Installing Perception in Amazon’s Cloud – Part 1

Posted bySteve Lay

In my last post, I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth, I introduced the idea of cloud-based computing and some of the reasons why so many server rooms are being ‘virtualized’.

Many of our OnPremise customers are already using virtual machines to run their Questionmark Perception servers.  Here at Questionmark we make extensive use of virtual machines; setting them up is quick and easy to do, making them ideal for testing out new versions of software or developing and testing integrations developed using our Application Programming Interfaces such as QMWISe.

In this tutorial, I introduce system administrators and developers to Amazon’s cloud-based computing service EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and show how to launch a virtual machine suitable for installing Perception.

Next time I’ll be looking at using Remote Desktop to gain access to your virtual machines and how to configure them ready to install Perception.

I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth

Over the next few months I’m going to be taking a closer look at how to set up Questionmark Perception on cloud-based virtual machines.  I’ll be writing some tutorials aimed at system administrators and integration developers.  I’ll show you, in detail, how to install and configure Perception in Amazon’s cloud and how to use it to test your own integrations.

But first: what are virtual machines, and why do they form clouds?

Ten years ago you could walk into a typical data centre and locate the physical machine that was running your application. You could walk around the server room and do a quick scan of the flashing LEDs to get a dashboard-like view of your running applications. Sometimes a big server would be shared between multiple applications, but sharing the operating system, web server and other common components was error prone and things quickly got complicated!

Today, data centres are often just populated with anonymous machines that combine to form a cloud of computing resources. Each application is installed on its own virtual machine with its own virtual operating system. Virtual machines ‘float’ in the cloud, wandering transparently between the physical machines as required.

One of the main advantages of virtualization is that it enables resources to be used more efficiently. When an application is inactive, the physical resources it was using can be quickly recycled, saving energy and helping ensure that future generations can also enjoy the “vales and hills” that Wordsworth once wandered through.

One of the most popular computing clouds is Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, known as Amazon EC2 for short.  Virtual machines in Amazon’s EC2 are rented out to Amazon account holders on an hour-by-hour basis for just a few dollars.

The physical machines that make up the cloud are distributed around the world in Amazon’s data centres.  But clouds can be private too.  Software for virtualization is available from well known suppliers like VMWare and Microsoft allowing companies to create private clouds in their own data centres.  There is even an open source cloud platform called Eucalyptus.

The easiest way to get going with Questionmark Perception is with our OnDemand solution, but if you need an OnPremise solution you might already be thinking of installing Perception on your own cloud based-systems. This is a subject I’ll be covering in more detail later.