AWS Elastic Beanstalk Explained

AWS Elastic Beanstalk Explained

What is AWS Elastic Beanstalk?

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is an orchestrated service for deploying and scaling web applications and services developed with Java, .NET, PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby, Go, and Docker on familiar servers such as Apache, Nginx, Passenger, and IIS. Introduced by Amazon Web Services (AWS), this service automatically handles the details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, scaling, and application health monitoring.

Elastic Beanstalk provides an environment to easily deploy and run applications in the language of your choice. Simply upload the code, and Elastic Beanstalk will manage the deployment, from capacity provisioning, load balancing, and auto-scaling to application health monitoring. At the same time, you retain full control over the AWS resources powering your application and can access the underlying resources at any time.

The service's simplicity eliminates the need for system administrators, reduces complexity, and enables developers to focus on their code. This results in faster development and deployment of applications. Elastic Beanstalk is also free to use. You pay only for the underlying AWS resources that your application consumes.

Elastic Beanstalk Features

Elastic Beanstalk is designed to make it easier for developers to quickly deploy and manage applications in AWS, without needing to understand all the underlying components and services that allow this to work. These are the key features of Elastic Beanstalk:

  1. Automatic Scaling: Elastic Beanstalk monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady, predictable performance at the lowest possible cost. It uses AWS Auto Scaling to react to changes in demand and ensure the right amount of resources are available to handle your application's traffic.

  2. Managed Environment: Elastic Beanstalk takes care of the details of your hosting environment, including server setup and configuration, stack maintenance, patch updates, and more, allowing developers to focus solely on their applications.

  3. Resource Monitoring: Elastic Beanstalk integrates with Amazon CloudWatch and AWS CloudTrail providing you with detailed performance and health monitoring for your applications. You can view real-time data, set alarms, view logs, and troubleshoot any issues that arise.

  4. Customization: With Elastic Beanstalk, you have the freedom to select the AWS resources, such as Amazon EC2 instance type, that are optimal for your application.

  5. Application Versioning: Elastic Beanstalk stores all versions of your application, allowing you to easily deploy any previous version, roll back updates, or even run multiple versions in parallel for A/B testing.

Use Cases: What is Elastic Beanstalk used for?

  1. Web Application Hosting: AWS Elastic Beanstalk is commonly used for hosting web applications. It supports several pre-configured platforms, making it a breeze to deploy applications developed in popular languages and frameworks like Java, .NET, PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby, and Go.

  2. Microservices: Elastic Beanstalk is an excellent choice for deploying microservice architecture based applications. Each microservice can be deployed in its own Beanstalk environment, which can be individually scaled and managed. This ensures high availability and fault tolerance for each service.

  3. API Backend: Elastic Beanstalk can serve as a robust backend for both RESTful and GraphQL APIs. It can scale to accommodate high load, ensuring your API can handle the demands of your applications.

  4. Background Worker Tasks: Elastic Beanstalk's worker tier environments allow you to offload background tasks from your web application. This leads to improved performance by reducing the load on your web tier and provides a better user experience for your customers.

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How Elastic Beanstalk Works

When you create an AWS Elastic Beanstalk application, you simply upload your application code, and Elastic Beanstalk handles the rest. It automatically takes care of the details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, scaling, and application health monitoring, which means you have more time to focus on what matters most: your application.

Here’s what happens when you deploy an application:

  1. Upload Your Application: You start by creating an application, which is a logical collection of Elastic Beanstalk components, including environments, versions, and environment configurations. In Elastic Beanstalk an application serves as a container for the environments running your application versions.

  2. Environment Creation: After uploading your application, you create an environment where your application will run. You can choose between a web server environment, which runs a single application that serves HTTP requests, and a worker environment, which pulls tasks from a queue to perform background tasks.

  3. Configuration: Elastic Beanstalk provides a variety of platform configurations for Java, .NET, PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby, Go, and Docker. You can select the one that matches the language used by your application.

  4. Deployment: After you've configured your environment, Elastic Beanstalk will deploy your application and provision the necessary AWS resources, such as Amazon EC2 instances, an Amazon RDS DB instance, or an Elastic Load Balancer.

  5. Monitoring: Once your application is up and running, you can monitor its health and performance using AWS Management Console, Elastic Beanstalk Health Dashboard, or AWS CloudWatch.

Elastic Beanstalk Components

Elastic Beanstalk consists of several components that work together to host your application. Two of the primary components are the "web server environment" and the "worker environment".

Elastic Beanstalk Web Server Environment

An Elastic Beanstalk Web Server Environment is specifically designed to support web apps that handle HTTP requests. It's intended for applications that directly respond to incoming traffic from users.

When you create a Web Server Environment, Elastic Beanstalk sets up and manages several AWS resources for you:

  • Amazon EC2: Elastic Beanstalk provisions one or more Amazon EC2 instances to run your application code. You can choose the instance type to suit the needs of your application.

  • Elastic Load Balancer: Elastic Beanstalk automatically creates an Elastic Load Balancer to distribute incoming traffic across the EC2 instances running your application.

  • Auto Scaling Group: Elastic Beanstalk sets up an Auto Scaling group to handle the automatic scaling of your application. This ensures that the number of EC2 instances increases during peak traffic and decreases during off-peak times, optimizing cost and performance.

  • Amazon S3 Bucket: Elastic Beanstalk stores your application versions and environment configurations in Amazon S3 for safekeeping and easy version management.

  • Amazon CloudWatch: Elastic Beanstalk sets up Amazon CloudWatch to monitor your application and environment, providing you with critical metrics and log streams.

Elastic Beanstalk Worker Environment

In contrast to the Web Server Environment, the Worker Environment is designed for long-running, data-intensive tasks that can be performed in the background, away from the immediate user traffic.

This environment is perfect for listening to a queue of incoming tasks and processing them asynchronously. For example, you could use a Worker Environment to handle tasks such as sending batch emails, processing media files, or running complex computations.

When you create a Worker Environment, Elastic Beanstalk sets up the following resources:

  • Amazon EC2: Just like the Web Server Environment, Elastic Beanstalk provisions Amazon EC2 instances to run your worker code.

  • Auto Scaling Group: Elastic Beanstalk sets up an Auto Scaling group to handle the automatic scaling of your worker tasks. This ensures that the number of EC2 instances increases when tasks queue up and decreases when the queue is light.

  • Amazon SQS Queue: Unlike the Web Server Environment, the Worker Environment sets up an Amazon SQS queue to hold tasks that your worker will process. Your application, or even users, can add tasks to this queue.

  • Periodic Tasks: The Worker Environment also supports scheduled (cron) tasks that you can use to run maintenance tasks or cleanups.

  • Amazon S3 Bucket: Elastic Beanstalk stores your worker environment configurations and versions in an S3 bucket.

  • Amazon CloudWatch: Elastic Beanstalk uses Amazon CloudWatch to monitor the performance and health of your worker environment and application.

In sum, the Web Server and Worker Environments in Elastic Beanstalk provide flexible, scalable, and managed solutions to handle both the user-facing and background processing needs of your applications.

How to Deploy an Application using Elastic Beanstalk

Deploying an application to AWS Elastic Beanstalk involves several steps. Let's break it down with a step-by-step example, where we'll be deploying a simple Node.js application.

Prerequisites: Before proceeding, make sure you have your AWS account set up and AWS CLI installed on your machine. Also, ensure Node.js is installed, as we're deploying a Node.js application.

  1. Prepare Your Application: Start by creating a simple Node.js application. You can use Express.js to quickly create an application. Here is a basic example:
const express = require('express');
const app = express();
const port = 8080;

app.get('/', (req, res) => res.send('Hello World!'));

console.log(`App running on http://localhost:${port}`);

Save this in a file called app.js.

  1. Package Your Application: Next, create a ZIP file of your application. For this example, you would zip the app.js file.
zip app.js
  1. Create an Elastic Beanstalk Application: Navigate to the Elastic Beanstalk console in your AWS Management Console. Click on 'Create Application'. Give your application a name, for example, 'test-app', and provide an optional description. Click 'Create'.

  2. Create an Environment: Once your application is created, you'll need to create an environment for it. Click on 'Create environment' > 'Web server environment'. Fill in the necessary details, such as domain and platform. In this case, our platform is Node.js. Click 'Create environment'.

  3. Upload and Deploy: Click on 'Upload and Deploy'. Upload the ZIP file you created earlier ( Once the upload is complete, click 'Deploy'. Elastic Beanstalk will now take care of provisioning resources and deploying your application.

  4. Monitor: Once your application is up and running, you can use the Elastic Beanstalk console to monitor its health and performance. AWS provides various monitoring and logging options to help you troubleshoot any issues.

And there you have it! You've just deployed a sample Node.js application on AWS Elastic Beanstalk. Keep in mind your real app might have different requirements.

Alternatives to AWS Elastic Beanstalk

AWS Elastic Beanstalk vs App Runner

While Elastic Beanstalk provides a PaaS-like environment, suitable for various applications and web services, AWS App Runner is more specific. App Runner is ideal for developers who want to build and run containerized applications quickly, without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. However, it may not provide the same level of control and flexibility as Elastic Beanstalk.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk vs EC2

AWS Elastic Beanstalk and EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) both allow you to deploy and manage applications on virtual servers in the cloud. The primary difference lies in the level of control and the amount of management they require.

EC2 offers complete control and flexibility, but with that comes increased management overhead. You're responsible for setting up the server, installing the software stack, deploying the application, and managing scaling and monitoring.

On the other hand, Elastic Beanstalk abstracts much of this, managing the infrastructure for you and simplifying deployment and scaling. It's perfect for developers who want to focus on their application code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.


In a nutshell, AWS Elastic Beanstalk offers an easy-to-use service for deploying and managing applications in the AWS cloud. It provides a layer of abstraction over key AWS services, handling the nitty-gritty details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, scaling, and application health monitoring, allowing developers to focus on writing code rather than managing infrastructure.

While other AWS services like EC2 and App Runner offer distinct strengths, Elastic Beanstalk's combination of simplicity, control, and flexibility makes it an excellent choice for many application deployment needs. Whether you are building a multi-tiered web application, a microservice, or a backend for your API, AWS Elastic Beanstalk could be just the solution you need.

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