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AWS dashboard makeover only masks underlying blemishes

The AWS Management Console was recently revamped with a new UI. But billing, search and synchronization issues still irk AWS customers, who rely on the console for many services.

The AWS Management Console provides a kind of AWS dashboard with a simplified user interface that helps IT pros access and manage resources. But some enterprises still see room for improvement.

For the most part, the AWS Management Console provides a tremendous value to experts -- and makes it easy for novices to get up and running in a short period of time, noted Evin Callahan, cloud architect at Napsty LLC, a cloud consulting company. But Callahan sees several areas for improvement.

1. Searchable services and better overall search capabilities. "There are a few places where you can search -- items in the EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) services section, etc. However, it always takes me time to find the service I want, unless I have it pinned," Callahan said.

2. Customizable AWS dashboard. Google Analytics and Splunk provide dashboards for everything in their respective consoles, but the AWS Management Console does not. "With some effort you can come up with a CloudWatch dashboard to show you some info about your systems," Callahan said. "But it's not easy, and it doesn't include stuff like a filtered list of EC2 instances, contents of S3 (Simple Storage Service) buckets or info about running ECS (EC2 Container Service) instances."

3. Synchronize releases with API/feature changes. When AWS has rolled out new features or services, it has restricted those updates to the command-line interface (CLI) or the API. But, most of the time, those releases hit the AWS dashboard only in preview mode.

"While I understand the difficulty in coordinating the number of teams and changes that goes into a service like this, it makes it difficult to fully test a new feature in the way users will ultimately be using it," Callahan said.

There are a few places where you can search -- items in the EC2 services section, etc. However, it always takes me time to find the service I want, unless I have it pinned.
Evin CallahanCloud Specialist, Napsty LLC

4. Differentiate between software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Many AWS tools are wrappers around commonly used SaaS products. "The interface could be cleaned up and organized by creating a section of SaaS offerings that include stuff like CloudSearch, [EC2] Container Service, DynamoDB and RDS (Relational Database Service)," Callahan said. That would contrast with the cloud provider's IaaS offerings, like EC2, S3 and Virtual Private Cloud.

5. Reflect all features available to AWS users. "There are a few cases where I'll need to do something via the CLI rather than the console, simply because it doesn't exist in the console," Callahan said. For example, an AWS user can only upload a certificate in Identity and Access Management through the CLI.

6. Make the user interface (UI) consistent. While the EC2 console was overhauled, the S3 console is still the same as it was when Amazon first rolled out the service. "There should be a consistent set of UI buttons, styles and layouts that should be applied across the entire suite of services, and updated together," he said.

7. Eliminate billing pain points and provide more in-depth billing details. Some AWS users are concerned with Reserved Instance (RI) management and reporting. "Our top pain point currently is mostly around determining the Reserved Instance usages in an account, usage of RI, recommendations on RI, AWS Direct Connect and Route 53 support in the Console," said Manoj Chaudhary, CTO and VP of engineering at Loggly, a provider of cloud-based log management.

The current billing implementation is basic, providing details at a high level of bandwidth use in terms of how much traffic was sent out of Amazon and the charges, Chaudhary noted. This is also the way billing it done when sending traffic on AWS Direct Connect. If users need to dig deeper into which instance is sending how much traffic out of Amazon, they can't get those details from the billing system in the AWS dashboard, he said.

8. Improve AWS Direct Connect status indications. Amazon only provides information on whether the Direct Connect link is up or down, but no additional details. In the case of failure, it is important to get more details; however, there is no ability to monitor Direct Connect now, Chaudhary noted.

Similarly, Direct Connect doesn't provide charts or reporting mechanisms to help you understand link and bandwidth usage or traffic trends running on top of the link, Chaudhary said.

9. Route53 needs the ability to edit and change multiple records at the same time. "If I have a lot of A-type records in [Route 53] using weight policy, and I want to edit them and change time-to-live in one shot, it doesn't allow me to do it," Chaudhary said. This means you need a fallback on the scripts using the API. "I have seen this limitation at multiple places in the console," he said.

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