Amazon Web Services
(AWS) is a suite of web hosting products that is changing the way that we think about and use web hosting. Amazon has done a fantastic job at creating a suite of products that can be used by anyone who is either looking to make a massive worldwide site or someone just looking to play around with some servers and make a personal website. Many of your big internet storage and streaming sites such as Dropbox
, and Netflix
all use AWS in a variety of different ways. AWS isn’t just for the big guys, it can be used by an average user (well not exactly average) to spin up a number of different servers and have an online product up in a matter of minutes. One of the best parts of using AWS is the fact that the system auto scales up and down depending on usage. This is great for companies and individuals who want to make online products in a cost efficient manner. Scalability is just one of the many features of AWS that is making it more appealing to enterprises, so we have compiled a list of the AWS features that benefit both enterprises and average users.
The Free Tier
One of the biggest reasons users don’t use the AWS suite is because of lack of knowledge. EC2 is not a traditional hosting solution because it is designed to bring servers off and online very quickly as needed. Most webmasters would shy away from “playing around” with this type of server instance because of the potential costs that could be incurred.
Fortunately, AWS offers a free tier of service that allows users to run a EC2 micro instance 24/7 all month for free. This free tier also comes with Amazon Web Services’ S3 block storage, elastic loadbalancer, and much more. These features allow webmasters to play around with the service and find solutions for free in order to scale up into bigger applications. This also helps Amazon in the long run because the free tier gives developers the chance to integrate the AWS API into their existing applications, which in turn ties developers to Amazon for the long run. The free tier also helps out beginning web designers because it allows users to make and edit small sites live without having to pay for server costs.
Pay As You Go
Amazon took a new approach to server billing by introducing the pay as you go pricing model. This is revolutionary for large enterprises who are used to investing in long term contracts for very large server hosting services that for the most part go largely unused. For example, a few years ago enterprises would have to invest in very expensive infrastructure just to provide the bare minimum of service needed. Now, AWS allows users and enterprises to set up an infrastructure on their system that scales up and down based upon usage. This not only makes all service based on AWS much cheaper, but it also makes the infrastructure much more efficient when it comes to times of large or small service loads.
One of the biggest advantages of using AWS is the ability to spin up servers and have a product online in a matter of minutes. Back in the early 2000’s and before, it would take hours upon hours to simply upgrade a site. Now with AWS EC2, users can literally spin up an identical instance, install the update, switch the DNS and have an upgraded product live in a matter of minutes. As most of you may know, this is a huge advantage over most traditional web hosting service providers because it normally takes between 48-96 hours for them to provision a server. This comes into handy when you have to run large updates or when you have to launch a product in a very timely manner.
There’s no denying the speed of AWS. The Elastic Block Storage is nearly as fast as S3, but provides different features. EC2 Compute Units give Xeon-class performance on an hourly rate. The reliability is better than most private datacenters in the world, and if there is a problem, you’re usually still online ,but with reduced capacity.
A great example of this is the recent “outage” that happened in the Northern Virginia cluster of AWS, one of Amazon’s primary server farms in the US. It affected Reddit
, and several other major sites. These sites were still online though, with many in a “read-only” mode, as Amazon had to shut down writing to their backend storage until they could resolve the problem.
In a traditional hosting environment, this probably would have meant downtime and 404 errors as the websites would have just gone dark. But in a truely cloud-hosted environment like AWS, there’s enough separation between processing and storage that sites can remain online and continue generating revenue even with reduced functionality.
But the performance power of AWS is in the storage. The distributed nature of EBS and S3 yields millions of input/output operations per second to all instances. Think of it like having a raid array of SSDs attached to a particular computer. Add in incredible bandwidth, and you have a storage system that is capable of vast scaling, with the reliability of 99.999999999%.
Flexibility and Auto Configuration
The most important feature in AWS is its flexibility. All the services work and communicate together with your application to automatically judge demand and handle it accordingly. With services such as Amazon CloudWatch and monitoring, webmasters will be able to sleep better at night because they will have to worry much less about unexpected downtime.
Combined with the fantastic API and the Amazon Machine Images you create, you can have a completely customized solution that provisions a server instance in under 10 minutes, and is ready to to accept connections once it comes online. Then you can quickly shut down instances when they are no longer needed, making server management a thing of the past.
Powered Labs is a Amazon Web Services Partner
Here at Powered Labs, we use a wide array of the AWS suite for a lot of our various hosting needs. From making worldwide scale able applications, to storing vast amounts of data, AWS has a solution for just about any hosting need. Check out AWS at http://aws.amazon.com.