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InfoQ Homepage News Amazon Announces Managed Platform Updates for AWS Elastic Beanstalk

Amazon Announces Managed Platform Updates for AWS Elastic Beanstalk

On April 19th, 2016 Amazon announced changes to their Elastic Beanstalk service.  In this update, Amazon is providing customers with the ability to automatically install platform updates.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a service that allows customers to deploy and run their web applications and web services in Amazon’s cloud in a Platform as a Service (PaaS) setting.  AWS provides support for a variety of platforms and languages including Java, PHP, Ruby, .NET, Python, Go and Docker.

As vendors provide updates to languages and platforms, customers need to update their environments to be at the latest patch level. This is required, in order to receive the latest bug fixes, security updates or enhancements.  Previously, customers were left to update this software on their own, which leads to out-of-date platforms that may have bugs or security vulnerabilities.

Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, explains how Amazon previously approached this problem: “Elastic Beanstalk regularly releases new versions of supported platforms with operating system, web & app server, and language & framework updates. Until now, you needed to initiate a manual update (via the Elastic Beanstalk Console, command line interface, or API) to update your Elastic Beanstalk environments to the new version of the platform or language.  This gave you full control over the timing of updates, but left you with one more thing to remember and to manage.”

Amazon is now providing a way to automate the deployment of these updates. Customers can establish a weekly maintenance window, in the Amazon Management Console, when updates can be applied as illustrated in the following image.  

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Minor updates and patches can be updated automatically outside the window. If you don’t want to wait for your next maintenance window, you can explicitly push the update, using the “Apply now” button as illustrated in the following image.

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Amazon has applied rigor to the way the updates are provisioned in order to prevent undesired consequences. In a recent video clip, Matt Wood, GM Product Strategy at AWS, explains the 3 step process:

1. Amazon will instantiate a new Elastic Beanstalk instance, with the new update(s), and runs tests.

2. Subsequently, AWS will set up an equivalent set of instances, which model your existing deployment, and runs the tests again.

3. Provided the tests succeed, Amazon will point the load balancer at the new instances.

Amazon is not the only platform trying to reduce the burden of managing language and platform updates.  Pivotal provides buildpacks for Cloud Foundry.  Each buildpack contains the most two recent runtime versions and has support for Java, Ruby, Go. PHP, Python and Node.js.

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