Amazon Web Services (AWS) : That’s Customer Service!

If you were reading my Twitter stream about 11 days ago you will have seen me tweet the following message.

That feeling when your reserved instance ran out and you didn’t realise. 🙁

The story was I logged into AWS and noticed the reserved instance for my website had expired about a month and a half before. For those that don’t know, buying reserved instances reduces your compute costs because you are committing to some resource usage over an extended period of time. There are various combinations of time, up-front payment, instance type and region that save you different amounts of cash… Once I noticed it had expired I bought a new reserved instance and thought no more of it.

Fast forward to this weekend and I checked my “EC2 Reserved Instance Utilization Report”, to make sure my actual instance was using my reserved instance allocation and I was not getting overcharged. The default screen suggested that I wasn’t using my reserved instance, which left me kind-of vexed. I checked the settings and noticed the reserved instance had been bought at “Region” level, rather than for my “Availability Zone”, which is “EU (Ireland)”. I reset it to my availability zone and decided to investigate…

What I noticed was visiting the EC2 reports was flipping my region settings from “EU (Ireland)” to “Global”. When I next visited any EC2 screen my region was flipped from “Global” to “US East (N. Virginia)”.

I reported this to AWS and got a message back suggesting this was impossible. I recorded a video of it and sent that. I also reached out on Twitter and it seems I’m not the only person able to reproduce this bug. After several more interactions with support, it seemed this was the only “Global” service that was having this issue. When I switched to IAM or S3 and back to EC2 I remained in the proper region…

At this point I was feeling a little miffed that I had lost out on 9 days of reserved instance pricing, so I asked for the difference to be refunded. I accepted the 40+ days where I had no reserved instance were my fault… I also made some suggestions about reserved instance notifications and proper buy-the-same-again functionality, that would really help in this situation.

After a few minutes I got a little paranoid and though I ought to double-check that my reserved instance wasn’t being used, so I had a little play around with reporting and noticed the default report (a summary) was not showing it, but if I flipped to a report with finer granularity I could see the reserved instance was being used, which in itself seemed a little odd. I wrote back to support and asked them to ignore my request for the 9 day refund as the reserved instance was being used. As far as I was concerned, the situation was over now as I had not lost out on any money due to this interface bug.

A little while later I got a message from support confirming my reserved instance was indeed being used, so I had not lost out over those 9 days, but they also refunded the difference between the reserved instance pricing and the full price I paid for the month and a half where I had no reserved instance! Wow! I really didn’t expect that!

In financial terms, the refund is nothing to Amazon, or me for that matter, but that sort of gesture is fantastic from a customer service perspective. I instantly switched from being a little annoyed by the whole situation to wanting Amazon to marry my daughter (Heli). 🙂

Before last year’s Oracle OpenWorld I wrote a post called “Oracle : Tech Company or Service Company?“, where I discussed what I think Oracle need to do to compete with the other cloud providers. I can’t imagine Oracle resolving an incident like this so quickly, at the weekend, which resulted in giving me some money I probably didn’t deserve. I hope someone from Oracle reads this post and registers the fact this is what you are competing with!



Video: Amazon Web Services (AWS) : Relational Database Services (RDS) for SQL Server

Here’s another video on my YouTube channel. This one is a quick run through of RDS for SQL Server, a DBaaS offering from Amazon Web Services.

The video was based on this article.

The cameo for this video is Garth Harbach, a former colleague of mine. 🙂

I’ve been ill recently and my voice is pretty shot. The last three videos have all be on AWS RDS, which has very similar setup regardless of which database engine you use. This has been really handy, as I could pretty much reuse one vocal track for all three videos. Not sure if anyone would have noticed, but I felt guilty, so I thought I would confess up front. 🙂

I’m hoping I’ll get my voice back in the next few days so I’ll be able to do something different. 🙂



Video: Amazon Web Services (AWS) : Relational Database Services (RDS) for MySQL

Here’s another video on my YouTube channel. This one is a quick run through of RDS for MySQL, a DBaaS offering from Amazon Web Services.

The video was based on this article.

If you watch the little outtake at the end you will hear me cracking up with the goofiest while filming Brian ‘Bex’ Huff‘s clip. 🙂



Video: Amazon Web Services (AWS) : Relational Database Services (RDS) for Oracle

Here’s the latest video on my YouTube channel. This one is a quick run through of RDS for Oracle, a DBaaS offering from Amazon Web Services.

If you are not into the video thing, you can see the article this video was based on here.

Galo Balda has now joined the illustrious list of people who have said “.com” on one of my videos. 🙂

Don’t worry, I’ve not sold my soul to the cloud. I’m doing some talks at work and I’m doing these videos more as reference for my colleagues. Once this batch of videos is done, I’ll return to some less cloudy stuff. 🙂



Video: Oracle Linux Virtual Machine (VM) on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Continuing the cloud theme, here is a quick run through of the process of creating an Oracle Linux virtual machine on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

A few months ago I wrote an article about installing an Oracle database on AWS.

I updated the images in that article last night to bring them in line with this video.

The cameo today is by Joel Pérez, who was a bit of a perfectionist when recording “.com”. I’ve included about half of his out-takes at the end of the video. Don’t ever hire him for a film or you will run over budget! 🙂



Databases Running in the Cloud

cloudI’ve been playing around with running databases in the cloud recently. It’s quite simplistic stuff, just to get a feel for it and investigate the possibilities of using it for some projects at work. Here’s what I’ve got so far.




SQL Server:

It’s hard to differentiate between the cloud providers if you are just using them to provide a VM and self managing a system on it. It’s just another box provider.

In contrast the DBaaS offerings are much more interesting. I really like what Amazon are doing with RDS for Oracle/MySQL/SQL Server. I think these would work very well for *our* MySQL and SQL Server installations, which tend to be quite simple. I’m not sure I can live with some of the restrictions for RDS for Oracle, but that’s probably because I’m a snobby DBA type, who thinks he knows best. 🙂 The DBaaS for SQL Server on Azure is also really nice. You get less control than the RDS version, but maybe that’s a good thing.

You might have noticed I’ve not written much about Oracle Cloud yet. I should be getting a trial of the platform this month, so I will be able to fill in those gaps then.