If you have ever wondered how to get a Linux EC2 node down to the bare minimum this post is for you. I have been wanting to do this for a long time but it wasn't possible until pv-grub support that was added recently. To make this even more exciting Amazon now offers EC2 micro instances that will go well with this type of bare bones system.
You may wonder why you would want to do this. I'll give you at least two reasons. First there is speed. The configuration I ended up with will boot in about 14 seconds. Almost all of that time is spent waiting on the AWS DHCP server for an IP address. The second reason is security. There is little on this system that you don't need. The majority of what you need is provided by a single application that you can easily monitor for patches. That leaves you to worry about only the tools you must have to get your job done. I'll also include a couple downsides. First this isn't going to be easy for everyone and it can be fairly complicated. The second issue you will run into is that there is nothing in this distribution. If you need something like PHP you might spend a long time building all the support you need. There isn't much to be done about the complexity if you want to do this all yourself. Selection of tools can help you lessen the impact of the bare nature of the system, more on that in a future post.
I have a long running goal that I'm trying to reach with all these pv-grub for EC2 posts. That goal is to find the smallest/tightest usable node that can be created for EC2. The next step in that path requires a custom Linux kernel. What follows is how to build the latest Linux kernel so that it works on EC2 using pv-grub.
It is important to have a recent kernel since most of what is needed to get a kernel to work on EC2 is now incorporated into the source. These instructions assume the latest kernel is 188.8.131.52 and I've used them with 2.6.35 as well but keep that in mind since the one patch that is required could eventually be merged in. Before getting started it may help to read over how to compile the Linux kernel normally and then my post on running CentOS 5.5 on EC2 using pv-grub.
The new PV-Grub ability introduced by Amazon for EC2 has opened the door for more than just custom kernels, it also makes it a lot easier to turn VirtualBox and VMWare instances into EC2 instances. In the past I have written about transfering VirtualBox images to Xen but to do that with EC2 required a matching kernel exist for your VirtualBox installed OS that was blessed by Amazon. With PV-Grub as long as you can get a kernel for your existing system that is compatible with the EC2 infrastructure you can transfer it. A lot of the most popular distributions already have compatible kernels so that shouldn't be an issue and if you had to you could always compile the kernel by hand.
Some of what follows is exactly the same as my post about installing CentOS 5.5 on EC2 with the stock kernel. Once you get the hang of it you can install just about anything Linux based to EC2. I've broken this post into two parts to try and separate the generic transfer information from the specifics of an example. The first part that goes over the basics of what needs to be done to transfer any VirtualBox or VMWare box to EC2. The second part is an example of transferring an Ubuntu Server install to from VirtualBox to EC2.
Amazon recently introduced the ability to boot a custom kernel using pv-grub on EC2. This opens the door for all kinds of interesting ideas that I've been thinking about for a while, like seeing if I can boot right into a web server and skip all that extra junk that comes with Linux distributions, but that is just me. The main door it is going to open for most people interested in EC2 will be the ability to upgrade the kernel that comes with their distribution. That brings us to how to install Cent OS 5.5 on EC2 and use the kernel that is part of the distribution.
For those who might just be interested in booting a custom kernel using EC2 pv-grub I will try to produce a few more posts with more details on that but for now here are the main things to know:
- The pv-grup kernels named with hd00 will look on the first partition of the registered device in the /boot/boot/grub directory for a menu.lst file. Use this type of kernel if you create want to use a partitioned disk.
- The pv-grup kernels named with hd0 will look on the registered device in the /boot/grub directory for a menu.lst file. Use this type of kernel if you don't have a partition on your disk.
- You won't get anything meaningful back from the boot attempt if your grub menu.lst file is in the wrong place or is not valid. See the end of the post for what a pv-grub error message looks like and some tips on what to do if you see it.
- The kernel you use does matter but the current mainline Linux kernel (2.6.35) contains everything you need except for a small change to turn off XSAVE. The main thing to know is that not every distribution may have made the change needed to work on EC2.
- I have tried non-Linux kernels to no avail. See the end of the post for a little more information.
Now that Facebook has finally released the source for HipHop PHP it is time to give it a spin. Of course it is still a little rough around the edges so I figured I would toss together a quick howto on getting it to build.
The first thing to note is that they are only supporting 64 bit systems officially. Having said that it isn't too hard to modify the code to make it work on a 32 bit system although it may turn out that such early modifications are missing some fundamental bits on why they were only support 64 bit systems. I'm going to assume at first that you are using a 64 bit system and then end with what you need if you are still using a 32 bit system.
I recently needed to create a clean EC2 AMI using a fairly new linux distro. It has been a while since I've needed to create a new AMI so I also wanted to move away from the older pre-packaged AMI and boot using EBS. After taking a look at what was currently available publicly I decided I would just create my own EBS bootable AMI using Fedora 12. It wasn't all that complicated but there are a decent number of steps so I figured I would document them for anyone else who might want to give it a try.
I'm going to assume you already understand how to do things like create instances, create EBS volumes and ssh into your running instance using key based authentication. I use the AWS management console for a lot of what follows with the exception of needing to register the AMI and for that you will need the Amazon EC2 API Tools and Amazon EC2 AMI Tools
When the initial cut of the Chromium OS source was released last week I decided to use the opportunity to see if it would run on my EEE PC 900 netbook (check out EEE PC 900 running Chrome OS on Youtube to see the final result). The first roadblock I hit with the build instructions was the Ubuntu requirement (I did give a little effort to getting it working on Fedora first). I don't have an Ubuntu box so I started out trying to use VirtualBox but that was going to take forever so I decided to move things to EC2 and what follows is the result. This isn't meant to be a replacement for the build docs since they are surely going to change, it is more of a cookbook to build Chromium (the browser) and Chromium OS using EC2 (EBS is used as well if you want to cache the source over time).
When I first started down the path of using EC2 I thought I would grab the source each time I wanted to build. I quickly ran into a snag however because it took forever to sync the source and download the Ubuntu repo. Once I had the initial sync of the source I decided I would copy it all to an EBS volume and keep that volume up to date. Using EBS to store the source feels better too since I assume Google expects people to be syncing changes only as opposed to pulling the entire source tree down every time they want to build.
I started out by finding this Ubuntu AMI for a base to work from. For the most efficient compile times I ended up using the High CPU (c1.medium) instance. I started with the default small instance but it was just too slow. With the high cpu instance you are looking at about 45 minutes to build the OS after you have the source synced for the first time and if you add building Chromium in there you are looking at around 55 additional minutes. All told you can have a complete build in less than 2 hours even if there are some source updates needed. For EBS you need a 3G volume for the Chrome OS source plus Ubuntu package repo and a 4G volume for the Chromium source.
I have been sitting on a half post for a while now on setting up Asterisk on EC2 and then this past week someone else came out with a post on how to install Asterisk from scratch on EC2. I figured I would wrap up what I have since I take the path of installing Asterisk on VirtualBox first then converting that disk image to an AMI as I outlined a few weeks ago when I got serious about testing out the Asterisk on EC2 concept.
Reading over the comments on the Voxilla post you will see some concern about how cost effective putting Asterisk on EC2 would be. Even if the cost is an issue for normal use I think Asterisk on EC2 could work for bursts of outgoing calls or even temporary conferencing systems. Part of what I wanted to do was find the least resistant path to getting started so I went with Trixbox since it has a lot of tools pre-installed and support for Gizmo5 that was very easy to set up. The key with Gizmo5 is that it is cheap, works with Asterisk via SIP and you can have incoming calls for free from a land line so it is easy to test cheaply.
There have been times recently when I wanted to pull a VirtualBox Linux instance I had into Xen. I kept thinking it had to be fairly easy but I kept putting off trying it until recently when I ran into something I wanted to install from a CD image into an Amazon EC2 AMI. It turns out the main hurdle in transferring an image is lack of documentation.
I've been using S3 to store semi-transient information like log files from EC2 nodes in the past but recently decided to give Amazon's Elastic Block Store (EBS) a try instead. I quickly realized a downside to using EBS in that there is no mechanism for auto-attach and mounting volumes when an AMI is launched. This is probably something Amazon will fix at some point and allow you to launch a given AMI with an attached EBS volume but until then you need some way of doing it yourself. The following is a simple way of using ruby to make it happen.