6B.5 Deploying to the Cloud: Lessons Learned from the National Cattle Comfort Advisor

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 2:30 PM
Room 10AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Michael D. Klatt, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and R. Jabrzemski and A. Sutherland

Cloud computing holds a lot of promise for researchers with limited IT expertise and budgets. The cloud service provider is responsible for managing the hardware, freeing up clients to focus on content. Cloud providers offer a wide variety of turn-key services and software to make it easier to build, deploy, and manage applications. Cloud computing is more cost-efficient than in-house IT because capital and fixed costs are spread out over a large number of users. Cloud resources can be scaled up and down according to demand, so extra capacity is only paid for if needed. These resources can be spread among multiple data centers around the world, making applications more resilient by locating them closer to users and reducing the number of single points of failure. And, cloud applications will always be running on modern hardware.

However, cloud computing comes with its own set of challenges that need to be balanced against the potential advantages. There can be a steep learning curve for using cloud services, especially for more complex applications. Code modifications are often required for applications to take full advantage of these services. Adding additional services and resiliency can quickly become expensive, and the demand-based cost structure makes it difficult to accurately predict operating expenses. Relying on a single provider introduces vendor lock-in, and even the largest providers are not immune to widespread outages. The implications of giving code and data access to the cloud provider must also be considered.

This case study will examine the deployment of the National Cattle Comfort Advisor (http://cattlecomfort.mesonet.us) to Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is the Oklahoma Mesonet’s first cloud-based application, so this was a useful learning experience. The case study will focus on some of the practical aspects of deploying to AWS and the cloud in general, including the decisions that need to be made, the tools and services that are available, and the pitfalls of cloud-based applications.

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