5 AWS Automation Tips That Will Save You Time and Money

5 AWS Automation Tips That Will Save You Time and Money

By Flux7 Labs
October 17, 2019

As the leading cloud provider, Amazon Web Services offers an overwhelming variety of services, with a complex pricing scheme to match. For this reason, there are many third-party solutions designed to help you plan and manage your AWS usage and take advantage of integrated tools. Amazon also offers several features designed to make your cloud-based processes faster and easier to manage.

A major advantage of AWS is that it allows you to automate many processes, which will save you time and money if done correctly. The following tips should provide you with an idea of the processes and services that lend themselves to automation.

1. Test Automation

Testing your software is an essential part of the delivery process. Traditional testing methods can be time-consuming and tedious, as they require repetitive and simple tasks. You can automate these tasks to free up your security teams to focus on tasks that require more intelligence and expertise. 

However, you should keep in mind that automation is not suited for all types of testing. For example, dynamic content is often too complex and automated tests won’t sufficiently cover it. Likewise, in some cases, such as for many Android applications, it is often simpler and quicker to test manually.

You should automate testing for mature products with APIs that you want to deploy at scale. Test automation does require maintenance and an initial investment, but it will allow you to establish a continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. On AWS, you can set up a test automation lab to schedule tasks and run them on EC2 instances. For more details on how to set up an AWS test automation lab, see this tutorial.

2. AWS Backup

AWS Backup is a centralized cloud backup service that lets you do away with custom scripts and manual processes. You can create backup policies, known as backup plans, which define requirements such as the frequency and retention period of backups. To apply a backup plan to your AWS resources, simply tag the resources and AWS Backup will automatically back them up according to the plan you ascribed. 

You can use a managed solution for AWS Backup, which will manage the backup service to automatically back up and restore your cloud data. Your compute and storage resources are all in the cloud, so you don’t need to deploy any hardware, allowing you to reduce costs and simplify backup processes.

3. Automate EBS Snapshots

The Elastic Block Store (EBS) is a block storage service that integrates with other Amazon cloud services such as the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and the Simple Storage Service (S3). EBS volumes are the primary, block-level storage device for the data used in EC2 instances, the virtual servers of the Amazon cloud, and can store this data even when detached from the instances. EBS snapshots are point-in-time copies of the data contained in EBS volumes, which allow you to continuously back up your cloud data.

You can use Amazon CloudWatch to automate the creation of snapshots. To set up snapshot automation, go to the AWS Management Console and create a rule to take snapshots according to a schedule you specify. You can then test the rule vis the Amazon EC2 console. Snapshot automation rules will be run via CloudWatch Events.

4. AWS Systems Manager

AWS Systems Manager handles the maintenance and deployment of AWS resources such as EC2 instances. You can automate Systems Manager to simplify complex tasks and enhance operations security. You can also build automation workflows, whether pre-configured by AWS or customized, monitor the execution of automated tasks and receive notifications about the automation progress from CloudWatch Events.

To set up automation on Systems Manager, create an automation document, which functions as runbook defining the automation workflow. For common tasks like creating an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) or restarting EC2 instances, you can use a pre-defined automation document. These documents run tasks according to a defined sequence of steps, using JSON or YAML. these tasks are arranged in an automation queue (up to 25 simultaneous automations per account, with up to 75 “child” automations, and up to a total of 1000 tasks for the whole queue). 

Operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, are constantly updated with performance tweaks and security patches, so it is useful to have current AMIs, updated weekly or even daily. As mentioned above, you can use AWS Systems Manager to automate the creation of AMIs. To do so, you need to create a maintenance window, assign targets to it and register an automation task for the creation of AMIs. You must list the instance you use to create AMIs as a managed instance in Systems Manager.

5. CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is a handy tool for AWS architects, enabling the automation of your Amazon cloud configuration. Using CloudFormation will make it easier and less time-consuming to document and troubleshoot infrustructural builds, and will help you standardize components. CloudFormation itself is free, so you will only pay for the resources you use.

The way it works is with templates written in JSON or YAML. AWS provides some ready-made templates but you can also create your own. These range from application frameworks to experimental templates, and are intended to simplify the provisioning of applications and services, or “stacks”. 

Conclusion

Automating processes in AWS should help you save time and, in most cases, reduce operating costs significantly. To accurately plan your budget and keep track of expenses, use an AWS Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculator. Some tasks, such as creating EBS snapshots or running simple tests, don’t need to be performed manually, while other tasks and processes, such as complex tests and resource management, can take advantage of automation to augment the human element.

The tips mentioned above should give you a good starting point for maximizing the efficiency of your AWS workloads and help you save time and money.

About the Author

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

Gilad David Maayan

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Written by Flux7 Labs

Flux7 is the only Sherpa on the DevOps journey that assesses, designs, and teaches while implementing a holistic solution for its enterprise customers, thus giving its clients the skills needed to manage and expand on the technology moving forward. Not a reseller or an MSP, Flux7 recommendations are 100% focused on customer requirements and creating the most efficient infrastructure possible that automates operations, streamlines and enhances development, and supports specific business goals.

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