AWS Elastic Beanstalk: A Quick and Simple Way into the Cloud

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clearbox.jpg Flexibility is one of the key principles of Amazon Web Services - developers can select any programming language and software package, any operating system, any middleware and any database to build systems and applications that meet their requirements. Additionally customers are not restricted to AWS services; they can mix-and-match services from other providers to best meet their needs. A whole range of innovative new services, ranging from media conversion to geo-location-context services have been developed by our customers using this flexibility and are available in the AWS ecosystem. To enable this broad choice, the core of AWS is composed of building blocks which customers and partners can use to build any system or application in the way they see fit. The upside of the primitive building block approach is ultimate flexibility but the flipside is that developers always have to put these blocks together and manage them before they can get started, even if they just quickly want to deploy a simple application.

To battle this complexity, developers who do not need control over the whole software stack often use development platforms that help them manage their application development, deployment and monitoring. There are some excellent platforms running on AWS that do precisely this; Ruby on Rails developers have Heroku and Engine Yard, Springsource users have CloudFoundry Drupal developers can use Acquia, and PHP aficionados can sign up for phpfog, just to name a few. These platforms take away much of the "muck" of software development to the extent that most RoR developers these days will choose to run on a platform instead of managing the whole stack themselves.

Developers have continuously asked us to create similar platforms to simplify development on AWS. However, given that there are probably as many different approaches to development as there are developers, instead of creating a particular platform, we are launching AWS Elastic Beanstalk, an application development container that can be the basis for the development of many different development platforms. It targets both the application developer by providing a set of simple tools to get started quickly and the platform developer by giving control over the underlying technology stack.

Elastic Beanstalk makes it easy for developers to deploy and manage scalable and fault-tolerant applications on the AWS cloud. It takes just minutes to get started and deploy your first application. AWS Elastic Beanstalk automatically creates the AWS resources and application stack needed to run the application, freeing developers from worrying about server capacity, load balancing, scaling their application, and version control. There is no charge to use Elastic Beanstalk and developers only pay for the AWS resources used to run their applications.  Elastic Beanstalk stays true to the AWS principles by not locking customers into a black box; Elastic Beanstalk creates resources on behalf of the developer providing transparency and control over application operations as well making it easy to move applications out of the container at any time. An Elastic Beanstalk container comprises an application software stack running on Amazon EC2 compute resources with an Elastic Load Balancer, pre-configured EC2 Auto-Scaling, monitoring with Amazon CloudWatch, the ability to store data in Amazon S3, and multiple database options.

Developers who want even more control have access to the AWS resources supporting their application and can easily select more advanced deployment options such as using multiple Availability Zones for higher availability, logging into their Amazon EC2 servers, opening specific network ports for use, or taking control of Elastic Load Balancer or Auto-Scaling settings. The public beta release of AWS Elastic Beanstalk supports a container for Java developers using the familiar Linux / Apache Tomcat application stack. We plan to make additional containers available over time including support for customers and solution providers to develop and share their own containers.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk has been developed in such a way that other programming platforms can be created relatively easily. This is extremely important as the AWS developer ecosystem has always been very rich and we want to keep it that way. Our goal is to ensure every developer's favorite platform is always available on AWS so they can stop worrying about deploying and operating scalable and fault-tolerant application and focus on application development. In a nutshell, we want to let a thousand platforms bloom on AWS.

Last week I ran into an AWS customer at CES who was enthusiastic about how his digital production workflow and video encoding is now running reliably in the cloud. When discussing how AWS could improve to serve him even better he finished with "I have a bunch of smaller java apps that I really want to run in AWS but I just can't be bothered with picking the right instance size and setting up the load-balancing, etc." This is exactly where Elastic Beanstalk will help: to make it even simpler to get started and to run applications in the AWS cloud. "Easy to begin and impossible to outgrow" is an excellent characterization of Elastic Beanstalk which handles deployment, scaling and reliability such that its customers don't have to.

To get started using AWS Elastic Beanstalk, visit More information on the launch can be found on the AWS developer blog.