My Walk in the Clouds

How’s About we add a Scaling Policy, eh?

In this post, we’re going to add a scaling policy to our WordPress auto scaling group.

I read somewhere that all AWS VMs should be launched in an auto scaling group, and at the time that seemed fairly eccentric to me. But after having done my Bastion host template, I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. I don’t recall ever saying I’d like to stand up a server, but if it dies, I want it to stay dead. Generally, you’re standing up a server so it will be available, listening for requests, and sending responses. You don’t know when the request might come, but whenever it comes you want this server to be ready for it.

By itself, an auto scaling group is just a wrapper for one or more VMs that makes them self healing. And who doesn’t like self healing hosts? That said, if you really want high availability, and you expect a load on the servers that is not entirely predictable (and how many servers have an entirely predictable load), then an auto scaling group by itself isn’t enough. You also need to apply a scaling policy to it, so it can provide on demand capacity, which is a central theme in cloud computing. That’s what we’re going to do now.

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And Finally, a WordPress Cluster using CloudFormation in AWS

Ok, let’s do this thing! In this post I’m going to be adding a WordPress Auto Scaling Group spread across two availability zones, and an Application Load balancer to accept connections on port 80 and direct traffic to the Auto Scaling Group. Both will be added to the CloudFormation template I started in my last blog post.

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Provision a MariaDB RDS Database Instance with CloudFormation in AWS

I’m now 5 posts into this series (and 5 months in), and I’m finally ready to start talking about provisioning my workload, i.e. WordPress. I’ve laid out a rough outline for this, and it’s clearly too much for a single blog post, so I’m going to split it into 3 posts, which I’ll try to publish in the next 3 weeks or so (rather than 3 months, as I’ve been pacing myself until now). After all, I’ve spent twice as much time (in terms of months, not man hours) writing this series as I spent building and launching my blog on AWS. So the next three posts will be:

  1. Provision a MariaDB RDS Database Instance with CloudFormation in AWS (this post)
  2. And Finally, a WordPress Cluster using CloudFormation in AWS
  3. How’s About we add a Scaling Policy, eh?

This post and the last one will be relatively brief, but the middle post will be substantial enough to justify splitting it up. So let’s get started.

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Add a NAT Instance to our VPC with CloudFormation in AWS

In this post we’re going to talk about how to provision a NAT (Network Address Translation) Instance from scratch, using AWS Linux 2 and CloudFormation. We’re going to provision an auto-healing NAT, meaning an instance launched by an auto-scaling group with a desired capacity of 1, so if our instance crashes the auto-scaling group with terminate it for us and spin up a new one. This is much like the auto-healing Bastion Host I provisioned in a previous post, Provision a Bastion Host to our VPC with CloudFormation. So the CloudFormation template for this NAT Instance is very similar to the Bastion Host template, and this post will focus only on the differences.

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Linux Hardening for your Bastion Host

This post is going to provide a brief description of basic Linux hardening for the Bastion Host I created using CloudFormation in my last post. Really it’s hardening 101 for any Linux host, but this kind of information is surprisingly hard to find on the Internet. For instance, I read a bunch of posts that say don’t run services you don’t need, but with no practical advice on how to implement that (like how to figure out what services are running on a typical Linux box, or which specific ones I might want to stop and why). The absolute best post I’ve seen on the subject is 40 Linux Server Hardening Security Tips [2019 edition]. I didn’t actually find this post until after I’d worked through the things I’m going to implement in this post, but it covered them all and a whole lot more, so you could just go there and skip this post, however, it’s pretty complex and hard to follow in some parts, and I’m going to provide a simple explanation for some simple hardening, so you might want to stick around.

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Add a Bastion Host to our VPC with CloudFormation in AWS

What is a bastion host? It’s sometimes called a jump box, or in days gone by a sacrificial lamb. Technically, it’s just a machine that is directly exposed to the Internet. In general, you don’t want all of your machines directly exposed to the Internet. So you take one box and expose it through SSH to the outside world (or RDP if it’s a Windows box). If you need to administer a more private instance, you SSH into the bastion and from there you can SSH into the private instance (which doesn’t accept SSH connections from outside of your network) to do your administration task. So you two-hop into your network (jump box) and you assume the direct exposure to the Internet means you may get compromised at some point (sacrificial lamb).

So in this post, we’re going to look at a CloudFormation template for adding a Bastion Host to a VPC. We’re going to deploy our bastion host to an auto-scaling group, not so much for the purpose of high availability but rather for some measure of auto-healing. If the box goes south and stops responding, the auto-scaling group will kill it and bring up a new fresh instance.

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Provisioning a VPC with CloudFormation in AWS

This post is about a detailed examination of a CloudFormation template for provisioning a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) in Amazon AWS. It is the first of what will be a series of posts that talk about Infrastructure as Code, revolving around trying to accomplish some particular thing. In particular, I’m moving my blog (this blog) to AWS from a shared hosting provider, and my experiences doing that is what this series will be about.

I have some specific goals in moving my blog, like my current service is a bit slower than I would like, and also less reliable (only 2 nines of availability), so I was looking to upgrade either way. Looking at the next step up in shared hosting, it would cost about twice as much as I’m currently spending (around $400/year), so I would ideally like to come up with something on AWS that isn’t much more than that, but with improved reliability and maybe speed. I have no idea starting out if I can actually meet any of these goals.

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Getting All SharePoint Group Membership for a User Using JavaScript

As everyone knows by now, Microsoft is pushing all development out to the client-side. But most of the time, I find customers who desire customization want a user experience that is somewhat tailored to the current user. Like managers should see one thing when they log in, but regular users should see something else. That means that on the client-side, I need to be able to distinguish managers from other users. That’s normally done by assigning the users to groups. But in large organizations, that usually means Active Directory groups, which are then added to SharePoint groups. This leads to a problem, because from the client-side, there is no way to determine if the user has membership in a SharePoint group to which they’ve been added indirectly (i.e. through membership in an Active Directory group).

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Why Don’t My CSS Files Work on SharePoint 2019?

For those of you who may not know, I have an open source project for SharePoint called SPEasyForms. But this post is not about that, it’s about a general problem you might encounter in SharePoint 2019, which is that none of your CSS files in document libraries work. It just so happens that I first heard about this issue this week, when somebody reported SPEasyForms doesn’t work on SharePoint 2019. I had tested it in 2019 Preview, and it had worked just fine, but the preview license had expired, so I had to spend a few days standing up a 2019 RTM farm. As soon as I did that, I saw the same results as had been reported (i.e. SPEasyForms looked like crap). So I’m just using SPEasyForms to demonstrate the problem, and I’ll go on to talk about how to fix it.

Understand that this problem will affect all CSS files that are loaded out of document libraries. That includes OOB style sheets loaded out of the master page gallery. It does not affect all SharePoint 2019 installations. Like I said, my preview didn’t display this behavior, and that’s not because this only affects the RTM release. Others had already reported this issue with the Preview release. And Microsoft is aware of the problem, but nobody has explained what alignment of the stars will cause this issue, just some people have it and others don’t.

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