Amazon EC2 Management Console– Part 1: the basics

by Alexander Weiß

After I’ve gone through my last few posts I realized that it might be a good idea to explain the Amazon EC2 Management Console. It is the web based, graphical management tool for the EC2 cloud. The Amazon EC2 Management Console provides an intuitive GUI to all of the basic configuration options.

In the beginning of the EC2 cloud the Amazon EC2 Management Console didn’t exist. The configuration of the EC2 cloud had to be done via the API Tools. This was not very comfortable and for some it was a barrier for its use. Today a GUI for managing EC2 is available. It is called the Amazon EC2 Management Console and it provides almost all the features which administrators need. And Amazon is implementing additional features at a rapid pace.

When you open the Management Console you’ll see the EC2 Dashboard, which has three different elements. At the top you can see a black bar spanning over the whole screen. It contains all global options. Besides that, there is a navigation menu on the left and the main panel.

Top bar & Navigation of the Amazon EC2 Management Console

Before I describe every option of the top bar, I’ll have to write about something, I would call a  wrong design decision: The Amazon EC2 Management Console is always tied to one of the Amazon EC2 Regions. But instead of clearly displaying to which region you are connected the information is hidden in the right upper corner. You can easily overlook this important information and it surely will cost you some time to get accustomed to it. I highlighted the region in the screenshot.

Amazon EC2 Management Console - Dashboard

Amazon EC2 Management Console – Dashboard

Besides the region choice menu there are four other options available: “Services”, ”Edit”, “Your Name” and “Help”. Under Services you can easily jump to the Management  Console of another Amazon Web Service. If you need to access those consoles often, you can add them to the bar, by using the “Edit” menu. On the right part of the bar you can open the help menu and manage your account.

The navigation bar is pretty self-explanatory, it just provides links to the different features. Together with the top bar the content stays fixed. Only the data in the main panel changes depending on where you have navigated.

Control elements of the main panel

The main panel of the Amazon EC2 Management Console has five different parts: The action bar, the filter menu, the navigation menu, the list area, and the properties area.

Amazon EC2 Management Console - areas

Amazon EC2 Management Console – areas

The actions bar is located directly at the top left and provides all the functionality for the chosen menu option.

Amazon EC2 Management Console - actions bar

Amazon EC2 Management Console – actions bar

Directly below the actions bar is the filter bar. Here you can filter the elements which are displayed in the list area. There is also a search field available.

Amazon EC2 Management Console - filter

Amazon EC2 Management Console – filter

On the top right you can find more configuration options for the list area. If you want to customize the columns of the list area you have to click the “Show/Hide” button. There is also a refresh button, which is very useful because sometimes the automatic refresh doesn’t work. Next to the refresh button is a help button.

Amazon EC2 Management Console - list area configuration

Amazon EC2 Management Console – list area configuration

The rest of the main panel is divided in two different parts. The top part is the list area, the bottom part is the properties area. Depending on which section of the Management Console you have opened, the list area will displays the matching EC2 infrastructure, e.g. if you are in the Elastic IP subsection your Elastic IPs are listed.

If you select one element of the list, the properties of this element are displayed in the properties area. However, the GUI isn’t very consistent about what you can do in the properties area. Sometimes it just displays information, sometimes you can also manage some properties here and sometimes it is the place where you can manage the list element.

In my next post I will explain the different menu items of the navigation. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory but some aren’t.

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