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What is AWS (Amazon Web Services)? – The Ultimate Guide

Author avatar - Siji Roy

Siji Roy

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Amazon Web Services (AWS)

You may certainly be familiar with the terms that begin with ‘the cloud’ like cloud computing, cloud storage, or cloud platforms. Simply put, the term ‘cloud’ encompasses all the processes and services that can be accessed over the Internet. This article explains how Amazon Web Services (AWS) fits into that picture.

The services offered by cloud platforms include computing, storage, networking, databases, data analytics, servers, software, and more. There are different cloud platforms available in the market. Some of the most broadly used cloud computing platforms are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft AzureGoogle Cloud Platform, Alibaba, and IBM Cloud.

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Cloud computing platforms offer more reliability and flexibility to your organizations by enabling you to scale your businesses’ storage and computing facilities on an on-demand basis. In this article, let’s have a deep dive into the following areas of AWS:

What Is AWS?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a comprehensive cloud computing platform launched by Amazon in 2006. It provides on-demand storage and computing services with the concept of a pay-as-you-go pricing structure that helps your businesses to scale as you grow. The AWS platform is developed to serve your businesses with different types of cloud services such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

AWS has a large reach in 26 geographic regions, along with 84 Availability Zones across the world. It also plans to expand to eight more regions with 24 Availability Zones. AWS provides your businesses with comprehensive infrastructure in the cloud to deploy applications tailored to your business requirements.

The cloud services provided by AWS include:

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·        Compute

·        Storage

·        Databases

·        Hybrid cloud

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·        Data analytics

·        Mobile development

·        Networking

·        Content delivery

·        Developer tools

·        Management tools

·        IoT security

·        Machine learning

·        Artificial intelligence

·        Serverless computing

·        Enterprise applications

Why Use AWS?

Amazon Web Services is the most secure, cost-effective, and extensive cloud platform. It offers more than 200 services from different datacenters around the world. The strong customer base of AWS includes industries of all sizes and types including, startups, enterprise sector, public sector, and more. AWS enables your businesses to make use of market potential with limited investments. Here are some points that help you understand why you should use Amazon Web Services:

Security

AWS is primarily designed by adhering to stringent security measures like Identity and Access Management (IAM) that protect the confidentiality and integrity of your organizations’ data while being transmitted through AWS networks. It follows high encryption standards, and its infrastructures are monitored 24×7 to keep your data secure and make it easily available.

Performance

The low latency and high network quality provided by AWS increase the performance of your applications and make available all the infrastructure and resources of AWS whenever your businesses need them to build applications and deploy millions of servers.

Availability

Amazon Web Services offers high network availability as its regions are isolated, and each region is comprised of multiple Availability Zones.

Scalability

Being scalable is the most significant advantage of AWS. You can decide the limit of resources that your organization requires and scale up or down according to the needs of your business.

Flexibility

The flexibility of having on-demand infrastructure saves your business from the unnecessary investment in software and hardware infrastructure. It helps you reduce the operating costs of your organization and fast-track the business growth.

Why AWS is so popular?

Although there are many cloud computing platforms are available, Amazon Web Services has gained popularity over the competition due to its plethora of remote computing services and software infrastructure. The most significant reason for the popularity of AWS is the cost-effective and easy-to-use cloud computing solutions.

Though it entered the international marketplace as a cloud storage system, AWS expanded its services and resources as IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). Gradually, it gained momentum among developers and organizations of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies like BMW, Atlassian, etc.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and Platform-as-a-Service

Amazon Web Services as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provides the cloud-based infrastructure that is required to replace on-premises resources with virtual resources. Virtual servers are the best example of IaaS. By using virtual servers, you can run any operating system or software application without spending extra on operation and maintenance.

AWS IaaS provides comprehensive control over your infrastructure and enables you to reduce expenditure on changing hardware and software requirements. It also allows you to follow a pay-as-you-go pricing policy, therefore, allowing you to pay on an on-demand basis.

Amazon Web Services as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) enables you to focus on the deployment of applications and their management. It frees you from tasks such as procurement of resources, security patching, and software maintenance. AWS Lambda is the best example for PaaS as it helps you to make use of all platform services offered by AWS.

Apart from these two services, AWS as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is also available. It provides cloud-based networking services, and the APIs provided by AWS offer on-premises network connectivity. By utilizing AWS SaaS products, you can easily access your applications that are directly managed by AWS without installing them locally on a server or PC.

Here are some popular AWS services that enable your organizations to deploy applications easily and quickly, and utilize web services to reach your business’s full potential:

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

With AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), you can securely access all your applications and web services on AWS. It enables you to manage your users by controlling access to your services and resources under certain conditions. To make life easier for your workforce, it’s better to apply AWS Single Sign-On (SSO) security features that make accessing online services in AWS more secure and convenient.

With IAM, you can define the parameters under which access to your AWS cloud computing services is granted. IAM includes Service Control Policies (SCPs), Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), and AWS SSO. These IAM security policies provide you with better security control over access to AWS cloud computing services.

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)

Amazon Simple Storage Service, or Amazon S3, is one of the most significant  services offered by Amazon Web Services. It provides scalable and secure data storage facilities along with high availability and performance. It is suitable for organizations of all sizes for storing any amount of data and protect it from all types of cyberattacks and data breaches.

You can use Amazon S3 for various data storage purposes like mobile applications, backup, web application files, and more.

Amazon Simple Storage Service offers storage management and monitoring tools that help you manage your storage costs, reduce latency, and make available multiple copies of your data for a variety of requirements. Amazon S3 Lifecycle, Amazon S3 Object Lock, Amazon S3 Replication, AWS Cloud Trail, etc., are some of the tools provided for managing storage.

Data processing is another significant feature of Amazon Simple Storage Service. Amazon S3 Object Lambda and Event Notifications features of Amazon S3 help you transform data and automate your workflows. Access Analyzer, S3 Object Ownership, S3 Block Public Access, etc., are some features of S3 that enable you to grant permissions for your workforce to access all your Amazon S3 resources.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

Amazon Web Services Elastic Cloud Compute, or EC2 instances, provides virtual machines (VM) in the cloud where you can perform operations without the use of on-premises hardware like desktop or physical servers. AWS services provide customizable EC2 VM instances that consist of CPU, operating system, storage, memory, etc., of your choice.

The use of EC2 instances increases security and availability as it is provided as virtual devices. VMs can be spread across all the Availability Zones across of AWS geographical regions without the help of your on-premises hardware.

The EC2 instances can use different operating systems that you choose. Like Amazon Linux, Ubuntu Server, CentOs, Windows Server, and so on. EC2 is highly compatible with Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), which makes your cloud infrastructure available with highly functional networking and compute power.

Like all other AWS services, virtual machines also provide on-demand web services that enable you to scale up or down instances as per your business requirements.

AWS Relational Database Service

The Relational Database Service, or Amazon RDS as it is often referred to, helps you set up and operate relational databases in the AWS VPC. It provides you access to a wide range of databases, including MySQL, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and so on. Amazon RDS helps you focus on productivity while freeing you from managing your databases.

Being one of the most cost-effective AWS services, Amazon RDS automatically updates the security patches of your databases and it backs up your databases. You can also scale up or down the virtual databases with an API call.

Developer tools

The developer tools in Amazon Web Services allow you to develop and deploy software applications quickly and efficiently. They include services like software development kits (SDKs), IDE toolkits, application code for DevOps, continuous delivery services, and other web services that are useful for developers.

The tools also provides machine learning (ML) based best practices to improve the security and agility of coding.

Comparing cloud computing platforms

Cloud computing platforms provide your businesses with a more agile and secure environment along with access to a range of computing services and applications. There are three major competitors in the cloud computing space that offer a wide array of products and services, ranging from computing services and databases to Internet of Things (IoT):

  • Amazon Web Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud

A comparison of these three competitors will help you choose the one that is most suitable for your business.

Amazon Web Services

Being one of the largest providers of cloud services, Amazon Web Services has over a decade of experience in providing various cloud services to startups, large enterprises, and public sector organizations. The cloud services and products offered by AWS include:

  • Databases and storage services
  • Developer tools
  • Machine learning and data analytical tools
  • Computing services
  • App integration

Amazon Web Services has the largest network of datacenters with 84 Availability Zones in 26 regions. Therefore, it’s one of the best choices for businesses in remote locations. The high availability of AWS infrastructure allows you to deploy the applications and services required for your business quickly.

However, it’s not so suitable option if you require a hybrid cloud structure which spans the cloud and your on-premises servers or datacenter.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is another big cloud platform suitable for enterprises that also have their own datacenters and are looking for hybrid cloud services. Azure supports enterprises running Windows and Linux platforms. Being the strongest provider of IaaS, Microsoft Azure comes with in-built server apps with a strong marketplace. It has a large network of datacenters that spans over 60 regions. The top cloud services provided by Azure include:

  • Big data and data analytics
  • Application development
  • Databases and storage
  • DevOps
  • Internet of Things

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform is one of the leading cloud computing platforms that incorporates all the latest technologies, including machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning, and more. Although it is less popular than both AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has datacenters in 25 regions with 77 Availability Zones. It is most suitable for high-tech businesses that are looking to integrate with the latest tools, infrastructure, and DevOps technology.

GCP has a unique under sea cabling system to join its datacenters. Following are some of the cloud services offered by GCP:

  • Data management and storage
  • AI and machine learning
  • Data analytics
  • Application development

Cost Comparisons: AWS vs Azure vs GCP

While comparing the price of cloud services, AWS and Azure offer comparatively the same price for compute-optimized and memory-optimized VM instance types. The pricing of general-purpose instances is much higher for Azure than AWS.

GCP is comparatively expensive when compared to AWS and Azure. The on-demand pricing for instances with the same RAM and 4 CPUs is as follows:

Instance Types AWS per hour Azure per hour GCP per hour
General-purpose $0.154 $0.166 $0.134
Compute-optimized $0.136 $0.169 $0.208
Memory-optimized $0.202 $0.252 $6.293
Accelerated computing $0.90 $0.526 $3.678

The below table shows the comparison of the monthly cost for serverless services:

Cloud Platforms Monthly Cost
AWS $18.74
Azure $18
GCP $25.15

What is the AWS free tier?

AWS offers some of its services for free, along with the purchase of some products. It provides three types of free tier offers and short-term free trials, 12 months free trials, and always free services.

Some of the products and cloud services that come under 12 months free tier include Amazon EC2 (750 hours), S3 (5GB), Amazon RDS (750 hours), and more. Cloud services coming under the category of short-term free trials including Amazon SageMaker (2 months), Amazon QuickSight (30 days), Amazon Redshift (2 months), and more.

The services included under the always free tier include Amazon DynamoDBAWS Lambda, Amazon CloudWatch, and more.

AWS services

AWS provides more than 200 services that can satisfy all your business requirements quickly and efficiently. It provides you comprehensive control over all your computing infrastructure and resources.

Here are some of the featured services offered by AWS to make your busing more agile and profitable:

Amazon EC2: It provides a reliable and secure computing environment for virtual machine instances based on your choice of processor, operating system, networking, database, etc.

Amazon Simple Storage Service: It offers scalable storage resources that help you store and protect your data. By utilizing the features of Amazon S3, you can also organize and analyze data incorporating the latest technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Amazon DynamoDB: Amazon DynamoDB offers a secure and scalable database to run applications without affecting performance, along with continuous backups and data replication tools.

Amazon RDS: Makes databases easy to set up, operate, and scale while automating database administration tasks like security patching and backups.

AWS Lambda: Enables you to write, upload, and run code virtually without managing servers.

What’s the future of AWS?

Amazon Web services is growing globally as it incorporates the latest technologies to offer cost-effective computing services to businesses across the world. The requirement for cloud platforms increased when businesses and organizations of all types started moving to the cloud as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

AWS’s partnership with business giants from different industries like Unysis, Veritas, Nokia, and OpenText adds a strategic advantage for the AWS cloud computing platform.

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