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By the early 2000s, Amazon.com was well established as the world’s largest internet retailer. In order to run such a gigantic e-commerce marketplace while ensuring little to no downtime, Amazon.com had to progressively develop an elaborate system of interconnected servers, redundant links, massive storage space, and prompt customer support.
This saw the development of deep technical know-how internally in running advanced technology infrastructure in the cloud. It didn’t take long for Amazon.com’s leadership to realize this knowledge and infrastructure could be deployed in a new untapped area of business—cloud computing.
So in 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was born. AWS is today an evolving, comprehensive cloud computing platform with over 100 services available via a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) pricing model. The cloud services run off of dozens of data centers spread across the globe.
AWS has a number of characteristics that one must understand if they want to extract maximum value from any AWS product they sign up for.
Each AWS product can stand alone. That means there’s hardly any AWS product that will only work when it's combined with another AWS product. You are free to mix and match AWS products all depending on your unique requirements. However, and as happens far more often, you can combine your preferred AWS product with one or more third party products.
After all, since AWS is a cloud-based service, it has to be compatible with on-site hardware and software to deliver the results needed.
As a cloud service provider, AWS recognizes that its customers have no physical control over the infrastructure that the product they subscribe to runs on. In addition, the enormous customer base of AWS implies that even a couple of minutes of downtime can have catastrophic and costly consequences.
To make the infrastructure failure-proof and in order to fulfill the service level agreements that define some of its products, AWS has a redundant architecture that involves maintaining multiple copies of the data and applications associated with each product.
AWS allows its subscribers to access world-class infrastructure and extremely high-quality service at an attractive bargain. A technology platform whose sophistication would ordinarily make it affordable to only the largest corporations in the world is now accessible to startups on shoestring budgets.
Nevertheless, the counterargument is that the AWS meter is always running. So while you only pay for what you use, the costs can quickly add up as your usage increases.
One of the reasons AWS has successfully pulled in government and many of the largest organizations in the world into its ranks of customers is its scalability. In fact, it helps if you think of AWS as having infinite capacity. For the most part, the only limit to the capacity you can have when you subscribe to an AWS product is how much capacity you can afford to pay for.
No more problems with applications, databases and network traffic abruptly outgrowing system resources thus triggering a frantic time-consuming search for a hardware upgrade. With AWS, an upgrade can be completed in seconds with just a couple of clicks.
There are more than 100 distinct AWS products. We cannot cover all of them here so we’ll focus on three of the most widely used ones—Elastic Compute Cloud, Simple Storage Service and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud.
EC2 is AWS’ number one product and offers cloud computing resources on demand. EC2 instances are inexpensive, scalable, easy to use, quickly deployed and the pay-as-you-use pricing model provides virtually infinite room for growth. New features are launched on EC2 each year with the more recent ones being the ability to pause and resume cloud workloads without, unlike before, needing to modify the existing applications.
The S3 is the core storage service on AWS and is useful as a tool for data backup and archiving. There are various storage classes available on S3 depending on how fast and how regularly the data will be accessed. It’s reliable, easy to use, low cost and has extensive data retention and access management mechanisms.
The Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) gives system and network administrators control over an isolated section of the cloud. AWS provisions new resources automatically within the VPC thus creating multiple layers of protection for the data and applications in the private cloud.
Overall, AWS has provided cloud computing resources, capacity, and elasticity that was previously unfathomable. Paired with a reliable network monitoring software it can be a powerful advantage over your competitors.
That being said, remember that each AWS product has its own API. Before you subscribe for, implement and start using any product, study the API documentation, the pricing and the Amazon SDK for the coding language you intend to use.
AWS’ key competitors are Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and IBM Cloud.