Navigating the AWS ecosystem can be a daunting effort.  Over the last year, hundreds of services added, making finding the ones that will matter to you tricky to say the least.  One of the challenges with getting started with AWS is doing seemingly simple things like just setting up a basic server from a template.  This is where AWS Lightsail comes in to solve the problem for us.

What Is Lightsail?

AWS Lightsail is a VPS (Virtual Private Server) deployment framework which uses the AWS underlying infrastructure to deploy and size simplified template servers to meet some specific application needs.   It’s very similar to the experience which will feel familiar for people who have used services like DigitalOcean, Linode, and similar hosting providers.

Lightsail instances give you:

  • Quick deployment
  • SSD storage
  • Static IP addresses
  • DNS management
  • Access to other AWS services from Lightsail instances

This new offering was released at the AWS re:Invent 2016 event in Las Vegas along with the many other announcements around new services.

What Problem Does Lightsail Solve?

The goal of AWS Lightsail is simplifying the end-to-end experience for customers who are looking to just “spin up a server” with certain operating system environments, or customers looking for the one click type of application deployments.  This is a big change from the current workflow which requires that you use a wizard-based deployment of EC2 instances, which requires you to select image, size, storage, networking, security groups, and other custom configurations.  This can present many opportunities for misconfiguration.

When you’re looking for the simple Operating System only instances, you also have a catalog available to you for running a Linux box with a default CPU, memory, and storage configuration.

Sometimes, you just need to deploy a simple server and know the specific price up front so that you aren’t sifting through the many different types of EC2 instances flavor sizes as we’ve talked about before.  The Lightsail flavor sizes are very simply laid out in the deployment screen to give you a quick view and a default set of sizes that should match your needs.  These selections are significantly easier to pick from compared to the multiple EC2 instance types, and flavor sizes by region.

Not everything will meet your needs, however.  There are a few things you should know before you think about converting your entries cloud footprint into Lightsail instances.

What Are the Limitations of LightSail?

Lightsail gives you simplicity for your deployment of pre-packaged instances.  This is great when that is what you are looking for, and you don’t require much custom configuration beyond that.  What it doesn’t give you out-of-the-box is some of the other capabilities that do require more care and feeding.  Auto-scale is not wrapped into the Lightsail environment, nor is VPC and other options that would allow for more advanced Identity and Access Management.

There can be additional configuration done to build out access to the rest of the AWS platform features, but at that point you may already be looking to do more traditional AWS deployments.  The deployment wizard also packages up a default SSH key from your account and gives remote access to that key.  This is handy, but does also mean that you may start to look at security for remote access by using a jump box and internal private networking which is open only to VPC configurations.

Lightsail is a very handy deployment environment which will be a good entry point for some new AWS users or existing AWS customers who are wanting single-purposed and quick access VPS instances.  You can also launch the lowest their of Lightsail as a part of your free tier eligible instances if you are in your first year of AWS usage.

Give it a try using the AWS console and hopefully you’ll see a value to nice agile, simplified deployment method.  It is a great way to get your feet wet in the AWS platform and also to keep your costs down while you are at it.

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