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AWS: Awkward Features to Fix, Enterprise Features to Add

03.21.2013
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AWS is used by more and more enterprises today but Amazon should work on several awkward “features” that make daily usage by enterprises difficult.

AWS console consistency
The console is not very consistent and could be made a lot easier for users. Why do elastic load balancers do not have tags? Why VPC, subnets, route tables, etc. do not have names and do you need to work with their IDs? Why are network ACLs stateless and security groups state full? Why are VPC security groups administration pages in VPC and EC2 different? Why can I not see the name of a security group when I use it in an inbound or outbound rule? Why can I give a temporary role to an API but not give a user or group a temporary role similar to sudo or delegated administration? Why RDS tags do not filter out Cloudformation tags when editing and EC2 tags do?

IAM and the console
End-users that are limited to a small subset of services and resources are up for a surprise. They will be able to see the same options as an administrator but after clicking will get a no permission option. It would be so much easier if services, buttons, menus, etc. you don’t have permission to are not visible.

Java AWS API and Eclipse plugin
Probably the worst Java API of the last 10 years. You have to go to restricted instances to see your on-demand instances. You have list, after list, after list to go through to get somewhere. Some times you do getTags, some times you do request and response. You have to use the RDS ARN to get to tags but you only get the ID from the RDS instance. Etc. etc. etc. Amazon should do a 100K competition on who can create a better API. Whoever gets more than 1 million users for their API wins.

Installing the Eclipse plugin
If you don’t use Eclipse JEE, you will need to fight with several plugins but nobody told you that the plugin is only compatible with JEE. If you do not have the Android SDK installed you can not accept the Eclipse license.

CloudFormation
It seems like few are using it because there are no support posts when you Google for it. Then again you can understand why people do not use it. Several limitations in the parameters page. Try creating a secure password for your RDS master user and you can only use letters and numbers. Only have three valid values for a parameter? Why not put them in a drop down? Wait there is no drop down. You go to the end of the wizard before it complains about a problem in the first page. Start a stack name with a number and it will complain at the end as well. Inside Cloudformation scripts you will find several inconsistencies as well, e.g. no tags for security groups, you can not use underscores in name, try using the instance ID in the tag for the name and you get a circular error, etc.

Missing enterprise functionality
Try encrypting your EBS, good luck. Having finally managed to setup a VPN in your VPC and your IT department is ready to start opening it to multiple departments. Wait how are we going to charge them? Linked accounts is no option because we are not going to setup a VPN for each each department. Adding tags to each instance to include them in your usage report? Good luck with automating tags with referential errors, etc. in Cloudformation or rebuilding a custom portal based on the API. What about limiting department X to instance A, B and C? Inconsistently implemented if at all available for the service you want to use. Migrating instances between VPC subnets? Stop, create AMI, start new instance. Forgot to add a security group to an instance? Stop, create AMI, new instance. Why?

Conclusion
Is AWS a bad service or product? Not at all. Is it ready for global enterprise deployment? It will be in the next 24 months. Should I wait till then? If you are not using the Cloud today, then you are already a year late. Elastic scaling, instant provisioning, pay per use, etc. they beat any awkward “features”. But some API design competitions, customer usability studies and a community roadmap driven by votes would go a long way…

 

Published at DZone with permission of Maarten Ectors, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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