Category Archives: Amazon EC2

News from the blog 2021-12-07

Charity

I’ve donated to Equitas Health.

Equitas Health helps thousands of HIV-positive in Ohio, Dayton and Columbus.

Thousands more are reached with our prevention, testing, and other services. We are excited about embracing our expanded mission as a strategic step to further that legacy and its reach by providing care for all – with a focus on a safe and open space and highest quality healthcare for the LGBTQ community and others who are medically underserved.

https://equitashealth.com/get-involved/give/donate-now/

I did my donation following a post by Terra Field, a former colleague at Blizzard and later leading Netflix’s Trans *ERG, but I didn’t see that she organized a gofund campaign, so I donated again :)

If you want to help them:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/transphobia-is-not-a-joke?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet

https://equitashealth.com/get-involved/give/donate-now/

Articles

I created an article about provisioning to Amazon AWS EC2 and running playbooks (recipes) using Ansible, and Dynamic Directory to store the public ip’s or dns public names in an inventory.

As I saw that there is a lack of clarity in the articles about this theme.

I also provided two alternatives ways, one pure Python3 and the other Bash based (grep awk tr)

Books

The books I publish in LeanPub have two prices, the suggested price, which is the price I consider the right price for the book, and the minimum price, which is the minimum price I authorized a reader can pay to have it.

You can buy it for the minimum price. You know better than anyone your economy.

So when a reader buys one of my books for the suggested price, instead of the minimum price, it’s really showing how they appreciate may work.

So thanks for all the support and appreciation you show!. :)

One of the motives I chose Leanpub platform is because I think is fair. No DRM, no BS. And the reader can ask for a refund within 45 days if they don’t like the book. It also makes very happy seeing that I don’t have any refunds. I appreciate it as a token of the usefulness of my work. Thanks. :)

Updates to Docker Combat File book (v.16 2021-11-24)

I added a nice trick to reverse engineering the original Dockerfile from a running Image.

I also added another typical copy and paste error into the Troubleshoot section.

https://leanpub.com/docker-combat-guide

Automating and Provisioning Amazon AWS (EC2, EBS, S3, CloudWatch) with boto3 (Amazon’s SDK for Python 3) and Python 3 book

I’m writing a book about how to automate your Amazon AWS tasks using Amazon’s AWS Python 3 SDK boto3, provisioning new instances, stopping, starting, creating volumes, creating/deleting buckets in S3, uploading/downloading files from S3…

It is currently 20% completed. With 43 pages it shows EC2 section already.

https://leanpub.com/amazon-aws-boto3

Open Source

I’ve working in carleslibs v.1.0.3. I added MenuUtils class, which allows to assemble menus super quickly, that execute the code referenced in the menu array. Ideal for building CLI applications very fast.

I also added KeyboardUtils class, which allows to ask the user for String within certain lengths allowing or not spaces and/or underscores, and ask user for Integer values within a certain min and max, having 0 for go back.

The plan is to release the new version of carleslibs as soon as I’ve tested it properly.

Social part

For those who follow my recommendations, as always, I have updated the list of new movies I watched and the list of new videogames I played.

News from the Blog 2021-11-11

New Articles

How to communicate with your Python program running inside a Docker Container, using Linux Signals

Hope you’ll have fun reading this article:

Communicating with Docker Containers via Linux Signals and Python

I migrated my last services from Amazon and the blog to Google Compute Engine (GCE / GCP)

I wrote a Postmortem analysis about the process of migrating my last services from my 11 year old Amazon account.

Updates

Updates to articles

I updated the article about Python weird things that you may not know adding the Ellipsis …

I’ve been working in some Cassandra examples. I may publish an article soon about using it from Python and Docker.

Updates to My Books

I updated my Python and Docker books.

I’m currently writing a book about using Amazon AWS Python SDK (boto3).

Updates to Open Source projects

I have updated ctop, fixed two bugs and increased Code Coverage.

I made a new tag and released the last Stable Version:

https://gitlab.com/carles.mateo/ctop/-/tags/0.8.7

On top of my local Unit Testing, I have Jenkins checking that I don’t commit anything that breaks the Tests.

Some time ago I wrote some articles about how you can setup jenkins in a Docker Container.

Miscellaneous

Charity

I’ve donated to Wikipedia.

Only 2% of the viewers donate, so I answered the call every time it was made.

This is my 5th donation to Wikimedia.

I consider that Freedom is very important.

I bought these new books

One of my secrets to be on top is that I’m always studying.

I study all the time, at work and in my free time.

I use Linux Academy and I buy books in paper. I don’t connect with reading in tablets. I think information is stored better when read in paper. I use also a marker and pointers to keep a direct access to the most interesting points on the books.

And I study all kind of themes. Obviously I know a lot of Web Scraping, but there is always room for learning more. And whatever new I learn helps me to be better with my students and more clear writing my books.

I’ve never been a Front End, but I’ve been able to fix bugs in the Front End engines from the companies I worked for, like Privalia. I was passed a bug that prevented the Internet Explorer users to buy just one hour before we launching a massive campaign. I debugged and I found a variable named “value” so the html looked like <input name="value" value="">. In less than 30 minutes I proved to the incredulous Head of Development and the CTO that a bug in Internet Explored was causing a conflict when fetching the value from the input named value. We deployed to Production the update and the campaign was a total success. So I consider knowing Javascript and Front also a need, even if I don’t work directly with it. I want to be able to understand all the requirements and possibilities, and weaknesses, so I can fix bugs and save the day. That allowed me to fix scalability problems in Nodejs and Phantomjs projects too. (They are Javascript Server Side, event driven, projects)

It seems that Amazon.co.uk works well again for Ireland. My two last orders arrived on time and I had no problems of border taxes apparently.

Nice Python article

I enjoyed a lot this article, cause explains part of what I did with my student and friend Albert, in a project that analyzes the access logs from Apache for patterns of attempts of exploits, then feeds a database, and then blocks those offender Ip Addresses in the Firewall.

The article only covers the part of Pandas, of reading the access.log file and working with it, but is a very well redacted article:

https://mmas.github.io/read-apache-access-log-pandas

Nice Virtual Volumes article from VMware

I prefer Open Source, but there are very good commercial products too.

I liked this article about Virtual Volumes from VMWare:

Understanding Virtual Volumes (vVols) in VMware vSphere 6.7/7.0 (2113013)

https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2113013

Thanks Blizzard (again)

There is a very nice initiative where we can nominate 4 colleagues a year, that we think that deserve a recognition.

My colleagues voted for me, so I received a gift voucher that I can spend in Ireland stores like Ikea, Pc World, Argos, Adidas, App Store & iTunes…

So thanks a million buds. :)

Migrating my 11 years Amazon AWS account services (Postmortem Analysis)

I started to explain that I was migrating some services from Amazon and that some of my sites were under Maintenance and that I would provide more information.

Here is the complete history of why I migrated all the services from my 11 years old Amazon account to other CSP.

Some lessons can be learned from my adventure.

I migrated my last services from Amazon to GCP

Amazon sent me an email on October 6th, this year 2021, telling me that they will disable EC2-Classic by August 2022. I thought I would not be able to keep my Static Ip’s as in the past VPC Ip’s and EC2-Classic Ip’s were not transferable, so considering that I would loss my Static Ip’s anyway I started to migrate to some to other providers like Digital Ocean.

Is not cool losing Static Ip (Elastic Ip in AWS) Addresses as this is bad for SEO, so given that I though I would lose my Static Ips that have been with me for years, I started to migrate certain services to providers much more economic.

Amazon is terrible communicating, and I talked with some product managers in the past about that, when they lost one of my Volumes, and the email was so cold and terrible that actually that hurt more than Amazon losing my Data. I believed that it was a poorly made Scam and when I realized it was true I reached one of my friends, that is manager there, as I know they care for doing things right, and he organized a meeting with two PM so I can pass my feedback.

The Cloud providers are changing things very fast, and nobody is able to be up to date with the changes, unless their work position allows plenty of time to get updated. Even if pages of documentation are provided, you have to react to an event that they externally generated forcing you to action. Action to read all the documentation about EC2-Classic migrations, action to prepare to have migrated by August 2022.

So August 2022… I was counting that I had plenty of time but I’m writing a new book about using the Amazon SDK for Python, boto3, and I was doing some API calls and they started to fail in a very unusual way, Exceptions with timeout, but only for the only region where I had EC2-Classic.

urllib3.exceptions.NewConnectionError: <botocore.awsrequest.AWSHTTPSConnection object at 0x7f0347d545e0>: Failed to establish a new connection: [Errno -2] Name or service not known

My config was:

        o_config = Config(
            region_name="us-east-1a",
            signature_version="v4",
            retries={
                'max_attempts': 10,
                'mode': 'standard'
            }
        )

But if I switched to another region name, it would work:

            region_name='us-west-2',

I made a mistake in here, the region name is “us-east-1” and not “us-east-1a“. “us-east-1a” is the availability zone. So the SDK was giving a timeout because in order to connect to the endpoint it uses the region name as part of the hostname. So it doesn’t find that endpoint because it doesn’t exist.

I never understood why a company like Amazon is unable to provide the SDK with a sample project or projects 100% working, with the source code so people has a base that works to build up.

Every API that I have created, I have provided it with documentation but also with example for several languages for how to use it.

In 2013 I was CTO of an online travel agency, and we had meta-searchers consuming our API and we were having several hundreds of thousands requests per second. Everything was perfectly documented, examples were provided for several languages, the document and the SDK had version numbers…

Everybody forgets about Developers and companies throw terrible and cold products to the poor Developers, so difficult to use. How many Developers would like to say: Listen Mr. President of the big Cloud Company XXXX, I only want to spawn a VM that works, and fast, with easy wizards. I don’t want to learn 50 hours before being able to use your overpriced platform, by doing 20 things before your Ip’s are reflexes of your infrastructure and based in Microservices. Modern JavaScript frameworks can create nice gently wizards even if you have supercold APIs.

Honestly, I didn’t realize my typo in the region and I connected to the Amazon Console to investigate and I saw this.

Honestly, when I read it I understood that they were going to end my EC2 Networking the 30th of October. It was 29th. I misunderstood.

It was my fault not reading it well to the end, I got shocked by the first part telling about shutdown and I didn’t fully understood as they were going to shutdown EC2-Classic for the zones I didn’t had anything running only.

From the long errors (3 exceptions chained) I didn’t realize that the endpoint is built with the region name. (And I was passing the availability zone)

botocore.exceptions.EndpointConnectionError: Could not connect to the endpoint URL: "https://ec2.us-east-1a.amazonaws.com/"

Here is when I say that a good SDM would had thought and cared for the Developers more, and would had made the SDK to check if that region exists. How difficult is to create a SDK a bit more clever that detects a invalid region id?. It is not difficult.

It is true that it was late in the evening and I was tired of all the day, and two days of the week between work and zoom university classes I work 15 hours and 13 hours respectively, not counting the assignments, so by the end of the week I am very tired. But that’s why it is very important to follow methodology and to read well. I think Amazon has 50% of the fault by the way they do things: how the created the SDK, how they communicate, and by the errors that the console returned me when I tried to create a VPC instance of an EC2-Classic AMI (they seem related to the fact I had old VPC Network objects with shorter hash than the current they use) and the other 50% was my fault for not identifying the source of the error, and not reading the message in their website well.

But the fact that there were having those errors in the API’s and timeouts made me believe they were going to cut the EC2-Classic Networking the next day.

All the mistakes fall together in a perfect storm.

I checked for documentation and I saw it was possible to migrate my Static Ip’s to VPC Static Ip’s.

It was Friday evening, and I cancelled my plans, in order to migrate the Blog to VPC in an attempt to keep running it with Amazon.

As Cloud Architect, I like to have running instances in several CSP as it allows me to stay up to date with the changes they do.

I checked the documentation for the migration. Disassociating the Static Ip (Elastic Ip in AWS jargon) was easy. Turning into VPC as well.

As I progressed, what had to be easy turned into a nightmare, as I was getting many errors from the Amazon API, without any information, and my Instances were not created.

I figured out that their API could have problems with old VPC objects I created time ago, so I had to create new objects for several things.

I managed to spawn my instances but they were being launch and terminated instantly without information. Frustrating.

When launching a new instance from the AMI (a Snapshot of the blog), I was giving shown options to add more volumes without any sense. My Instance was using 16GB from a 20GB total Space, and I was shown different volume configs, depending on the instance, in some case an additional 20GB volume, in other small SSD, ephemeral and 10 GB for the AMI (which requires at least 16GB).

After some fight I manage to make it work after deleting the volumes that made no sense, and keeping only one of 20GB, the same size of my AMI.

But then my nightmare started to make the VPC Instance to have Internet access and to be seen from outside. I had to create a new Internet Gateway, NAT, Network, etc…

As mentioned the old objects I was trying to reusing were making the process to fail.

I was running out of time, and I thought in few time they were going to shutdown EC2-Classic network (as I did not read correctly), so I decided to download everything and to migrate to another provider. For doing that first I blocked all the traffic, except for my Ip.

I worked in parallel, creating the new config in Google Cloud, just in case I had forgot something. I had created a document for the migration and it was accurate.

I managed to do everything fast enough. The slower part was to download all the Data, as I hold entire VM’s for projects like Cassandra Universal Driver.

Then I powered off my Amazon Instance for the Blog forever.

In GCP I blocked all the traffic in the firewall, except for my Ip, so I could work calmly.

When everything was ready, I had to redirect the DNS to the new static Ip from Google.

The DNS provider I used had implemented some changes in their API so I was getting errors replacing my old entry ‘.’ (their JSON calls returned Internal Server Error). Finally I figured it out how to workaround it and I was able to confirm that the first service was up and running.

I did some tests to make sure there were not unexpected permission problems, entries in the logs, etc…

Only then I opened the Google Firewall. I have a second firewall in each instance where I block or open at Ip tables level what I want. Basically abusive bot’s IPs trying to find exploits or brute force by dictionary passwords.

I checked with my phone, without Wifi that the Firewall was all good. (It is always a good idea to use another external Ip, different from the management one, to check)

I added a post explaining that I was migrating some of my Services and were under maintenance.

I mentioned in the blog that some of my services were being migrated from Amazon to Digital Ocean.

For some reasons, in the Backup of the Database one user was lost, so I created it in the MySQL with the typical commands:

CREATE USER 'username'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON mydatabase.* TO 'username'@'localhost';

My Sites are under Maintenance

2021-11-08 Update: There is a Postmortem analysis of what happened with Amazon here.

TLTR: I’m undergoing a Maintenance on all my sites.

The main reason was that I was getting unexpected API Exceptions on the AWS SDK for Python (boto3), so I connected to the AWS Console to get more information.

Then I saw a message indicating that they will stop EC2-Classic today 30th of October. (Please read the Update on the Postmortem analysis as I understood incorrectly that banner message)

I already started migrating my Services, some I move to other providers like Digital Ocean. Other I had plant to keep in Amazon.

EOL (End of Life) was scheduled for 2022 August, so when I saw the message from Amazon the evening of the 29th, I decided to migrate my EC2-Classic Public Ip’s and Compute to VPC. Trying to deploy from an AMI, Amazon APIs were returning many internal errors, and as I figured out where their failures would be I was able get instances being launch without being Terminated immediately without an explanation. Still I had many problems with the Internet Gateway, VPC NAT, etc… after hours fighting with their errors, and their console, that is more a bunch of pages to manage Infrastructure rather than a user/developer friendly Cloud Tool I decided that I had enough.

After 11 years using Amazon AWS, including a trip to Dublin to be hired as Manager for Cloud Watch, and giving them the idea to add AutoScaling (I was told the project was too easy for me and that I would get bored in a year or too so I was not hired), I decided to move my Services to Google Cloud and to Digital Ocean.

I’m very polite and I saw that when I told to one Manager that the User Interface was terrible he didn’t like, but I have to speak up and say that tools for developers cannot be cold as your evil girlfriend. Cannot be API alike, stand alone pages to manage infinite parts of Architecture. Web providing services for developers cannot be created like in cold SysAdmin style. If the infrastructure is hard to manage and internally you use APIs, build nice Wizards in Javascript. I was leading a Team of Developers with infinite less resources than Amazon or Google and we wrote a Multi-Cloud product, with nice, and clever, and easy to use Wizards, and they were infinitely more better that those giant CSPs. We won a prize at European level at that time. But it was 2013.

I’ve migrated everything, moved all the data, statics, VMs… but I’m completing the adjustments for certain services like Cassandra nodes, web sites, bootstrapping some of my sites based of my PHP Catalonia Framework, adding Firewall rules to GCP, doing changes for Ansible provisioning, deploying the Server scripts from IaC, Docker, etc…

I’ll be posting updates in Twitter.

News from the blog 2021-09-20

  • I’ve published a very simple game, Tic Tac Toe, that I created for my Python 3 Exercises for Beginners book.
  • I’ve raised back the price for my books to normal levels.
    I’ve been keeping the price to the minimum to help people that wanted to learn during covid-19. I consider that who wanted to learn has already done it.

I still have bundles with a somewhat reduced price, and I authorized LeanPub platform to do discounts up to 50% at their discretion.

Bundle of four books in https://leanpub.com/b/python3-exercises-zfs-assemble-computer

https://leanpub.com/b/python3-exercises-zfs-assemble-computer

  • I’ve been deleting AMIs, Snapshots, Volumes and backups from Amazon instances I’ll no longer use.

I’ve migrated to Docker some sites and WordPress sites and now I’m CSP (Cloud Service Provider) agnostic. I can deploy wherever I want.

We pay per GB used of storage, so my money will get a better usage.

As I said in my old article from 2013, The Cloud is for Scaling. For Startups and for Enterprises. It is too expensive for small and medium companies.

  • For those studying Python there is a Virtual Meetup about Data Analysis, in Spanish ,the 23th of September

https://www.meetup.com/tech-barcelona/events/280791310/

More meetups:

https://www.meetup.com/tech-barcelona/

How to recover access to your Amazon AWS EC2 instance if you loss your Private Key for SSH

This article covers the desperate situation where you had generated one or more instances, instructed Amazon to use a SSH Key Pair certs where only you have the Private Key, your instances are running, for example, an eCommerce site, running for months, and then you loss your Private Key (.pem file), and with it the SSH access to your instances’ Data.

Actually I’ve seen this situation happening several times, in actual companies. Mainly Start ups. And I solved it for them.

Assuming that you didn’t have a secondary method to access, which is another combination of username/password or other user/KeyPairs, and so you completely lost the access to the Database, the Webservers, etc… I’m going to show you how to recover the data.

For this article I will consider an scenario where there is only one Instance, which contains everything for your eCommerce: Webserver, code, and Database… and is a simple config, with a single persistent drive.

Warning: be very careful as if you use ephemeral drives, contents will be lost is you power off the instance.

Method 1: Quicker, launching a new instance from the previous

Step1: The first step you will take is to close the access from outside, using the Firewall, to avoid any new changes going to the disk. You can allow access to the instance only from your static Ip in the office/home.

Step 2: You’ll wait for 5 minutes to allow any transaction going on to conclude, and pending writes to be flushed to disk.

Step 3: From Amazon AWS Console, EC2, you’ll request an Snapshot. That step is to try to get extra security. Taking an Snapshot from a live, mounted, filesystem, is not the best of ideas, specially of a Database, but we are facing a desperate situation so we’re increasing the numbers of leaving this situation without Data loss. This is just for extra security and if everything goes well at the end you will not need this snapshot.

Make sure you select No reboot.

Step 4: Be very careful if you have extra drives and ephemeral drives.

Step 5: Wait till the Snapshot completes.

Step 6: Then request a graceful poweroff. Amazon will try to poweroff the Server in a gentle way. This may take two minutes.

Step 7: When the instance is powered off, request a new Snapshot. This is the one we really want. The other was just to be more safe. If you feel confident you can just unclick No Reboot on the previous Step and do only one Snapshot.

Step 8: Wait till the Snapshot completes.

Step 9: Generate and upload the new key you will use to AWS Console, or ask Amazon to generate a key pair for you. You can do it while creating the new instance through the wizard.

Step 10: Launch a new instance, based on your snapshot AMI. This will generate a copy of your previous instance (using the Snapshot) for the new one. Select the new Key pair. Finish assigning the Security groups, the elastic ip…

Step 11: Start the new instance. You can select a different flavor, like a more powerful instance, if you prefer. (scale vertically)

Step 12: Test your access by login via SSH with the new pair keys and from your static Ip which has access in the Firewall.

ssh -i /home/carles/Desktop/Data/keys/carles-ecommerce.pem ubuntu@54.208.225.14

Step 13: Check that the web Starts correctly, check the Database logs to see if there is any corruption. Should not have any if graceful shutdown went well.

Step 14: Reopen the access from the Firewall, so the world can connect to your instance.

Method 2: Slower, access the Data and rebuild whatever you need

The second method is exactly the same until Step 6 included.

Step 7: After this, you will create a new instance based on your favorite OS, with a new pair of Keys.

Step 8: You’ll detach the Volume from the eCommerce previous instance (the one you lost access).

Step 9: You’ll attach the Volume to the new instance.

Step 10: You’ll have access to the Data from the previous instance in the new volume. type cat /proc/partitions or df -h to see the mountpoints available. You can then download or backup, or install the Software again and import the Database…

Step 11: Check that everything works, and enable the access worldwide to the Web in the Firewall (Security Group Inbound Rules).

If you are confident enough, you can use this method to upgrade the OS or base Software of your instance, making it part of your maintenance window. For example, to get the last version of Ubuntu or CentOS, MySQL, Python or PHP, etc…

The Ethernet standards group announces a new 800 GbE specification

Here is the link to the new: https://www.pcgamer.com/amp/the-ethernet-standards-group-developed-a-new-speed-so-fast-it-had-to-change-its-name/

And this makes me think about all the Architects that are using Memcached and Redis in different Servers, in Networks of 1Gbps and makes me want to share with you what a nonsense, is often, that.

So the idea of having Memcache or Redis is just to cache the queries and unload the Database from those queries.

But 1Gbps is equivalent to 125MB (Megabytes) per second.

Local RAM Memory in Servers can perform at 24GB and more (24,000,000 Megabytes) per second, even more.

A PCIE NVMe drive at 3.5GB per second.

A local SSD drive without RAID 550 MB/s.

A SSD in the Cloud, varies a lot on the provider, number of drives, etc… but I’ve seen between 200 MB/s and 2.5GB/s aggregated in RAID.

In fact I have worked with Servers equipped with several IO Controllers, that were delivering 24GB/s of throughput writing or reading to HDD spinning drives.

If you’re in the Cloud. Instead of having 2 Load Balancers, 100 Front Web servers, with a cluster of 5 Redis with huge amount of RAM, and 1 MySQL Master and 1 Slave, all communicating at 1Gbps, probably you’ll get a better performance having the 2 LBs, and 11 Front Web with some more memory and having the Redis instance in the same machine and saving the money of that many small Front and from the 5 huge dedicated Redis.

The same applies if you’re using Docker or K8s.

Even if you just cache the queries to drive, speed will be better than sending everything through 1 Gbps.

This will matter for you if your site is really under heavy load. Most of the sites just query the MySQL Server using 1 Gbps lines, or 2 Gbps in bonding, and that’s enough.

Upgrading the Blog after 5 years, AWS Amazon Web Services, under DoS and Spam attacks

Few days ago I was under a heavy DoS attack.

Nothing new, zombie computers, hackers, pirates, networks of computers… trying to abuse the system and to hack into it. Why? There could be many reasons, from storing pirate movies, trying to use your Server for sending Spam, try to phishing or to host Ransomware pages…

Most of those guys doesn’t know that is almost impossible to Spam from Amazon. Few emails per hour can come out from the Server unless you explicitly requests that update and configure everything.

But I thought it was a great opportunity to force myself to update the Operating System, core tools, versions of PHP and MySql.

Forensics / Postmortem of the incident

The task was divided in two parts:

  • Understanding the origin of the attack
  • Blocking the offending Ip addresses or disabling XMLRPC
  • Making the VM boot again (problems with Amazon AWS)
    • I didn’t know why it was not booting so.
  • Upgrading the OS

I disabled the access to the site while I was working using Amazon Web Services Firewall. Basically I turned access to my ip only. Example: 8.8.8.8/32

I changed 0.0.0.0/0 so the world wide mask to my_Ip/3

That way the logs were reflecting only what I was doing from my Ip.

Dealing with Snapshots and Volumes in AWS

Well the first thing was doing an Snapshot.

After, I tried to boot the original Blog Server (so I don’t stop offering service) but no way, the Server appeared to be dead.

So then I attached the Volume to a new Server with the same base OS, in order to extract (dump) the database. Later I would attach the same Volume to a new Server with the most recent OS and base Software.

Something that is a bit annoying is that the new Instances, the new generation instances, run only in VPC, not in Amazon EC2 Classic. But my static Ip addresses are created for Amazon EC2 Classic, so I could not use them in new generation instances.

I choose the option to see all the All the generations.

Upgrading the system base Software had its own challenges too.

Upgrading the OS / Base Software

My approach was to install an Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, and install the base Software clean, and add any modification I may need.

I wanted to have all the supported packages and a recent version of PHP 7 and the latest Software pieces link Apache or MySQL.

sudo apt update

sudo apt install apache2

sudo apt install mysql-server

sudo apt install php libapache2-mod-php php-mysql

Apache2

Config files that before were working stopped working as the new Apache version requires the files or symlinks under /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/ to end with .conf extension.

Also some directives changed, so some websites will not able to work properly.

Those projects using my Catalonia Framework were affected, although I have this very well documented to make it easy to work with both versions of Apache Http Server, so it was a very straightforward change.

From the previous version I had to change my www.cataloniaframework.com.conf file and enable:

    <Directory /www/www.cataloniaframework.com>
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
AllowOverride All
Order allow,deny
allow from all
</Directory>

Then Open the ports for the Web Server (443 and 80).

sudo ufw allow in "Apache Full"

Then service apache restart

Catalonia Framework Web Site, which is also created with Catalonia Framework itself once restored

MySQL

The problem was to use the most updated version of the Database. I could use one of the backups I keep, from last week, but I wanted more fresh data.

I had the .db files and it should had been very straightforward to copy to /var/lib/mysql/ … if they were the same version. But they weren’t. So I launched an instance with the same base Software as the old previous machine had, installed mysql-server, stopped it, copied the .db files, started it, and then I made a dump with mysqldump –all-databases > 2019-04-29-all-databases.sql

Note, I copied the .db files using the mythical mc, which is a clone from Norton Commander.

Then I stopped that instance and I detached that volume and attached it to the new Blog Instance.

I did a Backup of my original /var/lib/mysql/ files for the purpose of faster restoring if something went wrong.

I mounted it under /mnt/blog_old and did mysql -u root -p < /mnt/blog_old/home/ubuntu/2019-04-29-all-databases.sql

That worked well I had restored the blog. But as I was watching the /var/log/mysql/error.log I noticed some columns were not where they should be. That’s because inadvertently I overwritten the MySql table as well, which in MySQL 5.7 has different structure than in MySQL 5.5. So I screwed. As I previewed this possibility I restored from the backup in seconds.

So basically then I edited my .sql files and removed all that was for the mysql database.

I started MySql, and run the mysql import procedure again. It worked, but I had to recreate the users for all the Databases and Grant them permissions.

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON db_mysqlproxycache.* TO 'wp_dbuser_mysqlproxy'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'XWy$&{yS@qlC|<¡!?;:-ç';

PHP7

Some modules in my blogs where returning errors in /var/log/apache2/mysite-error.log so I checked that it was due to lack of support of latest PHP versions, and so I patched manually the code or I just disabled the offending plugin.

WordPress

As seen checking the /var/log/apache2/blog.carlesmateo.com-error.log some URLs where not located by WordPress.

For example:

The requested URL /wordpress/wp-json/ was not found on this server

I had to activate modrewrite and then restart Apache.

a2enmod rewrite; service apache2 restart

Making the site more secure

Checking at the logs of Apache, /var/log/apache2/blog.carlesmateo.com-access.log I checked for Ip’s accessing Admin areas, I looked for 404 Errors pointing to intents to exploit any unsafe WP Plugin, I checked for POST protocol as well.

I added to the Ubuntu Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) the offending Ip’s and patched the xmlrpc.php file to exit always.

The Cloud is for Scaling

dell-blades-m4110The Cloud is for Startups, and for Scaling. Nothing more.

In the future will be used by phone operators, to re-dimension their infrastructure and bandwidth in real time according to demand, but nowadays the Cloud is for Startups.

Examine the prices in my post in cmips, take a look, examine the performance also of the different CPU. You see that according to CMIPS v.1.03 a Desktop Processor Intel i7-4770S, worth USD $300, performs better than an Amazon M2 High Memory Quadruple Extra Large and than a Rackspace First gen. 30 GB RAM 8 Cores?.

Today the public cost of an Amazon M2 High Memory Quadruple Extra Large running for a month is USD $1,180.80 so USD $1.64 per hour and the Rackspace First Generation 30 GB RAM 8 Cores 1200 GB of disk costs is USD $1,425.60 so USD $1.98 per hour running.

And that’s the key, the cost per hour.

Because the greatness, the majesty of the Cloud is that you pay per hour, you pay as you need, or as you go. No attaching contracts. All on demand.

I had my company at a time where the hosting companies and the Data Centers were forcing customers to sign yearly contracts. What if a company only needs to host their Servers for three months? What if they have to close?. No options. You take it or you leave it.

Even renting a dedicated hosting was for at least a month or more, and what if the latency was not good? What if the bandwidth of the provider was not enough?.

Amazon irrupted in the market with strength. I really like that company because they grew the best eCommerce company for buying books, they did a system that really worked, and was able to recommend very useful computer books, and the delivery, logistics was so good, also post-sales service. They simply started to rent the same infrastructure they were using to attend their millions of customers and was a total success.

And for a while few people knew about Amazon deep technologies and functionalities, but later became a fashion.

Now people is using Amazon or whatever provider/Service that contains the word “Cloud” because the Cloud is in the mouth of everyone. Magazines and newspapers speak about the Cloud, so many many companies use it simply because everyone is talking about the Cloud. And those ISP that didn’t had a Cloud have invested heavily to create a Cloud, just because they didn’t want to be the ones without a Cloud, since everyone was asking for it and all the ISP companies were offering their “Clouds”.

Every company claims to have “Cloud” where the only many of them have is Vmware servers, Xen servers, Open Stack… running the tenants or instances of the customers always on the same host servers. No real Cloud, professional Cloud, abstract layered in a Professional way like Amazon, only the traditional “shared hosting” with another name, sharing CPU and RAM and Disk storage using virtual machines called instances.

So, Cloud fashion has become a confusing craziness where no one knows why they are in the Cloud but they believe they have to be in.

But do companies need the Cloud?. Cloud instances?

It depends. The best would be to ask that companies Why you choose the Cloud?.

If you compare the cost of having an instance in the Cloud, is much much more expensive than having a dedicated server. And for that high cost you don’t get more performance.

Virtualization is always slower and disk speed is always an issue in Cloud providers, where all the data travels via network from the disk cabins NAS to the Host servers running the guest instances. Data cannot be at local disks, since every time you start an instance, the resources like CPU and RAM are provisioned, and your instance run in totally different hardware. Only your data remain in the NAS (Network Attached Storage).

So unless you run your in-the-Cloud instance in a special provider that offers local disks, like DigitalOcean that offers SSD but monthly paying, (and so you pay the price by losing the hardware abstraction capability because you’re attached to the CPU that has the disk connected, and also you loss the flexibility of paying per hour of use, as you go), then you’ll face a bottleneck that is the hard disk performance (that for real takes all the data from NAS, where is stored, through the local network).

So what are the motivations to use the Cloud?. I try to put some examples, out of these it has no much sense, I think. You can send me your happy-in-Cloud scenarios if you found other good uses.

Example A) Saving initial costs, avoid contract attachment and grow easily own-made

Imagine a Developer that start its own project. May be it works, may be not, but instead of having a monthly contract for a dedicated server, he starts with an Amazon Free Tier (better not, use Small instance at least) and runs a web. If it does not work, simply stop the instance and pay no more. If the project works and has more and more users he can re-dimension the server with a click. Just stop the instance, change the type of instance, start it again with more RAM and more CPU power. Fast.

Hiring a dedicated server implies at least monthly contracts, average of USD $100 per month, and is not easy to move to a bigger server, not fast and is expensive as it requires the ISP tech guys to move the data, to migrate from a Server to another.

Also the available bandwidth is to be taken in consideration. Bandwidth is expensive and Amazon can offer 150 Mbit to smaller machines. Not all the Internet Service Providers can offer that bandwidth even with most advanced packets.

If the project still grows, with a click, in seconds, 20 instances with a lot of bandwidth can be deployed and serving traffic to your customers very quick.

You save the init costs of buying Servers, and the time to deal with hardware, bandwidth limitations and avoid contracts, but you pay an hourly rate a lot more expensive. So in the long run is much much expensive using Amazon and less powerful than having dedicated servers. That happened to Zynga, that was paying $63M annually to Amazon and decided to step back from Amazon to their own Data Centers again. (another fortune tech link)

The limited CPU power was also a deal breaker for many companies that needed really powerful CPU and gigs of RAM for their Database Servers. Now this situation is much better with the introduction of the new Servers.

This developer can benefit from doing bacups with a click, cloning, starting instances from an image, having more static ip’s with a click, deploying built-in (from the Cloud provider) load balancers, using monitoring services like CloudWatch, creating Volumes and attaching to the servers for additional space…

Example B) An Startup with fluctuating number of users and hopes of growing

Imagine an Startup with a wonderful Facebook Application.

During 80% of the day has few visits, may be only need 3 Servers, but during 20% of the hours of the day from 10:00 to 15:00 users connect like hell, so they need 20 servers to attend this traffic and workload, and may be tomorrow needs 30 servers.

With the Cloud they pay for 3 servers 24 hours per day and for the other 17 servers only pay the hours they are on, that’s 5 hours per day. Doing that they save money and they have an unlimited * amount of power. (* There are limits for real, you have to specially request authorisation to run more than default max. servers for the zone, that is normally 20 instances for Amazon. Also it can happen theoretically that when you request new instances the Zone has no instances available).

So well, for an Startup growing, avoiding hiring 20 dedicated servers and instead running into the Cloud as many as they need, for just the time they need, Auto-Scaling up and down, and can use the servers NOW and pay the next month with Visa card, all of that can make a difference for a growing Startup.

If the servers chosen are not powerful enough that is solved with a click, changing instance type. So fast. A minute.

It’s only a matter of money.

Example C) e-Learning companies and online universities

e-Learning platforms also get benefits from the Auto-Scaling for the full occupation hours.

The built-in functionalities of the Cloud to clone instances is very useful to deploy new web servers, or new environments for students doing practices, in the case of teaching Information Technology subjects, where the users need to practice against a real server (Linux or windows).

Those servers can be created and destroyed, cloned from the main -ready to go- template. And also servers can be scheduled to stop at a certain hour and to start also, so saving the money from the hours not needed.

Example D) Digital agencies, sports and other events

When there is an Special event, like motorcycle running, when a Football Team scores, when there is an spot in tv announcing a product…

At those moments the traffic to the site can multiply, so more servers and more bandwidth have to be deployed instantly. That cannot be done with physical servers, hardware, but is very easy to provision instances from the Cloud.

Mass mailing email campaigns can also benefit from creating new Servers when needed.

Example E) Proximity and SEO

Cloud providers have Data Centres everywhere. If you want to have servers in Asia, or static content to be deployed faster, or in South-America, or in Europe… the Cloud providers have plenty of Data Centers all over the world.

Example F) Game aficionado and friends sharing contents

People that loves cooperative games can find the needed hungry bandwidth and at a moderate price. If they run their private server few hours, at night, from 22:00 to 01:00 as example, they will benefit from a great bandwidth from the big Cloud provider and pay only 3 hours per day (the exceed of traffic uses to be paid in most providers, but price of additional GB uses to be really really competitive).

Friends sharing contents in an Ftp also, can benefit from this Cloud servers, but probably they will find more easy to use services like Dropbox.

Example G) Startup serving contents

An Startup serving videos, images, or books, can benefit not only from the great bandwidth of big Cloud providers (this has been covered before), but for a very cheap price for exceeding Gigabyte transferred.

Local ISP can’t offer 150 Mbit for an instance of USD $20 and USD $0.12 per additional GB transferred.

Many Cloud providers also allow unlimited incoming traffic from the Internet, and from Server to Server through private ip’s.

Other cases

For other cases Dedicated Servers are much more Powerful, faster and cheaper, at the price of being “static” in the sense of attached, not layer abstracted, but all the aspects of your Project have to be taken in count before deciding stepping into or out of the Cloud.

In general terms I would say that the Cloud is for Scaling.

Why you should not use t1.micro Amazon Free Tier

speed-0When I first tried some years ago Amazon t1.micro Free Tier, I was really disappointed.

I moved one of my blogs there, from a vmware instance that I was running in a physical server of my own, hosted at Colt Telecom, and my deception was huge.

That instance frozen often! According to Amazon EC2 web it was Ok, but it was totally KO. No ping, unable to log by ssh.

The only solution then was to shutdown the instance from the EC2 console, what it takes some time, because in fact, machine was down but the console didn’t know.

Once down, then start again. Reassign the static Ip address (Amazon calls it Elastic Ip).

And once or twice per week I had one of those frozen.

I tried to found a pattern of why instance freezes, but no luck. It simply happen.

I was about to leave Amazon forever when I decided to try the next instance size, just in case, the Small, and problems disappeared forever.

Now, that I have started my project CMIPS to measure and compare the Cloud performance (different providers and instance types), I see how bad it was t1.micro.

Even without the freezes, my not-so-modern ultra-portable laptop performs several times faster (x9.39 times faster), so any project hosted in a t1.micro will suffer a pathetic performance.

Later I discovered that sometimes the Amazon servers where your instances are running have a hardware problem or die. A reboot doesn’t help, since when you reboot, you don’t change the server that hosts your instance (guest).

Only poweroff makes Amazon to assign you another physical server.

And as later I learned, from time to time, no matter how good your instances are -but with expensive instances it happens much less-, without a reason one of your instances can freeze. So if your Startup has 30 instances, monitor them, because one can freeze some day. It just happens. I guess hardware crashes. And it could be one of the databases that gets knock down.

If you’re lucky you’ll have no corruption in the network storage, if not you will loss data. So backup.

It has occurred to me twice with my private instances in Amazon (not counting the nightmare t1.micro), but we suffered it from time to time when I worked for a videogames company where we had many always-on servers and where we were creating on the fly, scaling the number of instances, according to the increasingly or decreasingly number of users.