As IT professionals, and computer enthusiasts, we throw
around a lot of acronyms. Perhaps two of the most popular in the last few years
are IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service). These
are commonly associated with cloud hosting providers, such as Amazon AWS,
RackSpace, Windows Azure, and countless others. And while each of these
providers offer their own management interfaces, the major players often
provide APIs which allows for third party management tools, custom scripting,
and other automation.

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For this edition of Five Apps, we take a look at five tools
to help you manage an Amazon AWS (EC2 and other aspects) environment.

Cloud computing encompasses a lot of different technologies but the two biggest buckets are Software as a Service (apps) and Infrastructure as a Service (servers). The IaaS providers make a very convincing argument for businesses to stop running their own data centers and simply purchase server capacity on-demand and scale up and down as needed. This is our deep dive on IaaS strategy and best practices.

Five Apps

1. Enstratius

Enstratius, now a
Dell product, is a web-based cloud management platform designed for Amazon AWS.
Within its interface, you can manage servers, volumes, networks, and basically
every other aspect of the Amazon environment. Focusing on the server
management, the interface shows various statistics on server usage and can help
you budget your usage and project monthly expenses based on current systems. Enstratius
is free for up to five servers and three users. Plans above that have a flat
rate per month plus a per-hour cost per server and various other options
depending on the level.

2. Scalr

Scalr is an open source
management platform for Amazon AWS. Unlike Enstratius, but much like other
systems available, it is only able to manage systems and farms deployed from
its console – preexisting systems require some addon software on those systems
to bring them into the Scalr environment. Unfortunately, I was unable to get
the software to work. However, deploying a farm, say LAMP (Linux, Apache,
MySQL, and PHP), and managing that farm is the core of the software. Scalr
does, however, allow you to import an existing system as a new role and then
clone and re-deploy it from within the framework. Scalr is available as a
Hosted solution for a monthly support cost, On Premises solution (which
requires contact with Scalr for pricing), or an Open Source solution that is
free of cost but comes with no support.

3. RightScale

RightScale is a
universal cloud management environment. It is capable of managing servers and
farms in all of the major players in the cloud marketplace, not the least of
which is Amazon AWS. Like other management platforms, the only systems it can
manage are those deployed from RightScale itself. While it has competitive
features to other platforms, the standout feature is monitoring. RightScale
contains graphs of nearly every hardware aspect, including CPU, Memory, Disk,
and Network activity. RightScale has a free option that is ideal for small
environments and has options for larger environments; pricing is available from
their sales team.

4. Hybridfox

is a free, open source Firefox plugin for managing Amazon AWS and several other
cloud platforms. It is based on the Elasticfox plugin designed for EC2 but has
been extended by CSS Corp Labs to support Eucalyptus while still maintaining
the EC2 compatibility. Hybridfox implements practically every Amazon AWS API,
like most of the other systems available. Its standout feature is the
completely open source nature.

5. Amazon AWS

I would be remiss if I didn’t include Amazon’s built-in
management utilities
. In addition to the ability configure everything that
is available via the API on a web interface comparable to those written with
the API, Amazon also has command line utilities which are excellent for
scripting. Further, there is no additional cost to using Amazon’s utilities;
the cost is built in to their basic monthly charges for the service usage.