QueTwo's Blog

thouoghts on telecommunications, programming, education and technology

Monthly Archives: April 2008

Amazon’s EC2 and ColdFusion / FMS


This last weekend I finally had enough time to play with Amazon’s Web Services (AWS).  Amazon Web Services are a set of pay-for utilities that allow developers (among others) to host files, products, or servers in Amazon’s cloud.  At last month’s Mid-Michigan ColdFusion User’s Group meeting, there was a presentation from Rick Mason on Amazon S3.  S3, a storage system in the cloud is not something that really peaked my interest, but another related tool, EC2, did.

EC2 is a service where you can rent a VPS, or virtual server by the hour.  You literally pick a server ‘image’ or AMI, and tell it to boot.  Once you have your machine booted up, you can access it, login as root, and away you go.

However, in spite of all the great marketing, EC2 is a real bear to setup.

  • The tools take FOREVER to get setup correctly.  On Windows, you have to download the tools, install the Java SDK (if you don’t already have a current version), setup a bunch of DOS Environment Variables, generate and download your server certificate and private-key certificate, break your pk certificate into a private and public key set (if you want to use any tools other than Cygwin SSH client), and setup your SSH client. Providing a simple tool written for Win/Mac (using something like AIR) could drop this down to two steps.
  • Find an AMI that you wish to base your image off of.  Amazon offers about a dozen base installs — based on various OSs and software packages.  There are hundreds of other ‘public’ AMI images that have everything from Postgress SQL to SugarCRM pre-installed.  Amazon tags these images with an ‘AMI’ code.
  • Launch an instance (start your VPS) of that AMI based image using the following information: You are now paying by the hour
    • AMI Code
    • Your Private Key
    • Your Server Key
    • A group to launch the instance in (‘default’ by default)
  • Wait a few moments while the machine boots up, and then you must do an inquiry into which instances you are currently running. Write this instance ID down, as it is sometimes the only way to figure out what is running.  It should list back a public domain name, and a private domain name.  Write down which group it was launched in.
  • Open up the correct firewall ports so you can access your server.  Port 22 is for SSH.  There a bunch of features with the firewall, where you can even lock it down to your specific address on the net.
  • Connect using your client you setup in step-1.  Login is ‘ROOT’ for most AMI’s, and it will use your private/public key file as the password.
  • Download and install software.  The CentOS Amazon images don’t include many tools to download files — you can however use yum to install a text-based web browser (called lynx) to download things.  Installing them is no harder than any other VPS.  For example, ColdFusion, you download the .BIN file, chmod +x coldfusion_801.bin, and then ./coldfusion.  You may need to find out where your copy of Apache is installed before you do this.
  • Once you are done installing and setting up your software, you need to create your own AMI.  Since the instances don’t persist for anything besides a reboot (at this time). In the base installs of CentOS, they included the tools to do this via command line.  You will need to upload your Private Key, your Public Key (to the /mnt/ folder!), and get your Amazon Account Number (from the website).  Creating my AMI image that included ColdFusion and Flash Media Server took about 15 minutes.  Write down the location to the manifest.xml file that is created.
  • Next, you will want to send your new AMI images to somewhere.  AMI images stored on Amazon’s S3 service can be booted by just knowing the AMI code. You will need to setup a bucket to store the AMI in, and upload it to S3.
  • Register the AMI image so that is is bootable.  You will need a bunch of info again, and you will need the location to that manifest.xml document.

That’s it (I hope).  Most of this can and should be integrated into some easy-to-use tools.  Right now it is really an experience that Unix Admins love (everything is command line!), but the rest of the world will have a hard time with.

Side note: There is a tool out for Firefox which helps simplify some of these steps, however, because of the terminology that they use, you still need to be familiar with these steps to figure out what is going on.


Speaking at the MSU IT Conference


Well, it seems that all I’ve really been talking about on here is what conferences I’m going to, or where I’m presenting.  This post continues that trend (sorry!).

On Wednesday, April 23rd, I will be traveling long and hard to speak at the MSU IT conference, just down the road from my office.  While this conference is MSU specific, I will be preseting on some of the new technologies that we are devloping in our office, including : IP Telset deployments, Presence, WiFi phones, Digital Cable, and a sneak peak at IPTV.  It should be lots of fun (if I can get the demos to work).

There’s Voice in Them There Wires: A Discussion About the State of VoIP on Campus
Nick Kwiatkowski, Michigan State University Telecom Systems

Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) has become a relatively familiar name, but very few MSU employees are aware of how it is used on campus, and what policies are in place for its use. MSU Telecom Systems has built a robust telephone network on campus that uses VoIP and includes many different voice-based applications. At this presentation, learn what VoIP is, how MSU Telecom uses it on campus, and what services are planned to be deployed in the future. See the new technologies such as the latest VoIP phones, WiFi phones, and Presence solutions.

If you work for MSU, or just want to see what is going on, the link is here. Register here.

Speaking at the Queensland CFUG tomorrow

I will be doing a remote usergroup meeting for the Queensland CFUG, out of Brisbane City, in Austrilia tomorrow (4/8 @ 5:30 am EST..  I forget what time that is in upside-down land…) on LiveCycle Data Services (LCDS). 

If you want to join along, email me at nick@theflexgroup.org — This will be broadcast live via Breeze, so anybody with an internet connection will be able to view it.

Presentation and samples will be posted here.

InAAU Avaya Conference Review


Well, I just got back from San Diego, CA at my first InAAU conference.  InAAU, or the International Association of Avaya Users is an international usergroup of Avaya telephony professionals.  Avaya has a very hands-on approach with not only this usergroup, but the usergroups at a local level.  In general that makes the usergroups more of an extension of Avaya, rather than the more ad-hoc nature of the Adobe Usergroup programs that I am normally involved with.  Not bad, just different.  One of the common themes of these UGs is that if you make a suggestion about an Avaya product, Avaya hears it loud and clear (and often acts on it). 

The conference itself was pretty nice, and very professional.  Similar to MAX in presentation and style, with about 2,500 attendees it felt big, but you did keep running into the same people.  I got to meet some really neat people all over the professional world.  I got to spend quite a bit of time with some of the people at SPS (thanks Theresa and Mike!) and some of the engineers / product managers at Avaya. Hopefully some of the contacts I made within Avaya and other universities pan out for some of our future projects.

All though the conference had a pretty heavy "salesey" feel to it, I did walk away with some cool tid-bits:

  • Avaya’s next style of phones will include the 9700 and 9900 series phones.  Looks to be IP only, with a heavy SIP focus (couldn’t figure out if there were going to be H.323 firmware available.
  • Communication Manager 5.0, and all the 5.0 tools all play well with external Authorization and Authorization services, such as LDAP, Active Directory, and RADIUS.  This is good as it is the direction our University is moving to, and also helps prevent YAL syndrome (Yet Another Login!)
  • Network Management Console and Converged Network Analysis (apart of the Integrated Management package) have some entitlement packages with CM 5.0.  This is great as they are awesome products, and help quickly determine some quirky network problems.  I might put in a request to purchase these products separately if we don’t upgrade to the latest release of Communication Manager.
  • G450 Branch Media Gateway is much more high-density than I originally thought.  With the ability to add VoIP media modules as daughter board (and therefore not take up valuable MM slots), you can actually get about 200 ports per device. Redundant power-supplies are also available.   With a price tag that is much less than a G650, this can quickly become our standard media gateway (again, if we upgrade to CM 5.0)
  • S8730 is a the new release of the S8700 series server.  Dual power supply, and RAID drives are the newest addition (aside from much more power).  Still not happy about the AMD based processor, but this server is a step in the right direction.
  • Although not announced, it seems pretty obvious that the G700 is going away.  No end-of-sale yet, but it was quietly dropped off all the road maps, and was extremely absent from all the power-point presentations.  Not a single one was at the conference.  Since this is MSU’s standard as a medium-density media cabinet, it makes us have to re-think our product placement.
  • 9600 Series phones plan to add some new features, including USB-dongle based mobility users (you have a ‘key fob’ that you plug into the side of the phone, which will log you into the phone), built-in calendaring, customizable screens, custom colors, and the ability to sync your contacts via a USB drive.
  • CM 5.0 now supports Look-Ahead Routing for both ISDN and SIP.  This is a really neat feature, and would allow us to add more redundancy in case of circuit failures. 
  • EC500 version 8.0 is being included with CM 5.0.  This release adds the ability to self-administer your number, and allows for better ‘pull-back’ support with operator-intercepts and cellular voicemail.
  • 8510 Server has been announced.  Based on Dell servers.  2 power-supplies, RAID and more RAM.
  • Communication Manager Road maps:
    • 5.1  (1H08)
      • Syslog support
      • Better ability to monitor issues with network connectivity with IPSIs within SAT
      • Calls missed due to call-forwarding, or not enough line appearances, can be logged.
      • Auto-Callback can be activated central-office side via ISDN/SIP signaling
      • SIP Enablement Server will see major stability improvements
    • 6.0
      • Use an S8400 server as an ESS server.
      • More integration of SES and CM products.
  • SIP Application Server — not really sure about the scope of this product.  I went to a few demos and I am more confused about it than ever.  Seems to do the same thing as the Application Enablement Server (AES), yet it works with SIP?  AES already seems to work with SIP just fine — we have applications that use it.

I appreciate all the hard work that the InAAU volunteers put into this conference.  Avaya users need a voice, and need to find out about these products from places other than their business partners.  I was also enjoyed the partnership with the American Cancer Society through ProjectPink — every mile an attendee walked during the conference was a dollar that Avaya will be donating to ACS.

I will continue to go through my notes and slide decks to process more information.  But for now, its time to get back to work!