Used by the most popular web businesses today—including Instagram, Netflix, Tumblr and Pinterest; and trusted by top companies like Samsung, Shell, Adobe and IBM— Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a ubiquitous name in cloud computing. Given the sheer volume of its clients, you have most likely used an AWS service at some point without even knowing it.
In a nutshell, AWS offers IT infrastructure services to clients across the world. AWS’s mission is to “enable businesses and developers to use web services to build scalable, sophisticated applications.” AWS provides web services to businesses both large and small, and offers itself as an alternative to building your own data center.
Features and Benefits of AWS
Why do so many customers prefer AWS as a web services partner? It’s thanks to these features:
- Economies of scale – Having a large clientele allows AWS to innovate and expand infrastructure to benefit clients big and small, while keeping costs as low as possible. The more its client base grows, the more resources AWS has to create new services.
- Elastic capacity – With traditional data centers, you run the risk of provisioning either too few or too many servers. Too few and you will not be able to run applications efficiently, too many and you will end up wasting capital that could have been put to better use elsewhere. With AWS, you no longer have to guess how much capital you need for infrastructure, because you can always scale your usage according to what your business needs.
- Variable costing – AWS allows clients access to IT resources without having to pay a large, up-front investment. Instead, AWS lets you provision and pay for resources that you actually consume.
- Speed and Agility – You can set up your IT infrastructure in a matter of minutes, not hours or days. Cloud services free up time spent on maintaining servers, allowing IT personnel to focus on planning and innovation. It is also easier and less costly to innovate and experiment with applications.
- Security – AWS has invested heavily in protecting customer data in terms of physical, network, and procedural security. AWS has been accredited and certified under SOC 2, ISAE 3402, FISMA, ISO 27001, HIPAA, and other standards.
- Global Reach – Amazon Web Services has 11 regions spread out across the world, allowing companies to serve international end-users without having to install expensive hardware overseas. Each region has its own set of Availability Zones that are isolated from each other to prevent an outage from affecting all services.
Another reason for AWS’s popularity is the sheer number of services it offers. AWS is capable of virtually any task that can be done by a traditional data center. Here are some of the most commonly used services:
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – provides basic compute capacity in the form of virtual computers. At any given time you can scale up or down the number of virtual computers you use, as well as determine the CPU, memory and local disk options. If you have multiple EC2 instances, you can also use Elastic Load Balancing to distribute the application traffic among them.
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) – a very large web server capable of storing any type of data, up to a maximum of 5TB per object. Highly scalable and durable, it is ideal for archiving, backups, and disaster recovery.
- Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) – provides high-performance block storage service of up to 1TB in size.
- Amazon Glacier – low-cost and highly-durable storage designed for long-term archives–essentially files that will not be accessed for a while.
- Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) – a basic scalable database service that supports MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server, and PostgreSQL.
- Amazon Dynamo DB – scalable, fast, and flexible NoSQL database that is a good fit for mobile, ad, and gaming applications.
- Amazon RedShift – provides data warehousing at 1/10th of the cost and integrates with clients’ existing business intelligence tools, allowing for fast analysis of petabytes of data.
- AWS Direct Connect – this service provides fast and accurate data throughput between the client’s data centers and those of AWS.
- Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) – for those wanting a greater control of their cloud environment, this service allows you to isolate a portion of AWS, where you may launch resources according to your own configurations.
- Amazon Route 53 – a fast, highly-available, and scalable Domain Name System (DNS) web service.
- Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) – a queue service for storing messages as they move between instances.
- Amazon Simple Workflow (SWF) – allows you to coordinate tasks in a sequence for cloud applications.
- Amazon CloudSearch – an elastic search engine easily integrated into customer applications to provide them with search capability.
- Amazon CloudFront – A high-speed global content distribution network that provides customers with an accessible means of distributing their content to end-users.
- Amazon Elastic Map Reduce (EMR) – using an elastic Hadoop framework, it integrates with S3 and DynamoDB and allows clients to process large amounts of data quickly and cost-effectively.
Deployment and Management
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk – provides an easy way for deploying and managing web applications. Enables one-click deployment from Eclipse, Visual Studio, and Git.
- Amazon CloudFormation – provides a straightforward way to create a collection of related AWS resources and provision them in an organized manner.
Other AWS services include Simple Email Service, Simple Notification Service, Data Pipeline, Elastic Transcoder, and many others. The list keeps growing as AWS keeps innovating. A full catalog with descriptions can be found at the AWS Products page.