The Orbit Blog

Learn about best practice, news, how-tos, and insight. The goal? Accelerate your AWS Journey.

It's not a Cloud Datacenter

By Brett Gillett //

I hear people refer to their infrastructure in AWS as being part of their ‘cloud datacenter’ on a regular basis. Each and every time, I cringe. Here’s why. When we use a term like ‘cloud datacenter’ it reinforces the idea of a physical space where we rack and stack long-living computing, storage, and network gear that we own. Rather than just replicating our current infrastructure, in the cloud, we should be figuring how to refactor our applications to take advantage a highly flexible platform.

Four Things I've Learned From Running AWS Bootcamps

By Brett Gillett //

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of running several AWS boot camps for customers in Mississauga, Dallas, and Chicago. Spending the day showing customers how they can get started on the AWS platform is one of my favourite aspects of my job - outside of getting to use some impressive technology every day. When I think back to when I got started with AWS, I’m amazed at just how different the conversations I have today are compared to just a few months ago.

What Are Reserved Instances and When Should You Use Them

By Brett Gillett //

What is a ‘Reserved Instance (RI)’ I explain reserved instances to customers quite simply - Reserved Instances (RI) are a billing function. In exchange for making a time-based commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS), you get a discount for your Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and Relational Database Service (RDS). It’s important to know that while other services also support reserved instances, EC2 and RDS are the two I most commonly talk to customers about because typically the account for the majority of your AWS bill.

Serverless SES Forwarding for GrooveHQ

By Brett Gillett //

Recently, I started to investigate the possibility of using a SaaS-based helpdesk for our AWS customers. After looking at the usual suspects, ZenDesk, FreshDesk, and GrooveHQ and comparing what we could do for $free$ (it is just a test case at this point) I decided to go with GrooveHQ. After creating your account in GrooveHQ, they provide you with a forwarding email address. If you want to, you can provide this email address to your customers and start receiving support tickets right away.

What the Heck is 'Right-Sizing' and Why Should I Care

By Brett Gillett //

What is ‘Right-sizing?’ The simplest definition that I can think of is modifying your AWS infrastructure to match actual demand. Although there are numerous services in AWS which can be ‘right-sized’ most commonly when someone refers to ‘right-sizing’ they are probably talking about the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or Relational Database Service (RDS). Why? Because in the majority of cases the majority of your monthly costs associated with AWS will be in one of these services.

The Importance of Designing for Failures

By Brett Gillett //

Given the recent AWS Availability Zone (AZ) failure in the Sydney region I thought now was as good of a time as any to reiterate the importance of designing your AWS infrastructure to survive failures. First, it’s important to understand that just because you’ve decided to move all (or some of) your IT infrastructure to AWS doesn’t mean that you no longer have to design for failures. Cloud Computing regardless of your chosen platform is not a silver bullet.

Building My First Slack Bot

By Brett Gillett //

Last week I attended my first DevOpsDays conference in Toronto. During the conference, I was introduced to something called an “open space.” Here’s an overview: everyone in attendance can throw out an idea about a topic that they would like to talk about, people vote, and discussions for the breakouts are selected based on interest. One of the talks I attended was about something called ‘ChatOps.’ The idea is to use a chat client - like Slack - to help you manage day-to-day operations.

Salt Server via CloudFormation

By Brett Gillett //

Recently, I’ve been preparing for the AWS Developer Professional Certification. During my prep work, I’ve been reading quite a bit about “Infrastructure as Code.” via CloudFormation and wanted to implement some of the concepts that I had been reading about by working them into a project. I decided that the project would be to stand up a SaltStack Master server in a VPC by using CloudFormation. Relatively speaking it was quite easy.

Checking AWS root accounts for MFA

By Brett Gillett //

Last week we needed to develop a quick and easy way to check that Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) was enabled for the root account for a bunch of AWS accounts. Being a proponent of project-based learning, I decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to further my understanding of Boto3 and serverless computing in Amazon Web Services. Here’s the list of requirements that I came up with: There were to be no servers (EC2 instances) in the solution It had to be inexpensive It had to be able to check numerous AWS accounts that were not related It had to notify a few people if it discovered an AWS account that did not have MFA enabled on its root account Here’s a diagram of the solution.

What is 'Infrastructure as Code'

By Brett Gillett //

So, you were sitting in a meeting last week, and one of your teammates happened to mention that they have made several ‘commits’ this week to the ‘infrastructure as code’ base. Everyone else seems to know what the heck that means, so you keep quiet and decide to ‘Google’ it later. It’s simple really, let me explain. When someone mentions ‘infrastructure as code’ what they are saying is that they have turned the infrastructure and possibly the application components into one or more snippets of code that can be used to quickly deploy new testing and development environments; or to rebuild infrastructure after an outage.

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