AWS for Industries

Simplifying remote site management with Amazon ECS Anywhere

For many hospitality companies, such as hotel and restaurant brands, the ability to run and maintain critical applications at remote locations is a challenge. Often these locations are owned and operated by franchisees or independent operators, making tasks such as installation of new software, updating and patching, and maintenance and security difficult. Though a brand’s corporate IT department might provide recommendations on hardware purchases, ultimately it falls on the individual location owner to buy and install equipment.

The result is a mix of different hardware and software versions, even within a single location. Often older hardware will be used alongside newer hardware, causing compatibility issues that force IT to accommodate the minimal requirements and hamper innovation. In addition, this mix of hardware profiles adds complexity when creating support documentation and training help desk staff. Hospitality brands have been seeking a way to simplify running applications across these myriad of hardware profiles.

 Containers to the rescue

In 2013, the Docker Engine, which provided an open-source platform for bundling software and all its dependencies together into a package called a container, was released. These containers are lightweight and stand-alone packages that include everything an application needs to run, including code, runtime, and system libraries.

Though Docker provided the ability to create containers, and even to deploy them to a wide variety of hardware and system environments, it did not tackle many of the other tasks required to maintain an application. Working backward from customers’ needs for a robust container-management system, Amazon Web Services (AWS) created multiple solutions.

Amazon ECS

Seeing all the benefits that containers would provide for our customers, AWS released Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) in 2014. Amazon ECS is a fully managed container orchestration platform for deploying, running, and managing your entire enterprise application portfolio.

Amazon ECS bundles containers with task definitions and deploys those as tasks on a group of physical or virtual machines operating together (known as a cluster).

Amazon ECS Anywhere

Though Amazon ECS traditionally serves as the container and orchestration platform for workloads running on machines in the AWS Cloud, Amazon ECS Anywhere provides our customers the ability to deploy and manage containers on their own hardware with internet access, with the same tools as Amazon ECS. This gives your teams the ability to have a consistent development, deployment, and operational experience across different hardware profiles and all your container environments, whether in the cloud, in your data center, or at the edge in the remote location (hotel or restaurant).

By using AWS Systems Manager, a secure and complete management solution for hybrid cloud environments, cloud engineers are able to securely establish trust between remote on-site hardware and the AWS control plane. This trust relationship allows heterogeneous hardware environments to appear as Amazon ECS clusters regardless of their operating system, hardware profile, or lifecycle of the hardware.

To get started with Amazon ECS Anywhere, two agents—AWS Systems Manager Agent and Amazon ECS Container Agent—as well as Docker need to be installed on the target hardware. Often this can be done remotely through SSH for Secure Shell connections or by physically installing through an internet download or through a USB device. After these two agents are installed and configured, the new hosts will be able to be added to an Amazon ECS cluster in the AWS Console.

From there, corporate IT can deploy, monitor, and maintain tasks on those clusters, providing a centralized hub for all locations and a streamlined system for application updates and deployments.

With this capability, customers are able to build out cloud-based architectures using existing on-site hardware, unlocking the ability to further integrate these with cloud-based solutions, like advanced analytics and machine learning (ML). Look for the next blog in this series where we dive deeper into this architecture and discover how Amazon ECS Anywhere supports mission-critical workloads, including cloud point-of-sale systems or Internet of Things (IoT) smart connected restaurants.

To learn more, see Amazon ECS Anywhere in the Amazon ECS Developer Guide. Please send feedback to the AWS forum for Amazon ECS or through your usual AWS support contacts.

For more travel and hospitality solutions, see the AWS Solutions Library and visit the main Travel and Hospitality site to learn how leading brands are innovating on AWS.

Get started with Amazon ECS Anywhere today.

Jeremy Browning

Jeremy Browning

Jeremy is a senior solutions architect at Amazon Web Services, based out of Columbus, Ohio. He works with AWS enterprise customers helping them in their cloud journeys, solving complex business problems by making effective use of AWS services. Jeremy also teaches AWS Certification courses at Columbus State Community College to help upskill students and working professionals.