CLI, or the AWS SDKs. 

6. Manage ROI Intelligently

“DevOps is the culture of innovating at velocity. Using DevOps concepts you can help keep cloud ROI in check.”

One of the benefits of moving your business to Cloud is reducing your infrastructure costs. Before you find ways to maximize your AWS Cloud ROI, you need to first have the right data to help you make decisions. After all, knowing how to control your cloud costs is easy when all the right data comes together in a single dashboard to help you make decisions. There are tools (including from  Botmetric) that provide full visibility into your cloud across the company to build a meaningful picture of expenses and analyze resources by business units or departments. With these tools, you have immediate answers to why your AWS cloud costs spiked or what caused it.

“A penny saved is a penny earned. Ensure you track down every unused and underused resource in your AWS cloud and help increase ROI.”

Using Botmetric products, you can fix cost leaks within minutes using the powerful click-to-fix automation. You also have a unified cloud cost savings dashboard to understand utilization across your business to know cost spillage at business unit or cloud account level.

Cloud capacity planning is pivotal to reduce your overall cloud spend. There is no better way to maximize ROI than considering Reserved Instance purchases in AWS for your predictable usage for the year.

With RI, you pay the low hourly usage fee for every hour in your Reserved Instance term. This means you’re charged hourly regardless of whether any usage has occurred during an hour. When your total quantity of running instances during a given hour exceeds the number of applicable RIs you own, you will be charged the On-Demand rate. There are other dynamics to it too.

Botmetric’s AWS Reserved Instance planner (RI Planner) evaluates cloud utilization to recommend intelligent ways for optimizing AWS RI costs. It enables you to plan right. Even better, there will be no more over reservation or underutilization. You have access to a suite of intelligent RI recommendation algorithms and smart RI purchase planner to save weeks of effort.

With the recent models, you can simplify the RI management and not worry about tiny configuration details for taking advantage of it in a region. You should have mechanisms to alert you in case of unused RI. With an effective RI, you can keep everyone happy and save money for the company.

7. Ensuring Top-Notch AWS Cloud Security

You can provide a far better security in AWS than you can potentially do in a data center without worrying about an exorbitant licensing cost for legacy security tools.

AWS provides WAF, DDoS Protection, Inspector, System Manager, Trusted Advisor and Config Rules for protecting your Cloud while you can get virtually all other security tools from the marketplace.

AWS CloudTrail, which provides a history of AWS API calls for an account, too facilitates security analysis, resource change tracking, and compliance auditing of an AWS environment.

Moreover, CloudTrail is an essential service for understanding AWS usage and should be enabled in every region – for all AWS accounts regardless of where services are deployed.

As a DevOps engineer, you can also use AWS Config, which creates an AWS resource inventory like configuration history, configuration change notification, and relationships between AWS resources. It provides a timeline of resource configuration changes for specific services too.  Plus, change snapshots are stored in a specified Amazon S3 bucket and can be configured to send Amazon SNS notifications when AWS resource changes are detected. This will help keep vulnerabilities under check.

Not to forget: add an additional layer of security for your business with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for your AWS Root Account and all IAM users. The same should be applied for your SSH Jumpbox as well so no one can access it directly. You should enable MFA for all your critical S3 buckets that have business information & backup data to ensure it’s protected from accidental terminations. Given the number of advantages that MFA protection has for enhanced security, there is no reason for you to avoid it. This provides additional protection to secure your cloud and data.

Concluding Thoughts: Adopt Modern DevOps Tools

If cloud is a new way of computing then DevOps is the modern way of getting things done. You should leverage new age DevOps tools for monitoring, application performance management, log management, security, data protection and cloud management instead of trying to build adhoc automation or dealing with primitive tools offered by AWS. A good tool like New Relic, Shippable, CloudPassage etc. can save time and effort. However, using intelligent DevOps platform like Botmetric is the way forward if you want simplified cloud operations.

We’re at a stage now where most organisations don’t really need to be educated about the value of cloud computing, so to speak. The major advantages of cloud including agility, scalability, cost benefits, innovation and business growth are fairly well established. Rather, it is a matter of businesses trying to evaluate how they can fit cloud into their overall IT strategies.

With new innovations and changing dynamics, and increased demand of DevOps users, businesses are becoming more agile with each passing day. But DevOps isn’t the easiest thing in the world. We hope that your endeavor to get the best of your DevOps and AWS Cloud combo becomes a breeze with these seven tips! Do drop in a line or two below about what you think. Until next time, stay tuned!