What is Amazon EC2?

What is Amazon EC2?

Imagine you have a start-up company, and you need to develop an application that requires a large amount of computing power. How would you meet this need?

One way is to purchase high-end machines and set up an environment for your developers to work with, but this is both time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, you may have to account for times when you will need more processing capacity, say, when a large number of people are accessing your application.

A quicker, more cost-effective way is to rent your equipment. Enter Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), a service that provides computing capacity in the Amazon Web Services Cloud. EC2 effectively eliminates the need to spend money on computers up front, and at the same time speeds up the development of applications.

Scalable Computing Power

EC2 lets you provision as many virtual machines, known as instances, as you require. That means you can have hundreds, or even thousands of servers, functioning as your own data center, albeit online.

Another powerful attribute of EC2 is the ability to automatically scale up computing capacity when needed. As such, you no longer have to worry about your site shutting down due to usage spikes of your application.

Speed and Ease-of-Use

Using a web interface, EC2 lets you provision as many servers as you need in a matter of minutes, not days or even weeks as you would with physical computers. You may choose your own of CPU power, RAM, networking and storage capacity. Or if you prefer, you can select from ready-to-use templates called Amazon Machine Images (AMI), which can have an OS and/or some pre-configured software. Of course, less time configuring your environment means more time for completing tasks.


With EC2, you only pay what you use. Amazon charges you depending on the selected instance type:

  • On-Demand – simply pay by the hour
  • Reserved – pay a one-time up-front fee at a discounted hourly rate
  • Spot – bid for a price, depending on the current resource supply

Once you are done with these instances, you can terminate them at will. No need to worry about what to do with physical computers that are past their usefulness.

You can use EC2 for tasks big or small, anywhere from video rendering to data warehousing. It is also designed to work well with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon SimpleDB and Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS). Using all these tools, you can create exactly the virtual environment you need.

Check out the video below for more detailed information on EC2 and a short tutorial on how to create instances.

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