AWS CodeCatalyst Instant Projects
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 10 May 2023

I have a dream development environment where I sit down in front of a machine and say I want to write a C program and magically I have a cloud server connected to a local IDE and I'm off. CodeCatalyst is something like this and it's now generally available.

So far I can't say that I've had much luck with AWS as a development environment. I tried AWS Cloud9 and found it so difficult to understand and make work the way I wanted it to I went back to VS Code - and that's not a bundle of fun either! I have to admit that CodeCatalyst does more than my initial request of a simple dev environment and so it might not be my dream.

The idea is that you connect to AWS and log into CodeCatalyst. You then select a "blueprint" for the project you want to work with. After this CodeCatalyst does all the boring jobs that you would have to do before you get to write a single line of code. It spins up a suitable instance and allows you to connect to it ready to go.

The development environment created is defined by a YAML file that used the devfiles standard. I have to say that I had missed the devfiles standard completely and it seems that I'm not alone as it doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry to give you an overview.

I decided to give it a go and I have to admit that this isn't a fair test in the sense that CodeCatalyst is clearly aimed at programming teams dealing with large projects not single-handed programmers trying it out. I found it reasonably friendly, but I had problems with authorisation. It seemed to work for a while and then, when I went away and came back, it insisted I log in again with a mixture of codes I had to type into web pages it opened. I'm sure that if you know how it all works then it seems easy, but I found it irritating and not an ideal experience. It might be something to do with the integration with VS Code, but I also tried PyCharm and gave up one that one as well. Part of the promise is that you get to use tools you know, but I found that the extensions installed into VS Code didn't really fit into the tools I knew. The connection to the development environment doesn't use the Remote Explorer for example.

My attempts to use CodeCatalyst to develop a simple PHP website failed for a range of small irritating reasons. It was not a "plug-and-play" success. However, with some planning, and if I was able to use one of the standard "blueprints", this might all work. The problem is that the currently available blueprints are for trendy project types not "legacy" ones. You can select single page app, .NET serverless, static web sites using Hugo or Jekyll but not LAMP PHP or Django Python or ... well you get the idea.

codecat2

If you can use a blueprint, you get the dev environment, source control, and issue management. You can also add multiple users without them having to have AWS accounts. Of course, the system provisions and launches AWS instances to get everything done, but you do get to select some aspects of the system:

codecat

As you might expect, Amazon's AI code assistant, CodeWhisperer, is part of the deal, but that is another story.

You can try it out for yourself as there is a Free Tier option, which is available even if you already have an account:

  • 60 Dev Environment hours/month
  • 2000 compute minutes/month
  • 10GB source code storage/month
  • 64GB Dev Environment storage/month

codecat3

More Information

Announcing the general availability of Amazon CodeCatalyst

https://devfile.io/

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 May 2023 )