I signed up for Amazon Web Services around a year ago. I remember playing around and being impressed. But I never did much more with it.

This semester I am once again teaching a Database Administration course at Christopher Newport University. One of my students shared with me that his summer job heavily utilized Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, and I decided to take another look into it. AWS enables you to easily deploy a server to support a web application, run data analysis, or even support your own multiplayer video game. And you never have to worry about backups or hardware failures! EC2 is a rich software deployment platform, however, and the array of choices when bootstrapping a new server can be overwhelming to a newcomer.

I needed a quick and dirty solution to a specific problem: I use Docker to teach my database course. It allows the students to deploy containers (virtual machines with fixed software configurations) to host their own relational database (PostgreSQL) interface software (PgAdmin). Later in the semester, they use Docker to deploy a web server hosting Jupyter to enable them to get experience with Python, Jupyter, and Spark. PySpark and The PySpark Cookbook have helped to provide me with a way to introduce the students to basic data analytics in just a few weeks.

Problem: Docker is straight-up painful to install on a student’s laptop running Windows, and it does not reflect a realistic database server at that. I decided to look into web services as a solution, and took a look at Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and others. I was surprised to run into an ad for Vultr while searching for resources. They are not one of the big names, so I decided to check them out.

I was delighted to find out that there are $5 and $50 one-month free trials available. The basic Docker container is only $5 per month, so I can essentially try everything I want for free. The startup could not be easier, in part because you are only prompted to select your application, not trying to estimate your performance and capacity needs. There is a built-in option for starting a docker host.

Once setup is complete, I was given an IP address for my server and account details for it. It’s amazing, but that’s really all there is to it! Here is what my first login looked like:

Michaels-MacBook-Pro-3:~ michaeljohnson$ ssh root@
root@'s password: # ENTERED PASSWORD HERE
Welcome to Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS (GNU/Linux 4.4.0-137-generic x86_64)

 * Documentation:  https://help.ubuntu.com
 * Management:     https://landscape.canonical.com
 * Support:        https://ubuntu.com/advantage

89 packages can be updated.
56 updates are security updates.

New release '18.04.1 LTS' available.
Run 'do-release-upgrade' to upgrade to it.

Last login: Thu Feb 14 16:45:47 2019 from
root@dockertest:~# docker version
 Version:           18.06.1-ce
 API version:       1.38
 Go version:        go1.10.3
 Git commit:        e68fc7a
 Built:             Tue Aug 21 17:24:56 2018
 OS/Arch:           linux/amd64
 Experimental:      false

  Version:          18.06.1-ce
  API version:      1.38 (minimum version 1.12)
  Go version:       go1.10.3
  Git commit:       e68fc7a
  Built:            Tue Aug 21 17:23:21 2018
  OS/Arch:          linux/amd64
  Experimental:     false

By next semester, my students will all be subscribing to a web services provider as part of their materials for the database course.

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