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AWS users have two services to manage cloud resources: AWS Management Console or AWS CodeStar. While each of these AWS management tools has its benefits, many question if a user-friendly interface has a place in a developer's toolbox.
AWS Management Console is a browser-based GUI for AWS. And AWS CodeStar is a cloud service that includes project templates for common development platforms. The latter service enables IT teams to provision resources to code, build, test, deploy and run software. CodeStar allegedly makes it easier to create new projects, using templates for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), AWS Elastic Beanstalk or AWS Lambda.
So, which of these AWS management tools is better for enterprise IT? "There's no wrong way to do the right thing," said Wesley Higbee, a consultant with New York City-based Full City Tech Co., which helps clients make strategic investments in software development. Higbee sees neither conflicts nor problems with either choice.
AWS Management Console and CodeStar, as well as AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) and CloudFormation, are all means -- not ends -- he said. "Using means to dictate ends often jeopardizes success. Instead, let objectives dictate means," he added.
For example, a small business could decide it's best to use a web interface, while an engineer who is learning about AWS could start with the guided web interface and then move to AWS CLI to automate production environments. Another company might use AWS CodeStar to establish continuous delivery. There is no singular approach.
"Forcing one way upon everyone would likely mean fewer people that can benefit from AWS, not more people doing things the right way," Higbee said.
One project's best practice is another project's worst practice with these AWS management tools. "People tend to recommend what they're comfortable with, under the auspices of best practices,” he said.
Automate and explore new services
Use AWS management tools as a best practice for running production workloads. They enable you to automate as much as possible and interact with the UI as little as possible, noted Mark Wilcox, vice president of business development at ICSynergy, an integrator of database security software in Plano, Texas, and an Amazon EC2 user. AWS tools reduce the need for customers to even think about hiring a consultant to access base functionality in AWS. They also make it simpler for people to try more AWS cloud services, especially newer ones, such as Lambda and the Alexa Skills Kit.
"Launching any project on AWS requires you to configure a set of related services," Wilcox said. For a simple web application, such as WordPress, you would need to start an EC2 server to hold WordPress software. Then, you have a few steps to follow: Start a database in the Amazon Relational Database Service, configure an Elastic IP address that maps to your EC2 server so that you can map your domain name to a persistent address, configure security rules so that readers can safely read your blog and, finally, configure monitoring to alert you if anything fails.
"You can do all of this via the standard AWS user interface, but you have to know how to do all of those steps -- and it's easy to screw up, even if you know what you're doing," Wilcox said. "CodeStar, in particular, takes all of those steps and bundles them up into a wizard so that you don't have to learn how to do all of that, while minimizing the chances [of] messing something up."
"If you are going to make the best use of CodeStar, you have to use it for things that are new and different," said Carl Brooks, analyst at 451 Research. It is not what you would do if you were setting up an integrated development environment using Java or .NET; it's specifically to take advantage of AWS, Brooks added.
AWS has adopted an "our way or the highway" attitude, Brooks noted. "They are greater than the sum of their parts. Their platform is not simply compute and storage and networking; it is all the services they have built and their expectation that you are using the platform in a certain way," he said.
AWS CodeStar targets the unfamiliarity of some of those capabilities for some users and emphasizes Amazon's push to fully invest in AWS. "They are offering an easier and better way to use AWS -- if you play by their rules," he said.
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