26 March 2014

Architecting on AWS - Day 1, Sydney

These are my notes from day 1 of the Amazon ‘Architecting on AWS’ course which was run in Sydney in March 2014. The trainer/presenter was John Rotenstein from AWS.

Best Practices

Design for failure

  • Design for failure, nothing fails. E.g. Aviation, seat belts, “black box”
  • “Everything fails, all the time”
  • Avoid single points of failure

Loose coupling sets you free

  • SOA
  • More loosely they couple, the bigger they scale
  • Every component should be a “black box” (as in Aviation)

  • ELB is a loose coupling technique to loosely couple tiers
  • Implement a queue

Implement elasticity

  • Ability to get big, and get small
  • Meet requirements of demand
  • Auto provision and replace
  • Use designs resilient to reboot and re-launch
  • Self-configuration (pull down latest code and config)

Build security in every layer

  • “Security is the number one requirement for AWS” - we care a lot about security
  • Encrypt data
  • Concept of least privilege
  • Security groups
  • Common use of EC2 instance hijacking is to mine bitcoins
  • Multi factor auth

Don’t fear constraints

  • Just because you have a massive server, in house, does not mean you need that in the cloud. Consider distribution of load.
  • Rather than fixing an underlying problem on an EC2 instance, throw it away and start again (or reboot). “Treat your instances like cattle, rather than pets”. Charlottes Web, initial paragraph

Think in Parallel

  • Job takes 4 hours, do it on 4 servers in 1 hour!

Leverage many storage options

  • One size does not fit all

AWS Cloud

  • People choose regions for data governance
  • AWS will not move data between regions
  • Choose a region close to your customers Cloud ping
  • Global infrastructure page
  • Edge locations are located near Tier 1 providers

What makes a region?

  • Regions contain multiple availability zones
  • Different power connections, internet connections, flood plains etc.
  • Same general metropolitan area in city
  • Low latency between AZ’s
  • Some services are global, some are regional (e.g. S3)



  • Amazon Linux is based on CentOS
  • Community AMI’s have other OS’s than the stock OS’s
  • VM import/export allows you to import or export VM’s to and from EC2
  • Hypervisor is highly customised version of Xen
  • CPUs are not shared
  • RAM is not shared (Except in micro instances)
  • ECU –> Relative measure of compute power. Compared to m1.small (m1.small == 1 ECU)
  • Prices vary by region, and are always in USD
  • Sometimes better machines might be cheaper (e.g. m1.large vs m3.large)
  • When a Windows instance is run, you pay for the Windows license
  • Instance store is a directly attached disk storage. It is “ephemeral”
  • EBS is persistent

  • NetFlix use NoSQL Cassandra on SSD instance store
  • You get better network bandwidth on larger instances
  • EBS optimised does not share the NIC
  • Micro should not be used for production
  • Micro could be used for small sites, e.g. blogs (average amount of times a blog is read, never)

@jrotenstein’s Enterprise Architecture advice:

  1. Price
  2. Trial
  3. Documentation (RTFM)


  • Attach to EC2
  • Max size is 1TB, Min size is 1GB
  • You choose the file system


  • AMI’s are lazy loaded, before the AMI has been copied you can start the machine
  • Look at the marketplace
  • You can add a test-drive version of your software as an AMI


  • “The great thing about RDS is that you don’t need a DBA”
  • Multi-AZ deployment (Except SQL Server)
  • Automated backups
  • Easy to restore PROD DB to DEV DB (WooHooooo!)

  • “AWS is one massive API engine”
  • “Team should not be bigger than you can feed with 2 pizzas”
  • AWS Blog - week in review
  • AWS Podcast
  • AWS re:Invent



  • Object storage
  • Individual objects up to 5TB (Use multi-part upload for large files)
  • 11 9’s of durability - 3 copies across multiple AZ’s (or DC’s in the case of Sydney)
  • Unlimited
  • S3 supports bit torrent protocol


  • NoSQL
  • “Extremely fast”
  • Managed
  • Sharding
  • Replicated to 3 facilities (AZ/DC)

  • Running across 2 or more AZ’s will ensure higher availability
  • Best way to ensure this is using auto-scaling groups



  • Customer is responsible for patching of OS and Applications
  • Latest updates in AMI only
  • Penetration Testing is a violation to ToS. You can request permission…
  • One of the best defences to DDoS is scale. DDoS resiliency with AWS
  • EBS is not encrypted by default
  • AWS will not port/vulnerability scan your application
  • [AWS Trusted Advisorhttp://aws.amazon.com/premiumsupport/trustedadvisor) will recommend places to streamline your AWS instances. Only available to Business level support ($100 pm or 10% of AWS bill pm)
  • Enterprise level support gives “Infrastructure Event Management” which is dedicated AWS staff on call when a significant event is happening
  • AWS is PCI DSS Level 1 compliant. Applications are your responsibility to certify.
  • Each AWS Region has at least one DR Availability Zone


  • AWS operates under “shared security” model
    • AWS responsible for security of the cloud
    • Customer responsible for security in the cloud
  • It is the responsibility of the customer to configure the provided tools
  • AWS is responsible for physical access
  • CTO is not allowed in any DC

AWS Responsibility

Network security

  • DDoS
  • MITM
  • IP Spoofing - source/destination check
  • No port scanning
  • No packet sniffing

Storage security

  • Storage devices are destroyed at end of life
    • Degaussing
    • Powdering of SSD
  • First time you use a block on a disk, it is reset to 0

Customer Responsibility

  • AWS Account management
  • Isolation of accounts
    • Consolidating billing
  • Isolate by environments
    • DEV doesn’t access TEST or PROD
    • No accidental changing PROD DB etc.
  • EC2 protected by key pairs
    • Only you have the private key
    • Instances have public key
  • OS Security patching
  • Data encryption
    • In transit (HTTPS)
    • On disk
  • AWS CloudHSM - dedicated SafeNet Luna SA
  • Use multiple layers of defence
    • Security groups
    • Bastion host
    • Host based firewalls
    • IDS/IPS

Security groups


  1. Specify private IP address range. ** Do not overlap with existing DC **
  2. Divide into public and private subnets
  3. Control inbound and outbound access to instances
  4. Assign multiple IP address and attach NIC (ENI - Elastic Network Interface) and EIP (Elastic IP Address)
  • Elastic IP address limit is 5 per region
  • You can use vHost style routing from a reverse proxy appliance (e.g. HAProxy)

VPC Deployment

Wizard based option

  1. VPC with public subnet (only)
  2. VPC with public and private subnet.
    • Private subnet connects to interwebs through NAT server
  3. VPC with public and private subnets, and Hardware VPN
    • Connection to office, DC etc.
    • IPSec connection
  4. VPC with private subnet (only), and Hardware VPN

Manual configuration

  1. Define a VPC with a CIDR range (e.g.
  2. Tenancy can be dedicated (e.g. on a box with no other customer)
  3. Choose whether to enable DNS & DHCP
  4. Create subnets with a CIDR range (e.g. for each AZ and public/private you need
  5. Add an instance to the VPC
  6. Generate an Internet Gateway (logical connection), and attach it to your VPC
  7. Create a new route table for the VPC
  8. Add a route to the internet to the Internet Gateway
  9. Associate the Internet Gateway to your public subnets

You can now access the instance.

  • VPC can run across multiple AZ’s
  • Subnets must be within an AZ (e.g.

  • NAT white paper


  • Network Access Control is stateless (you must allow in and out)


  • ENI’s have a MAC address (licensing impact if licensed by MAC address)
  • 1+ private IP
  • Security groups are associated with ENIs
    • You have different SG’s on each ENI
  • Can be deleted on termination… or not

Amazon VPC Network Connectivity Options

Identity, Authentication and Authorization


  • REST - access key & secret access key (e.g. S3)
  • Console - username & password
  • SOAP (deprecating) - certificate X.509

Multi Factor Auth

  • One Time Password standard
  • Actions can be configured to require MFA

Master account

  • When you sign up to AWS you get a master account, with a key and a secret
  • This account can do anything
  • Do not use the master account
  • Assign a hardware token for MFA


  • Users
  • Groups
    • Permissions (e.g. allow sysadmins to do anything, except blah)
    • Rotate access key
    • Assign password rotation policy
  • Roles
    • Allow applications to securely access other services (e.g. Java accessing S3)
    • Allow cross-account access
    • Allow you to use roles, rather than embedding access codes

Authorisation Policies

  • JSON format
  • Action (API)
    • Which API they are allowed to access e.g. s3::GetObject of s3:Get*
  • Resource (some services only)
    • Applies to specific resources, e.g. s3 bucket
  • Conditions (optional)
    • Applies specific conditions
      • SSL
      • IP address
      • MFA
      • etc…
  • There is a policy generator

Temporary Credentials

  • Allowing access for SSO
  • e.g. Permission to call an AWS API using AD credentials
  • “Token vending machine”
  • Automatic expiry (15mins to 36 hours)
  • Can be linked to ADFS
  • AWS STS - security token service
  • Can be used to allow people to place items directly into AWS (e.g. upload photo to S3)
  • Can negate the need for a service layer on EC2
  • Google, Facebook and Amazon authentication are available on AWS
  • IAM is not to be used for application authentication

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