AWS Services Inconsistency

AWS still puzzles me at times. While the range of products and services is so huge and there is hardly something you cant accomplish with AWS at hand, still you find little gaps which can annoy, see my earlier discussion around VPC and VPN.

SimpleDB

I though every service would be accessible through the admin console. While looking for an alternative to place log data I came across AWS SimpleDB, just to learn there is no function in the web admin console to control it. I even created a support issue believing the service was not enabled for my account. You have to go through local html files (aka scratchpad) to access the console.

AWS Admin Console

AWS Admin Console

SimpleDB Console

SimpleDB Console

 

AWS MFA

While I can handle the above case, I cant appreciate the approach AWS chooses with the MFA they actively promote. Is a very good feature and you can opt for a hardware based MFA or a bit simlpler, with the virtual device. But here comes the contradiction, due to geo restrictions you cant download the AWS MFA app to your Android device if you dont have an US AWS account. Seriously, how much sense does this make ? I confirmed this with the AWS support.

You could go for an alternative solution with the Google Authenticator, but this creates a dependency to another third part which I am not willing to add, my “contract” is between AWS and me.

Is it related to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_of_cryptography_from_the_United_States ?

Increase size and type of AWS EBS volume

I was offline for quite a while because shifting from one continent to another. But now regular posts should be rolling in again.

I am running a couple of instances in pre-production requirement mode and changed from a standard EBS volume to a IOPS volume for the DB instance or the volume with the DB files. I could not identify a reasonable increase of performance, maybe a misconception that IOPS volumes will boost performance, rather provide a defined and consistent random access I/O throughput. I must admit I did not use a value higher than 1000.

Billing IOPS

Billing IOPS

Some recommended reading:

I decided to return to a standard ESB volume for my database as its performance did not benefit from the IOPS type (the DB is not overly busy too).
You cant change type and size of an EBS volume on the fly.

Here the steps to achieve the same: Continue reading

Enforce password for Ubuntu user on EC2 instances

Using linux (Ubuntu) instances on Amazon EC2 is a quite safe thing to do, at least measured by the security provided by the platform (security groups, ACL, physical security,..). I recommend reading their security site here. At the end of the day the server is only as secure as you configure it, if you choose to open all ports running services with their default configurations and password settings, Amazon can’t help you.

When connecting to a Ubuntu server with ssh you need to provide the keyfile (somekeyfile.pem) that you can download when creating the key pair.

Key file

Key file

This 2048 bit key is required to login as regular ubuntu user. What I dislike is the fact that this user can sudo all, so once someone manage to get into you user account, he has root access too. I recommend to set a password for the ubuntu user and change the sudoers configuration.

Change the password for user ubuntu

Open the sudoers include file

sudo vi /etc/suderos.d/90-cloudimg-ubuntu or sudo vi /etc/sudoers

change last line from

ubuntu  ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD:ALL

to

ubuntu ALL=(ALL) ALL

Copy EC2 instance to another region

Is it finally possible ? While the AMI import tool is long awaited for but only available for Windows, it is rather a big hazzle to transfer manually (see this) any other OS ( my last attempt in 2010).

Today Amazon announced the EBS Snapshot Copy Feature (across regions). The intention is certainly to allow easy migration of data to another region, as you can copy the snapshot, create a volume and attach it to an instance. I was curious to try if I can migrate my Ubuntu instance to another region and it worked. You can use both command-line as well the AWS web admin.