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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Weather report at ICPSR? Cloudy

We've been really impressed with the services available from Amazon Web Services. Amazon makes a handful of very nice Firefox Add-ons available that make it very easy to start using their services. Elasticfox is the main one we've been using; it takes only a few moments to install it, configure it with one's AWS credentials, and then to start launching and managing virtual machines. Of course, Amazon also makes it very, very easy to start using their AWS service. All one needs to do is create an account and supply a credit card number.

In February we upgraded to the latest version of Autonomy (nee Verity nee Inktomi) Ultraseek for our study/web search. We installed the software on a virtual machine in Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2), their "computer virtualization" service so that we could make use of the search both from our primary web location in Ann Arbor as well as our back-up web locations in EC2 and (soon) San Diego. (More on the back-up web locations in a later post.)

No dobut this'll jinx the search service, but since we moved to the EC2 platform the search has worked very well; no service interruptions, no downtime. And keeping the search and index in one location (Amazon's cloud) and the content is it indexing in a different location seems to work just fine.

In addition to the production study/web search capability and our back-up web location, we've also been using EC2 for ad hoc, one-off computing requests. In the past we would have purchased new hardware, or re-purposed under-powered desktop hardware, but now we just launch the right sized virtual machine in the cloud, and we're ready to go in just minutes. And by making good use of Amazon's related products - Elastic Block Storage and Simple Storage Solution - we also have a reasonable disaster recovery story to tell.

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