Creating Amazon EC2 Machine Instances (AMIs) for Test Servers

Recently, I had to add some features to one of my servers running on Amazon EC2.  Not surprisingly, I was afraid I might break something that was already deployed.  So, I needed a test server.

A test server should, ideally, be exactly like the production server being tested — same hardware, same version of the operating system, same patches, etc.  Traditionally, this has been hard to set up and expensive.

Amazon EC2 makes creating a test server easy, and it can be up and running in a few minutes.   The steps are as follows.

First, log into Amazon AWS Management console and select the server to duplicate.

Next, from the Instance Actions menu choose Create Image (EBS AMI).

At this point a little explanation is in order.  EBS stands for Elastic Block Storage.  It is where the virtual machine image will be stored.  See the URL for more information.  AMI stands for Amazon Machine Image.  It is used to create a virtual machine running on EC2, and includes the operating system plus any other software required by the virtual server.  See this Wikipedia article for a better description:

The AMI requires a name and description as shown below.  Provide this information, then click the Create This Image button.  It will take a little while for the AMI to be created.  So, this would be a good time to wander around the office drinking coffee and talking to your colleagues about the Steelers‘ big win on Sunday.

After a few minutes, the AMI will be ready.  Click on the AMIs link on the left side of the management console to see a list of the AMI’s that are available.

Select the AMI to start and click the Launch button.

The Request Instances Wizard will be started.  Run through the wizard to launch the AMI.

In a couple minutes the test server will be up and running.  When your testing is completed, just terminate the instance and you will no longer be charged for it.

To learn more about EC2 and cloud computing, come to Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing course.


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