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Using EC2 Micro Instances for ASP.NET Hosting

I’m the author of Learning Tree course 502: Programming with .NET: A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction.  The case study in that course has the students create a program called Flash Cards, which is intended to help kids learn basic math skills.  Good case studies are hard to come up with.  They need to be complex enough to demonstrate what you want to teach, but simple enough for students to understand and program in a short period of time.  It also helps if they seem real world and are a bit fun.

Over the years this case study has worked really well.  In the course, students create both Web and Windows versions of the program choosing either C# or Visual Basic to do the coding.  They create a database to keep user scores, and use ASP.NET Forms authentication for security.  It also provides an example of good object-oriented design.

I got the idea for the case study when my son was very young and just learning his numbers.  Now, he is in third grade and is learning his multiplication tables, and he’s also interested in programming.  So, as a little project he and I decided to enhance the Flash Cards case study and put it online.  He had lots of good ideas for enhancements.  If you have taken our .NET introduction course or think you might like to learn about ASP.NET programming, you can go to www.bbqmath.com and see Flash Cards live.

This also gave me a great opportunity to use an Amazon EC2 Micro instance.  Micro Instances are so cheap they are great for ASP.NET hosting, especially if you’re like me and want your own server. (See my earlier post, Save Even More with Amazon EC2’s Micro Instances.) The server costs about $14 per month.  Plus, I’m hosting a couple other sites on it as well.

Now the hard part.  I want to test how scalable micro instances are.  So tell all the third-graders you know to visit www.bbqmath.com and create an account and use it like crazy.  Maybe if we can get a couple million kids we can test how well Elastic Load Balancing works.  Hey, that’s a good topic for a blog post.  Maybe next month.

Doug

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