Alibaba Cloud in 7 Days

Day #1 - Training Video and ECS plus Exam

May 7, 2018

I started today watching an introductory ECS training course. This course is normally $10.00 but there is a promotion now and the cost is free. Operate and Manage a Cloud Server

I watched the course from beginning to end which took about 45 minutes. The instructor Dean has good English skills. His presentation style is to present as if he is sitting next to you showing you step by step how to do each task. His style is easy going and Dean grew on me. For a simple and quick introduction to Alibaba Cloud, this course is good. I then repeated everything using the console which took another hour. I then took the exam and passed. Cloud Computing Specialist Certification

The exam is interesting but needs some work. For some of the questions I could not figure out what Alibaba was asking, so I just guessed at the correct answer. The exam questions appear to have been translated from Chinese to English and this caused problems (language barrier). This needs to be improved.

While watching the course and during follow up console work, I realized that Alibaba uses a lot of new terms and in some cases AWS terms differently. Therefore, I will document these terms in a glossary. An example is the term ECS. In AWS this means Elastic Container Service whereas Alibaba means Elastic Compute Instance. AWS storage is S3 (Simple Storage Service), Alibaba calls it OSS (Object Storage Service). Glossary

Some initial concepts to understand:

  • Pricing. Alibaba makes the pricing very clear every step of the way with their services. In some cases, their descriptions of pricing are confusing and this needs to be improved. However, it will be hard for someone to say that they did not know how much somethings costs as Alibaba makes you confirm pricing at the time you create the service - at least with the services I tested today.

  • An Amazon EC2 instance is called ECS. Many of the common EC2 instance feature have a parallel in Alibaba. AWS offers more instance types, AMIs, etc. but Alibaba has the basics covered.

  • Regions. Alibaba has 13 regions just in Asia Pacific. Some regions only have one Zone (AWS Availability Zone) but others have six Zones (Beijing). There are two regions in the US with two Zones each. Europe only has one Zone in Frankfurt. Lastly there is one region in Mumbai and another in Dubai with one Zone each. If you want to do business in China, it is clear that you need a cloud provider there. This is even more important to accept credit cards on your website. Alibaba has this covered with Alipay.

  • ICP. You will often see this term. This is a license that is required to host a website in China. An initial review indicates that this is a complicated process. For more information go to Alibaba China Connect.

  • CEN. Cloud Enterprise Network. This is not the same as a VPC. CEN helps you create a hybrid cloud network and support distributed business systems. CEN can connect multiple Alibaba Regions to each other and to your on-premise networks. Looks like a combination of AWS VPC Peering and AWS Direct Connect. I need to research this a lot more. Cloud Enterprise Network

  • RAM. Resource and Access Management. This would be AWS IAM. Not enough time in Day #1 to research this further. Resource Access Management

  • CentOS Key Pair user name: "root". This was not documented anywhere.

  • The Alibaba Console under ECS instances has a "connect" option. This is a nice feature that opens a VNC web browser window. However, after creating an ECS instance based upon CentOS, I could not login using this window. Turns out that you need to use the Key Pair (just like AWS) to initially login via SSH and then create a user with a password. I used this document to get started on creating and configuring this user: How To Create a Sudo User on CentOS. Once this was completed I could then use the Alibaba Console Connect feature to login.

  • VNC Connection Password. Remember to write down this number. You will need this if you want to use the Alibaba Console connect feature. There appears to be an option to reset this number (Reset VNC Password). I need to investigate the security risks associated with this feature.

  • The Stop Instance message is very confusing. I carefully read this message, which is very long, but I am not sure of the real effects. I will work on this anther day.

  • Disk. Make sure that you select the correct Zone when creating an additional disk for an ECS instance. The default is "random". You need to specify the Zone that matches the ECS instance that you will attach the disk to. I used this document to partition and format the Linux disk after I attached it to the ECS instance: Linux: Format and mount a data disk.

  • Security Group. Very similar to AWS. However, you cannot modify an entry in your security group. You must create a new entry and then delete the old one.
  • Overall, I was impressed with the Alibaba Console and the ease of creating and configuring ECS instances. Adding a disk drive, resizing a disk drive, and creating snapshots were easy to complete.

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