Explore Rockstor on AWS in 15 minutes or less

Rockstor is a software only appliance that can be installed on hardware of your choice based on your performance needs, subject to minimum system requirements. However, it can be installed as a virtual machines on xen, virtualbox, vmware etc.. very easily. In fact, we use virtual machines a lot during development.

Since the early days, we were asked a lot for a quick and easy way to explore Rockstor. So we created a Rockstor AMI on Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. It is a great place to spin up Rockstor and evaluate it’s functionality fully before investing in hardware for your storage needs.

In this post, I’ll show you how to launch a single instance of the Rockstor appliance as a virtual machine on AWS cloud. Once the instance is launched, you can access it’s web-ui from a web browser and explore Rockstor just like it’s installed on hardware.

If you are new to AWS, here’s a checklist of things you need to do before proceeding with this post.

  1. Sign up on aws.amazon.com
  2. Read the EC2 FAQ
  3. Familiarize yourself with EC2 in general by reading the documentation.
  4. Launch a free Linux micro instance to get some hands on understanding.

The rest of this post assumes that you are familiar with AWS cloud and have launched EC2 instances before.

The first step is to login to your AWS management console from your web browser. Later, you’ll use Rockstor web-ui which is fully supported on Firefox web browser, so I’ll assume that you are using Firefox all around. As of this writing, the console looks like this.

aws_mgmt_console

Click on EC2 to go to the EC2 dashboard. EC2 is available in multiple zones and some services are not available across zones including AMIs. The name of the current zone is shown in the top right, next to your name. Ensure that you are in US West (Oregon) zone as Rockstor AMI is only available there. Once you are in the OregonĀ zone, click on Launch Instance button as shown below.

ec2_dashboard

The Launch Instance Wizard is started, which is a simple guided process to launch an AMI. Note that the Rockstor AMI is free and public, but you may incur AWS charges. As of this writing, it is possible to launch a Rockstor micro instance free of cost using the free tier subscription.

In the first screen of the wizard, click on Community AMIs in the left side navigation bar and search for rockstor. Select the Rockstor 2.1 AMI from the search results as shown in the image below.

launch_wizard_1

In the second screen of the wizard, a t1.micro instance is selected by default. You can try Rockstor on many instance types, but for exploration purposes, the t1.micro instance is adequate. Click on Next: Configure Instance Details button to go to the next screen as shown in the image below.

ec2_dashboard_2

You can proceed with defaults in the third screen and click on Next: Add Storage button for the next screen to add storage. You may recall from Rockstor documentation that in addition to the root disk, you need at least one disk drive with a minimum size of 2GB.

Click on Add New Volume button to add one or more EBS volumes of at least 2GB in size each. Check the box under the Delete on Termination column for all volumes so the EBS volumes don’t linger around unnecessarily after you are finished exploring Rockstor. After you are done, click on Next: Tag Instance button for the next screen.

ec2_dashboard_4

You can optionally tag the instance with an arbitrary string. Click on Next: Configure Security Group for the next screen. where you can either create a new security group or select an existing one. If you are not familiar with security groups, read the documentation. To access the web-ui, you need to have a rule in the security group to allow access to HTTPS port on the Rockstor instance as shown in the image below. After adding the rule, click on the Review and Launch button.

ec2_dashboard_6

In the next screen, review everything and click the Launch button. A popup will appear asking you to select an existing keypair or create a new one. The Rockstor AMI does not allow SSH access, so the keypair is really optional. After making the appropriate choice, click on the Launch Instance button which will take you to the Launch Status page as shown in the image below.

ec2_dashboard_7

Now go back to your EC2 dashboard by clicking on the instance id from the Launch Status page. It may take a minute or two for the instance to launch. Ensure that the instance state is running and that it passed status checks as shown in the image below.

ec2_dashboard_instances

If you click on the instance, more information about it is displayed including Public DNS hostname and IP information. That’s it! you can access the Rockstor web-ui by pointing a Firefox web browser to https://<Public DNS hostname of your instance>. You’ll need to go through the setup wizard which is self explanatory. More information, however, is here.

In the disks section under storage tab of the web-ui, you’ll see the EBS volumes that were added earlier. As you explore Rockstor, you can attach more volumes and if you do, just click the rescan button to detect them. You can explore almost all features from the web-ui, except for replication for which you need another Rockstor instance. Read the official documentation for more information.

After your exploration, be sure to terminate your instance and destroy any EBS volumes that were used.

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