Today I saw a tweet from juliancheal, which mentioned he was setting up his virtual server on slicehost. I hadn’t heard of this company but their offering looks interesting. This got me thinking about cloud hosting and I decided it was time to actually try out Amazon’s AWS EC2.This allows you to run a virtual server (or multiple servers) in the Amazon cloud, servers can be created and destroyed by a click of a button.
First thing is to get a server ‘image’ to run in the cloud. Thankfully many have already been created. I went for a recent ubuntu server by Eric Hammond. This is basically a ubuntu server vanilla install, but with a few tweaks to work nicely as a EC2 virtual server. Perfect!
Signing up is quick and easy, it just uses your Amazon (the shop) credentials. Once created, you are taken back to the main control panel where you can see your new instance, including details like the all important public DNS name. Just save a private key to your computer and use it to ssh in to your new server.
e.g.: ssh -i key1.pem firstname.lastname@example.org
(you may need to chmod 400 the key file, but all this is documented)
Once in, well it’s a new server, what do you want to do with it?
I installed a LAMP stack (very easy in ubuntu: apt-get update and then tasksel install lamp-server). I initally couldn’t connect to apache (but could from the server itself using ‘telent localhost 80’). I presumed it was a ubuntu firewall issue, but it turned out you also control these things from the AWS control panel. The solution was to go to ‘security groups’ and modify the group I had created when setting things up and adding HTTP to ‘Allowed Connections’. This couldn’t of been easier. And then success, I could point my browser at the DNS name of the host and saw my test index page from the web server.
So now what? I pondered this out loud via Twitter, and got this reply:
Good news: vufind has some good – and simple – documentation for installing on ubuntu;
Following the instructions (and editing them as well, they specified an earlier release and lacked a couple of steps if you weren’t also reading the more general install instructions) I quickly had a vufind installation up and running. Took around 20-25 minutes in all.
Now to add some catalogue data to the installation. I grabbed a MARC file with some journal records from one of our servers at work and copied it across as a test (I copied it just by using a scp command logged in to my ec2 server). After running the import script I had the following:
EC2 is charged by the hour, and while cheap, I can’t afford to leave it running for ever. :)
So, a successful evening. Mainly due to the ease of both Amazon EC2 and Vufind.
A final note that if you are interested in EC2 you may want to look at some notes made by Joss Winn as part of the jiscpress project: http://code.google.com/p/jiscpress/wiki/AmazonWebServices
Both Ec2 and vufind are worth further investigation.