ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services: The Basics

Although ArcGIS Server has been supported in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for several years, it gets a lot easier to build an ArcGIS Server site in the Amazon cloud at 10.1. This is thanks to a new application called ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services. Cloud Builder walks you through the process of creating an ArcGIS Server site in Amazon EC2, abstracting away some of the more technical points of working with the Amazon platform.

Creating a site in Cloud Builder

Cloud Builder is a lightweight desktop-based application that runs on Windows. Anyone who’s purchased ArcGIS for Server can download Cloud Builder from the Esri Customer Care website, in the same place where you download other purchased ArcGIS products. There is no extra charge for downloading Cloud Builder.

Before you can use Cloud Builder, you need to give Esri Customer Service a call and let them know that you want to use your ArcGIS Server product on Amazon EC2. They’ll ask for your Amazon account number and your ArcGIS Server license number so they can share the Esri-created Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) with your account. The nice thing about using Cloud Builder is that you don’t have to know anything else about these AMIs or which ones to work with; you just tell Cloud Builder how you want to build your site and it will use the appropriate AMIs for you behind the scenes.

The Cloud Builder installation takes just a couple of minutes. The first time you use Cloud Builder, you’ll need to sign in using your Amazon account Access Key and Secret Access Key. These are easily obtainable through the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Management Console, a web application that shows you all the resources your Amazon account is using.

There are a couple of important things you can do in Cloud Builder once you’re logged in:

  • Create a new site. You proceed through a wizard defining the OS, database flavor, and number of machines that will be included in the site. You can also set autoscaling rules that will expand or contract your site in response to CPU usage. At the end of the wizard, you press a button and Cloud Builder launches the machines, licenses the software for you, creates the ArcGIS Server site, and sets up a connection to an enterprise geodatabase if you’ve elected to include one. Cloud Builder gives you convenient Stop and Start buttons for your site that can allow you to cut down on your Amazon costs when you’re not using the site.
  • Save a template. Once you’ve got all your data, services, and apps moved on to your site, you can save a template, allowing you to launch identical sites later. This can be a good way to preserve or share your work. Beginning at 10.1 SP1 you’ll be able to share your templates with other Amazon accounts (whose owners must fall within the realm of your license agreement).
  • Make a backup. A site backup allows you to restore your site to a working state if anything unexpected happens. Backups are less permanent than templates; they go away when you delete the site.

Viewing a site in Cloud Builder

If you’re interested in learning more about Cloud Builder, you can watch this video demo from the 2012 Esri Developer Summit session. Or take a look at the documentation.

We invite you to give Cloud Builder a try and to leave feedback as a comment to this post.

Contributed by Sterling Quinn of the ArcGIS for Server development team

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