AWS: Please Fix Poor Error Messages, API standards and Bad Defaulting

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This is a short blog, and its actually just simple a plea to AWS. Please can you do three things?

  1. North Virginia appears to be the AWS master node. Having this region as a master region causes a large number of support issues (for example S3, KMS, Cloudfront, ACM all use this pet region and all of their APIs suffer as a result). This coupled with point 2) creates some material angst.
  2. Work a little harder on your error messages – they are often really (really) bad. I will post some examples at the bottom of this post over time. But you have to do some basics like reject unknown parameters (yes it’s useful to know there is a typo vs just ignore the parameter).
  3. Use standard parameters across your APIs (eg make specifying the region consistent (even within single products its not consistently applied) and make your verbs consistent).

As a simple example, below i am logged into an EC2 instances in af-south-1 and I can create an S3 bucket in North Virginia, but not in af-south-1. I am sure there is a “fix” (change some config, find out an API parameter was invalid and was silently ignored etc) – but this isn’t the point. The risk (and its real) is that in an attempt to debug this, developers will tend to open up security groups, open up NACLs, widen IAM roles etc. When the devs finally fix the issue; they will be very unlikely to retrace all their steps and restore everything else that they changed. This means that you end up with debugging scars that create overly permission services, due to poor errors messages, inconsistent API parameters/behaviors and a regional bias. Note: I am aware of commercial products, like Radware’s CWP – but that’s not the point. I shouldn’t ever need to debug by dialling back security. Observability was supposed to be there from day 1. The combination of tangential error messages, inconsistent APIs and lack of decent debug information from core services like IAM and S3, are creating a problem that shouldn’t exist.

AWS is a global cloud provider – services should work identically across all regions, and APIs should have standards, APIs shouldn’t silently ignore mistyped parameters, the base config required should either come from context (ie am running in region x) or config (aws config) – not a global default region.

Please note: I deleted the bucket between running the two commands ++ awsconfigure seemed to be ignored by createbucket

[ec2-user@ip-172-31-24-139 emrdata]$ aws s3api create-bucket --bucket ajbbigdatabucketlab2021
    "Location": "/ajbbigdatabucketlab2021"
[ec2-user@ip-172-31-24-139 emrdata]$ aws s3api create-bucket --bucket ajbbigdatabucketlab2021 --region af-south-1

An error occurred (IllegalLocationConstraintException) when calling the CreateBucket operation: 
The unspecified location constraint is incompatible for the region specific endpoint this request was sent to.

Note, I worked around the createbucket behavior by replacing it with mb:

[ec2-user@ip-172-31-24-139 emrdata]$ aws s3 mb s3://ajbbigdatabucketlab2021 --region af-south-1
make_bucket: ajbbigdatabucketlab2021

Thanks to the AWS dudes for letting me know how to get this working. It turns out the create-bucket and mb APIs, dont use standard parameters. See below (region tag needs to be replaced by a verbose bucket config tag):

aws s3api create-bucket --bucket ajbbigdatabucketlab2021 --create-bucket-configuration LocationConstraint=af-south-1

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