Choosing an AWS container service to run your modern application

Businesses want to innovate quickly and deliver value even faster. To achieve these goals, the platform needs to enable teams to focus on delivering applications that are reliable, secure, highly available, cost-efficient, and scalable to required sizes.

Consider including containers on AWS  in your platform, whether you are trying containers for the first time, spinning out parts of an on-premises solution to microservices in the cloud, or are new to the cloud. Containers can help you achieving a range of business benefits, including increased scalability, agility, flexibility, and cost efficiency.

In this post, we discuss three sets of builder expectations and how AWS container services can help to meet with your application delivery requirements and choose the appropriate container platform service on AWS.

Decrease container platform operations management overhead

If managing a platform is not your business’s strategic focus (for example, if most of your engineers are code developers), it can be preferable to only manage application development.

Amazon Lightsail containers offer a simple way for developers to deploy their containers to the cloud. With a Docker image you provide for your containers, AWS automatically deploys containerized workloads for you.

Lightsail assigns an HTTPS endpoint that is ready to serve your web application running in the cloud container. It automatically sets up a load-balanced Transport Layer Security (TLS) endpoint and takes care of the TLS certificate. This service replaces unresponsive containers for you automatically; by assigning a Domain Name System to your endpoint, Lightsail maintains the old version until the new version is healthy and ready to go live (Figure 1).

Amazon Lightsail containers

Figure 1. Amazon Lightsail containers

Another simple way to build and run your containerized web application in AWS is using AWS App Runner, which provides a fully managed container-native service.

Without orchestrators to configure, build pipelines to set up, or load balancers to optimize, you can bring existing containers or use the integrated container build service to go directly from the code repository to deployed application.

The build service can connect to a GitHub repository, providing a Git push workflow that deploys changes automatically. App Runner orchestration workflow take cares of the build, deployment, and configuration tasks, such as host, runtime patching, monitoring load balancing, and auto scaling (Figure 2). Explore AWS App Runner documentation and workshop for more details about the service.

AWS App Runner

Figure 2. AWS App Runner

When designing an application, you often start with a whiteboard or mental model that has representations of each service and lines for how they interact with each other. When considering an application’s platform architecture, the cloud components are not limited to virtual private cloud (VPC) subnets, load balancers, deployment pipelines, and durable storage for your application’s stateful data. Bringing all underlying cloud components together and making sure the design is well architected can be challenging.

AWS Copilot can provide guided best practices when deploying a microservice architecture that includes multiple services deployed as containers. You can use Copliot to handle cloud component details for you. By providing a container image, Copilot works with App Runner or Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) to provision cloud components, like VPC and having Copilot handle high-availability deployment, load balancer creation, and configuration.

To automate application deployment and new version release, Copilot can create a deployment pipeline so that the latest version of your application is automatically deployed every time you push a new commit to your code repository (as demonstrated in Figure 3).

AWS Copilot pipeline

Figure 3. AWS Copilot pipeline

Full-control application deployment with container orchestration

As business grows, your application portfolio grows. Some applications may require the selection of Microsoft Windows containers or deep customizations on container-resource scheduling, monitoring, and logging. To accommodate this, you need the flexibility of configuring the required underlying container services while still using the efficient container orchestrator to automate the common processes to achieve operation efficiency. This is where Amazon ECS and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) can help.

Using Amazon ECS

As demonstrated in Figure 4, Amazon ECS is a highly scalable, high-performance container management service that supports containers and allows you to easily run applications on a managed cluster of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances with Amazon Fargate (a serverless compute engine for containers). With this, you can launch and stop containerized applications and query the complete state of your cluster. You have the ability to access and configure many familiar features, like security groups and Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), by sending simple API calls.

Amazon ECS can be used to schedule container placement across your cluster based on resource needs and availability requirements. You can also integrate your own scheduler or third-party schedulers to meet business- or application-specific requirements.

Amazon ECS using AWS Fargate

Figure 4. Amazon ECS using AWS Fargate

Using Amazon EKS

Amazon EKS is a managed service that can be used to run Kubernetes on AWS, without installing, operating, and maintaining your own Kubernetes control plane or nodes. For many developers who have experience using Kubernetes, running Amazon EKS for application container workload is a preferred option because Amazon EKS provides the flexibility of Kubernetes with the scalability, security and resiliency of being an AWS managed service.

Amazon EKS runs and automatically scales the Kubernetes control plane across multiple AWS availability zones to ensure high availability, as in Figure 5. The control plane instances are automatically scaled based on load. Amazon EKS detects and replaces unhealthy control plane instances and provides automated version updates and patching. Amazon EKS enables developers to run up-to-date versions of the open-source Kubernetes software, the existing or new third-party plugins, and tooling. This means you can more easily migrate any standard Kubernetes application to Amazon EKS without code modification.

Scalability and security are essential to your business-critical workloads. Amazon EKS is integrated with many AWS services, including Amazon Elastic Container Registry for container images, ELB for load distribution, IAM for authentication, and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud for isolation.

Amazon EKS scales Kubernetes across multiple availability zones

Figure 5. Amazon EKS scales Kubernetes across multiple availability zones

Conclusion

To innovate and respond to changes faster, businesses need to build modern applications quickly and manage them efficiently. AWS provides container services to run your most sensitive, secure, and business-critical workloads reliably and to-scale.

With little-to-no prior container experience, developers can use Lightsail containers to run web application container workloads with easy-to-use interface. App Runner simplifies application deployment and management down into one particular service for running web applications. With Copilot, you can get step-by-step best practice guidance when you need to deploy microservice architecture with multiple services deployed as containers. Amazon ECS and Amazon EKS give the flexibility of configuring container workloads while maintaining the application deployment and operational efficiency.

Further reading

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