While we’ve been evaluating AWS at Gorlet one of our primary objectives has been to be able to rapidly scale capacity. In the course of our research we ran across RightScale which provides a Cloud Management Platform. Their platform is designed to provide automation, control and flexibility in managing a ‘system’ instead of servers.

Essentially, RightScale provides the following:

Cloud-Ready ServerTemplates – RightScale uses a template system instead of the AMI system used by AWS. By maintaining parameters instead of images there is less room for error and a time savings in configuring and deploying instances.

Automation and Orchestration – RightScale provides the ability to auto-scale, monitor and remediate instances.

Choice and Portability – RightScale provides the ability to deploy a wide variety of configurations on a wide variety of cloud providers, not just AWS.

Again, the two additional areas of evaluation are cost and support. In this case, the costs are reasonable, but like AWS the area of concern is support. With the Bronze support package, max initial response time is 24 hours and Gold provides 1 hour emergency response and 4 hour max initial response time.

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Initial fee: $2,500
Initial fee: $4,000
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Yet, for our purposes, we are continuing to evaluate the use of AWS to provide the functionality we’re looking for through the use of Auto Scaling, Amazon CloudWatch and Elastic Load Balancers.

AWS Auto Scaling allows you to scale your Amazon EC2 capacity automatically up or down according to defined conditions, increasing instances seamlessly during demand spikes to maintain performance, and decreases automatically during demand lulls to minimize costs. Auto Scaling is enabled and implemented by Amazon CloudWatch. This is great for us as we can very closely define when during the day we will have high-usage, particularly when used with CloudWatch.

This can then be used in conjunction with Elastic Load Balancing, which automatically distributes incoming traffic across multiple instances, provides the ability to achieve fault tolerance and provides load balancing in response to incoming application traffic. Elastic Load Balancing also detects unhealthy instances within a pool and automatically reroutes traffic to healthy instances until the unhealthy instances have been restored. New, healthy instances can then be launched automatically to ensure continued performance.

In essence, this provides everything we’re looking for, monitoring, scaling capability and fault-tolerance for a relatively small cost, about $30/month (plus data fees) for detailed, 1 minute interval monitoring and the Elastic Load Balancer usage. Certainly not as simple simple as RightScale, but with some solid upfront work and testing we believe that we can achieve the same functionality at a reasonable cost. At our current size and business situation, this functionality and cost combination is hard to beat.