A Whole Lot of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Going On - The Week

2016 Jun 10, 2016

This weeks “The Week” started out as a combination of a review of the Warcraft movie and all the usual tidbits that make up my week.  It got too long and frankly I wanted to spend more talking about AWS.

Infrastructure Update

Powered by AWS Cloud Computing If you notice at the top right of the page there’s a link to “Community Forum” and suffice to say that it was in perpetual maintenance mode for the better part of the last few months.  The main reason it was offline was due to spammers and the inability to reset your password via email.  After cleaning out the boards of posts for pills and what not, I was trying to see why the I forgot my password function wasn’t working.  Low an behold, the hosting company (GoDaddy) didn’t allow the php mail() function to work.  I decided to enable sending email via SMTP using AWS Simple Email Service.  After finding one document pointing at how to do this with phpBB, errors of being unable to connect to the SES servers.  WTF?!? I was able to find documentation about flipping a switch to allow external SMTP hosts to be accessible, but that never ended up working for me.  So onto the cloud.

After doing quite a bit of digging, I was able to find information on the best ways to go about getting an instance spooled up, connected to a MySQL RDS instance in a VPC, secured, migrating the forum from GoDaddy to AWS, and finally making sure that mail was able to be sent out when using the forgotten password function.  I have to say that compared to when the forum was running on GoDaddy, things feel more responsive and snappy.  Granted this is a small board with not much traffic, we’ll see once it starts becoming bigger.  While on the topic of traffic.  I had posted on the main blog pictures from Kinda Funny‘s Kinda Funny Live 2 event in San Francisco a couple of weekends ago.  One of their members, Tim Gettys, tweeted out the following:

I sent Tim and email that I had a few minutes of video and had posted a collection of pictures from the event with a link to said posts containing the pictures.  I received and email back from Tim quickly thanking me and asking if I could send all the pictures to him.  As I’m writing a reply that it’ll take a couple days to do so, I received a notification that Tim had mentioned me on Twitter, along with the link to the pictures.  Honestly I was ecstatic, then thought… how much influence and traffic is he sending my way?  I checked Google Analytics and saw this:

Google Analytics - Tim Tweet

GoDaddy Server Status
In the red and the server straining to keep up with demand

Seconds after the tweet 82 active users were on my site checking out the photos.  This was the most active users I’d ever had before.  Joy quickly turned to worry as I began to think… oh no… can the GoDaddy server handle the load?  I logged into the dashboard to check the status only to see the site was straining under the load.  This was not good.  I checked the site by visiting via out hard wired internet connection and via my mobile phone over the cellular connection and luckily the site didn’t go down.  Even though the server was being slammed under 82 users it was straining.  I think the saving grace was that I was using CloudFront, which is AWS’s Content Delivery Network (CDN), to handle serving the images, CSS, and other small files of the site.  If the hosting server at GoDaddy would have had to handle serving the items that were offloaded onto the CDN, the site would have been out and offline.  This got me thinking that I really should invest into setting up the main wordpress blog onto some sort of system were as demand is increased additional servers are stared up to handle the incoming traffic onto the site.  When there’s not much of a demand, as there is normally, those servers are turned off automatically.  All of this can be down with tools available from AWS.  I’m hoping that the next time the site has an onrush of traffic, be it a tweet from a friend, or something that’s organically picked up the site will be ready for it.  The last thing that you want is for the site to go down while your site is hot and you have people visiting it.  Looking ahead I’m looking to set up load balancing web servers, images being delivered via a CDN, and a dedicated database handling the backend of the site.  I’ll be sure to share as much as I can of what I’m doing with you.

Photos from the week from Instagram

Speaking of Instagram, did you know that when they started out they were powered by Amazon Web Services until the Facebook acquisition and the Instagram infrastructure was moved to Facebooks datacenters?  Also, three engineers were in charge of handing Instagrams systems day in and day out when it was on AWS.



IG Follow Spotlight

Make sure to give Gus Kattengell a follow, he’s got some amazing shots of AT&T (like below) and of the San Francisco Giants.  You won’t be disappointed with his posts.


On Repeat

Closing out The Week, here’s a stripped, unplugged, aka acoustic rendition of Yellowcard‘s Oceans Ave.  If memory serves correct this was their first mainstream hit and they’ve gone onto releasing a handful of studio albums over the past few years.  One of my favorite of theirs is the acoustic rendition of Oceans Ave. off of the album of the same name.  Enjoy.


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