Using Amazon EC2 in Learning Tree’s Office 365 Course

Our upcoming Office 365 course will feature an exercise where attendees will gain real hands-on experience migrating on-premises Exchange mailboxes to the cloud. In order to do this we will require one on-premises Exchange server per student team. Further, each Exchange server has to exist on a unique domain which has been registered with a DNS provider, is available over the Internet and has been added to each student’s Office 365 subscription.

In order to accomodate a large class this could result in a potentially big investment in hardware and classroom setup time. Or, we could look to the cloud as a potential solution. As it turns out this is a perfect problem to solve using EC2.

Why? Well, we can create instances of Exchange Servers on uniquely named Active Directory domains and have them available for use when we need them in class. These, effectively, become our “on-premises” mail servers for our exercise, even though they are actually themselves in the cloud!

In this way we will only incur charges for running instances for the few hours of each class where we actually need them. When they are not needed we can leave them in a stopped state. Sure there will be some charges for storing the volume but those will be relatively small. Also, while the course is under development, we can work with these Exchange servers from anywhere and testing can be done by our geographically dispersed development team.

Are we storing any sensitive data in the cloud? No. Is the application mission critical? Well, I guess if we can’t connect to the Internet for some reason that could cause a problem in the classroom but if that were to occur we would have a problem anyway because the whole class is about the cloud!

So, in summary, the cloud is not a solution to every problem. There are some problems, however, like this case in point where the cloud is a good fit and solves real world technical problems in a cost effective manner.

Kevin Kell

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