macOS in the cloud

With the constant expansion of cloud providers and services, one would think everything is possible and easy these days.  Well, at work, we came across an interesting project which shed some light on the lesser discussed areas of cloud providers and services – macOS.

Both Linux and Windows are well suited for the cloud, and are widely covered.  macOS though not so much.  Why?  Well, there are many reasons, but one of them might be that short, but annoying paragraph in the software license agreement (this one is for Catalina, but you can easily check the others here):

J. Other Use Restrictions. The grants set forth in this License do not permit you to, and you agree not to, install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so.You agree not to remove, obscure, or alter any proprietary notices (including trademark and copyright notices) that may be affixed to or contained within the Apple Software. Except as otherwise permitted by the terms of this License or otherwise licensed by Apple: (i) only one user may use the Apple Software at a time, and (ii) you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be run or used by multiple computers at the same time. You may not rent, lease, lend, sell, redistribute or sublicense the Apple Software.

Yup.  You have to run Apple software on the Apple hardware.  This alone is a huge showstopper for the cloud.  And only user may use it at a time too.

There are still some cloud providers who offer specifically macOS based products and services (and yes, they run them on the Apple hardware).  Here are a few examples, thanks to this thread:

It’s good to have options here, even if the prices are much higher than what you’d expect.

SCAR: static website deployment on AWS

SCAR is a deployment stack for static websites. It’s not exactly a single-click process, but it is as simple as possible. The name is the abbreviation from the Amazon AWS services which are utilized for the deployment: S3, CloudFront, Amazon Certificate Manager, and Route 53.

The whole thing is built via the Amazon CloudFormation, and shouldn’t require much of tinkering with the services or reading lengthy documentation pages. This bit should also motivate you to try it out:

How much will this cost?

For most sites, it will likely cost less than $1 per month. The cost for a Route 53 hosted zone is fixed at $0.50/month; the remaining CloudFront and S3 costs depend on the levels of traffic, but typically amount to a few cents for small levels of traffic.

faast.js – serverless batch computing made simple

faast.js is a new framework that makes writing serverless functions super easy. Read more about it in this introductory blog post:

Faast.js started as a side project to solve the problem of large scale software testing. Serverless functions seemed like a good fit because they could scale up to perform work in parallel, then scale down to eliminate costs when not being used. Even better, all infrastructure would be managed by the cloud provider. It seemed like a dream come true: a giant computer that could be as big as needed for the job at hand, yet could be rented in 100ms increments.
But trying to build this on AWS Lambda was challenging:
* Complex setup. Lambda throws you into the deep end with IAM roles, permissions, command line tools, web consoles, and special calling conventions. Lambda and other FaaS are oriented towards an event-based processing model, and not optimized for batch processing.
* Primitive package dependency support. Everything has to be packaged up manually in a zip file. Every change to the code or tests requires a manual re-deploy.
* Native packages. Common testing tools like puppeteer are supported only if they are compiled specially for Lambda.
* Persistent infrastructure. Logs, queues, and functions are left behind in the cloud after a job is complete. These incur costs and count towards service limits, so they need to be managed or removed, creating an unnecessary ops burden.
* Developer productivity. Debugging, high quality editor support, and other basic productivity tools are awkward or missing from serverless function development tooling.
Faast.js was born to solve these and many other practical problems, to make serverless batch processing as simple as possible.

And here’s the quick visualization of the architecture for you.

Komiser – AWS Environment Inspector

Komiser is a really nice tool that provides an overview of your Amazon AWS setup. After a super simple install, you’ll have a web console which visualizes your AWS regions and the resources you run in them. It’s great for getting a quick overview, as well as for some analyses of billing, security and utilization issues.