Deploying Microsoft Enterprise Apps with AWS Launch Wizard

As applications become more complex, deploying them correctly becomes increasingly critical. In the past, Amazon has offered its Launch Wizard as a tool for guiding admins through the process of deploying Active Directory and other services in the AWS cloud.

Recently however, Amazon has retooled the Launch Wizard so that it can assist admins with the deployment of mission-critical applications such as Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) and Microsoft Exchange Server.

You can find the Launch Wizard in Compute section of Amazon's list of services. When you open the AWS Launch Wizard, you are taken to a dashboard display that lists the various deployments that you can perform. As you can see in Figure 1, these deployments currently include Microsoft SQL Server, SAP, Active Directory, Remote Desktop Gateway, Amazon EKS, Exchange Server and Microsoft IIS.

Figure 1: AWS Launch Wizard now supports Microsoft Exchange Server and IIS.
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1: AWS Launch Wizard now supports Microsoft Exchange Server and IIS.

As you look at the figure above, you will notice that the Pricing section indicates that Launch Wizard is a free service, but you are required to pay for your use of underlying resources such as EC2 and EBS.

Deploying Exchange Server
To deploy Microsoft Exchange Server using the Launch Wizard, just click on the Exchange tab and then click the Create Deployment button. When you do, AWS will ask you if you want to deploy Exchange into a new VPC or use an existing VPC. This is where things get interesting.

If you have ever set up Microsoft Exchange Server from scratch, then you know that doing so is not a simple process. Depending on the Exchange Server version that you are deploying, there are several dependencies that must be put into place. Additionally, optimal edge transport server and mailbox server placement is something of an art form, as is the process of making the Exchange deployment highly available through clustering.

The Launch Wizard handles all of these complexities for you. When you deploy Exchange Server into a new VPC, AWS walks you through the process as though you were starting from scratch. The first step in the process is to provide a deployment name and to configure your network. This means choosing the number of availability zones that you want to use, providing a CIDR for the VPC and then defining a series of subnets.

The next thing that the Launch Wizard does is to walk you through the process of setting up the Active Directory. Microsoft Exchange Server has a direct dependency on Active Directory, so if you don't already have an Active Directory environment in place, the Launch Wizard will help you to create one. As you can see in Figure 2, this means entering things like admin credentials, domain controller names and the domain's DNS name.

Once you have populated all of the Active Directory related fields, the Launch Wizard asks you how many remote desktop gateway hosts you want to deploy, before moving on to the Exchange configuration. The Exchange Server configuration options are relatively straight forward. You will need to select your Exchange Server version, and choose whether or not you want to deploy Ede Servers or enable the ReFS file system. You will also need to choose the volume type and size, and choose whether to enable volume encryption.

These are the configuration options that exist for Exchange Server.
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 2: These are the configuration options that exist for Exchange Server.

Once you have finished choosing the configuration options that you want to use for Exchange Server, you have the option of enabling the network load balancer. The Launch Wizard also steps you through the process of configuring failover clustering, as shown in Figure 3.

The Launch Wizard can also automate the deployment of failover clustering.
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 3: The Launch Wizard can also automate the deployment of failover clustering.

Deploying IIS
IIS is a much simpler platform than Microsoft Exchange, so it stands to reason that setting it up through the Launch Wizard is a bit less involved. If you are deploying IIS into a new VPC, then many of the configuration tasks are the same as for Exchange Server. You will need to name your deployment, configure your network, provision the Active Directory, and choose the number of remote desktop gateway hosts that you want to use.

The actual IIS configuration process is really simple. It essentially just involves providing the name of the S3 bucket containing the web site's code.

The only other thing that you have to do is to set up an auto scaling group, which requires little more than specifying the number of servers that you want to use, specifying a CIDR, and selecting a load balancing scheme. You can see what the process looks like in Figure 4.

These are the configuration settings for deploying IIS.
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 4: These are the configuration settings for deploying IIS.

Conclusion
While there is nothing stopping you from manually deploying Exchange Server or IIS, the Launch Wizard greatly simplifies the process. Even so, a manual deployment may be preferable in situations in which you need granular control over the deployment and all of the configuration options.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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