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Bye Bye Command Line; Amazon Releases Its AWS Web Console

The first thing you notice instantly is how clean everything is laid out

Alan Wiliamson's Blog

Finally, after years of providing just a command line interface to their web services, Amazon has released a web based management console. Has it been worth the wait? In a nutshell, yes.

We knew this day was coming, and 8th of January was that day.

Built using Yahoo's YUI framework, using JSP at the backend, Amazon's engineers have delivered a very rich, functional and darn right stunning looking console. It begs you to want to use it.

Initial Tour

The first you notice instantly is how clean everything is laid out, choice of colours and controls just flow beautifully. The front page is your main overview page giving you the state of EC2 and the amount of resources you are presently consuming. Nice little 'refresh' button, that simply updates one of the inner panels instead of forcing a whole page refresh. This is the small details that carry on through - this is how AJAX should be used.

The bread'n'butter of this console is the management of instances, the bit that most people usually struggle with the most, particularly when it comes to finding an image to which to start. The selection of images from either the public list or the private list is clean and informative. Infact even I have noticed that Amazon have finally blessed Fedora 8 as a base image after holding onto Fedora 4 for so long.

After selecting the image you want, you are then presented with the necessary options to actually run up the image, optionally taking you through a wizard if you haven't yet created any key pairs or firewall settings. This is the bit that usually trips up AWS virgins; run up and image and left locked out of it figuring out how to get into it.

All other aspects of what EC2 touches are configurable from this console. This includes the Elastic Block Storage (EBS), Elastic IPs and Security Groups.

This console does not address any of the other Amazon Web Services, including S3, Simple Storage, and Simple Queuing Service. That I suspect is just a matter of time.

What about RightScale? Elastic Server?

How does this beta stack up against the likes of RightScale and Elastic Servers dashboard?

Well it is not quite a fair comparison as each of these chaps operate over multiple cloud providers, but if all you are doing is Amazon, then it just got harder to justify the fee for RightScale if you don't need any of the other value add services. I know a lot of people use RightScale just for the convenience of a web based frontend instead of wrestling with the command line or the FireFox plugin.

Elastic Server doesn't have anything to worry about, especially as they are specifically geared towards the management and building of the images across lots of difference platforms. In fact this compliments their offering as only this week they released support for the KVM, the Linux Virtualization kernel.

Have we seen it before?

This isn't the first time we've seen a fully functional AJAX laden web application for the cloud. GoGrid has their much touted GWT based application.

As I have commented in the past, their web ui is very sluggish and slow in parts. Having experience in GWT, I can tell its GWT that is slowing things down here and I think Amazon's choice of YUI was probably a wise one in this instance. Run both of them up beside each other and you'll instantly feel a snappish response compared to GoGrid's GWT version.

Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but the initial choice of framework is important as switching at a later date does require pretty much a complete rewrite.

So, was it worth the wait?

Amazon have delivered this console under the 'beta' banner, and if its anything like a Google 'beta' then we should be living with this for a number of years, so get use to that little logo!

It is infinitely more accessible than their FireFox plugin, which ties you to a single browser/single machine and it delivers in all the functional pieces to let you really utilise EC2. As more pieces fall into place, this will become the defacto standard way of managing your AWS account. I hope they also tie in the accountancy to the same console; I would like to see the cost of my services as I incur them. But Amazon does not offer any public API's to get at that information, so we may not see it here.

See for yourself:

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More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, or e-mail him at cloud(at)

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Most Recent Comments
Alan_R_Williamson 01/09/09 09:47:06 AM EST

You are absolutely correct Thorsten; RightScale offers a very rich experience. My point was, there is a large number of users that are simply not using anywhere near your full capability and merely using the RightScale portal as a very beautiful way to avoid using Amazons command line tools.

Naturally, when people start using RightScale there is a higher chance they will discover new services and evolve to use them.

That said, now that Amazon have started on their path with their console, many people will now simply not even look at the services offered by the likes of yourselves and others.

Either way, your sales job just got a little harder, as one of the tick boxes has now been covered by Amazon themselves.

voneicken 01/09/09 09:13:49 AM EST

Alan, I'm surprised your write "if all you are doing is Amazon, then it just got harder to justify the fee for RightScale if you don't need any of the other value add services". RightScale offers for free a whole lot more functionality that Amazon's console, plus you get to start on a system that allows you to grow to more functionality when you need it. So there is no fee to get more than AWS offers.

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