Amazon wants to make it easier for you to use its EC2 compute cloud and related services to host complicated applications.
Managing virtual server and storage slices is relatively easy, but real-world applications span multiple data center tiers, both horizontally across similar machines clustered for scalability, and vertically across machines interconnected to do different portions of the work. This includes Web, application, load balancing, database, and storage tiers, just to mention the most common ones. And sometimes, what an end user perceives as a single application is a hodge-podge collection of multiple applications, each with their own tiers.
This can be very messy to manage in either a physical or virtual environment. Companies have developed their own internal scripting tools and templating systems to deploy n-tier applications, or acquired them from third parties. And, as it turns out, online retailer Amazon created its own n-tier application templating and provisioning tool that it has used to deploy its own messy applications on various Amazon Web Services.
Starting today, you can start using this tool as well, which is called CloudFormation. The tool, aimed at both developers using AWS products to create and test applications and as well as companies running production applications on top of AWS, comes with sample templates that Amazon has itself used to create n-tier applications and automagically provision and deploy them on its cloudy infrastructure. The idea is that the templates know what sequence each tier needs to be deployed in and knows all the dependencies between the tiers and their applications. Basically, you tell AWS how everything is linked in a template and CloudFormation worries about deploying it. This will reduce human error as well as speeding up deployment.
CloudFormation can be used on a whole bunch of Amazon cloudy services, including the Elastic Compute Cloud, Elastic Block Storage, Relational Database Service, Simple Notification Service, Simple Queue Service, Elastic Load Balancers, and Elastic IP Addresses. Groups for EC2 Security, Auto Scaling, RDS Security, and other add-on management features for the basic AWS compute, storage, and database services are also able to be managed by CloudFormation. (You can see the full list here.)
Admins create the CloudFormation templates that describe their stacks, store them on the S3 storage cloud, and then they can use the AWS Management Console, raw AWS APIs, or the CloudFormation command line to deploy the stacks.
CloudFormation is available now, and is free to customers who buy AWS stuff. There is a catch, however. To use CloudFormation, Amazon signs you up for all of the services supported by the tool. In for a penny, in for a pound. ®