Last week was a bit of a blur for me (more here for those who haven’t caught up) but one of the highlights was a really fun CloudCamp held during a flying visit to Sydney. One of the sessions at CloudCamp was an in-depth discussion about the automation of the creation and provisioning of cloud resources. We had some smart guys spending time talking about Chef Recipes, CFengine and Puppet and discussing how much of a benefit they were, removing many headaches when provisioning resources, or at least when provisioning multiple instances of similarly configured resources.
It is slightly humorous that, as we were having this discussion, Amazon was announcing AWS CloudFormation, their own solution which allows systems administrators to create “recipes” for the provisioning of cloud resources. As Krish points out, CloudFormation is an answer to the success of other configuration management offerings, allowing developers to either use pre-configured templates or create their own templates to “describe” AWS resources and provision those resources with no disruption to live processes.
Krish takes the view that this is a way for AWS to lock their customers within their own ecosystem. While it is true that one side benefit of CloudFormation is less necessity for the use of third party services, I see this as more of a result of a maturing platform than any competitive attempt to create lock-in per se. I’ve long said that Cloud is just too hard, and agree with Krish’s somewhat tongue in cheek suggestion that CloudFormation is another step in the move to ending the stranglehold ops has on IT. While this move may potentially harm some third party configuration offerings, I’ve always said that trying to build a business out of a feature is a dead-end. A few businesses might get a shock from this – but that’s business.
In terms of what it does, CloudFormations supports much of Amazon’s resource base including EC2, EBS Volumes, Load Balancers, Elastic IP, Security and Autoscaling Groups, Elastic Beanstalk, Cloudwatch Alarms, RDS, SimpleDB, SNS. Interestingly they’ve also released some recipes to allow applications such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla to be set up. While this is useful for many people, Amazon is primarily doing this as an example of what CloduFormation can do.
CloudFormation s a step in the right direction – making the provisioning of cloud infrastructure as painless as possible certainly eases the on-ramp to the cloud.