AWS rolls out automation feature -- should vendors be worried?

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It was a perennial problem with Microsoft: startups would build a new product on top of Microsoft software and then the Redmond giant would start offering the same product, threatening the startup's viability.

A similar dynamic is sure to happen these days with Amazon Web Services, given Amazon's manic pace of adding new features to the services.

Case in point: this week AWS added a new automation feature that starts to encroach on the territory of the many cloud monitoring and automation service providers.

AWS adds automation feature

Source: g23armstrong via Flickr

AWS users can now set alarms via CloudWatch that will automatically terminate EC2 instances for set reasons. CloudWatch is the AWS service that lets customers track some usage metrics and get an alarm if usage goes above or below set parameters. But until now CloudWatch didn't let users automatically trigger an action based on an alarm.

In a blog post, Jeff Barr, AWS evangelist, offers a few examples of how this new feature might be helpful. For instance, users can set CloudWatch to check for very low load averages over a time period and if found, shut down an instance, thus preventing the customer from paying for unused instances.

That same type of automation could be helpful in applications that may pull work from an Amazon SQS queue, do the work, and then pass it along to the next stage, Barr wrote. A user could set the new CloudWatch feature to automatically shut down the instance, once it becomes idle for a set time, indicating the work is done and passed on.

Users could also set CloudWatch to detect excessive memory utilization and take action automatically.

In the comments after the blog post, a couple of customers said it'd be nice to also have the ability to automatically restart an instance based on set parameters. One also suggested letting customers shut down instances automatically during certain times of the day – like the night time – to cut costs.

This new feature is pretty basic and is unlikely to unseat monitoring or automation companies that offer additional, richer features. But it'll be useful to AWS users who might have basic needs and haven't been able to invest in third party automation and monitoring apps. And it makes you wonder about what additional automation and monitoring features AWS is working on.

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