BigBlueButton as a service, on demand?
August 1, 2020 7:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm working with an organization who wants to use BigBlueButton (or equivalent software) to run 20-30 person events for (say) a couple hours each week. They can't afford to run it 24/7, so we were exploring the possibility of spinning up a server on the cloud (EC2) for only the hour or two of the event. This is significantly cheaper, of course, but means that someone has to start and stop the instance. Questions within...

Is there a service that already does this for me? I am an experienced programmer - I'm familiar with AWS and was able to set up a Jitsi server in an evening. I could build a simple webpage that could start up/shut down the server. But I've not done much ops work - is this more work than I'm anticipating? If you've done something like this in the past, I'd especially like to hear from you.
posted by i like crows very much to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
"Simple" version using Lambda.

Another method using the AWS Instance Scheduler.

Caveat: I haven't personally done either. These are resources I stumbled over earlier while looking for something unrelated. But they seem to address exactly the problem you have.
posted by sourcequench at 8:23 AM on August 1

I did this exact thing for my group trivia night, but ended up just leaving it on all the time. I set up on digital ocean instead of AWS/GCP becasue DO is cheaper.

They have a pretty solid api, and I have to imagine that EC2 has a similar setup. If you already have a BBB/Jitsi server set up, start/stop should be just a handful of api calls. I've only actually used the start-stop API a few times, because I normally just do it from the dev console. Is there a reason that's not an option here?
posted by cirgue at 8:26 AM on August 1

cirgue: They might host many events per week, so I don't want to have to manually do it each time.
posted by i like crows very much at 9:21 AM on August 1

Depending on your needs and how much you're setting up from scratch every time, you may also run into issues with DNS, SSL certs, gateways, storage, etc. Also need to deal gracefully with provisioning failures various services, especially if nontechnical people are firing it up. Make sure you tear down everything automatically to avoid that big AWS bill, again especially if nontechnical people are operating it. You also need to be keeping up with security and updates at the app & OS levels.

For an always-on solution, I'm not familiar with BBB, but a quick Google shows that although they don't recommend running virtualized, some are running it on DigitalOcean droplets for $20-80/mo. For about the same monthly price, there appear to be BBB hosting companies. And of course if you don't need educational features like LMS integration, others are using Zoom or other webinar platforms to do online events.
posted by troyer at 4:00 PM on August 1

Make sure you tear down everything automatically to avoid that big AWS bill

Somewhat disagreeing here. AWS doesn't charge for instances while they're shut down. They do charge for the storage but unless you're actually storing recorded video, that's probably not going to be a lot. So I'd consider(!) keeping the AMI around once you know it works. It's likely to be less trouble.

Seconding looking into other providers, though. AWS is pricey.
posted by suetanvil at 8:06 AM on August 2

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