Does AWS CloudFormation Eliminate the Need for RightScale?

One of the more frustrating aspects of Amazon Web Services is the lack of integrated Amazon tools for making server management easier. RightScale achieved an early win in this space by building a layer of scripting and deployment tools on top of AWS, providing for the automation of core tasks necessary to quickly scale AWS infrastructure. In my own experience, RightScale made it easy to monitor and maintain more than 20 virtual servers without having a full time systems administrator on staff. Today AWS CloudFormation appears to be Amazon’s first entry into the AWS server templating and deployment space.

AWS CloudFormation provides templates which can be used to duplicate an AWS infrastructure stack, eliminating the manual process of recreating an application stack each time you want to make an AWS deployment, which is a feature very similar to one of RightScale’s current offerings. AWS CloudFormation allows you to allocate resources based on needs, with AWS CloudFormation solving the allocation and provisioning of the resources. One component that can be tricky is making sure you deploy resources in the appropriate order. While I haven’t used CloudFormation yet, Amazon is promising CloudFormation will address the issue of deploying resources appropriately. As a use case, they are suggesting AWS CloudFormation templates are configured to capture relationships between your EC2 instances, Elastic Load Balancer, and Amazon EBS storage block.

The question in my mind is where this leaves RightScale. The company provides amazing customer service. RightScale was among the first to dramatically simplify deployment of AWS instances. But with templating and scripting baked into AWS, will that crimp RightScales style and force them to pivot to being more focused on value added services. If CloudFormation is like previous AWS offerings, RightScale may have a little time to figure this out, as Amazon doesn’t always nail the service component and frequently includes fairly archaic interfacing for working with the features they provide. RightScale, on the other hand, focused on simplifying the convoluted steps required to setup AWS early on, which may keep them out in front.

What do you think? Are you using RightScale or a similar solution to manage AWS deployments? Will CloudFormation cause you to rethink how you deploy assets in your Amazon Web Services environment? Or are you happy with your infrastructure as is and plan to keep moving forward with your existing configuration?

  • http://twitter.com/darryl_eaton Darryl Eaton

    Jake – thanks for soliciting community input. When you get a chance to try CloudFormation, you’ll notice that any configuration of a specific machine has to happen a) with scripts baked into the AMI, and b) with parameters passed through user data. So you still don’t get the nice ServerTemplate methodology of configuring and maintaining individual machines, nor can you run one-off “operational scripts” after the machine has already booted. CloudFormation definitely makes it easier to set up an environment (machines, load balancers, database), but it’s unclear how easy it will be to maintain that environment once it is up: https://forums.aws.amazon.com/thread.jspa?threadID=61219&tstart=0