Introduction to Amazon Web Services (AWS)

The popular online music service, Spotify, had a problem a few years ago. Users, rather than bobbing their heads to the latest Taylor Swift ditty, were receiving application errors. The music service, unable to keep pace with the increased demand for storage, was attempting to catalog a daily influx of more than 20,000 songs. The company was feeling the pain as customer satisfaction fell off a cliff and subscription cancellations spiked.  

That's when Spotify was introduced to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The web service offered dynamically increased storage, storage lifecycle management and advisors to help Spotify properly utilize the new resource. Because Spotify could expect to continue increasing its music library, scaling was crucial. Amazon Web Services is highly scalable, requiring only a few button clicks to set up. Today, Spotify houses more than 30 million licensed songs, using AWS to house all that data. How did AWS help avert the greatest musical disaster since Nickelback? Let’s explore the service in detail to find out.

What is AWS?

Used by millions, Amazon Web Services (or simply AWS) is a secure cloud services platform offering nearly everything businesses need to build sophisticated applications with flexibility, scalability and reliability. It is a “pay-as-you-go” billing model with no upfront or capital costs. Amazon offers nearly 100 on-demand services and that list is growing daily. Implementation is nearly instantaneous, available with minimal setup.

Mastering AWS isn’t just about building sites online. The service gives developers access to an interconnected suite of features offering compute power, database storage, content delivery and a growing portfolio of related functionality. Businesses around the world are using AWS to grow and to scale. Cloud computing is here to stay and the solutions available from Amazon Web Services are accelerating its growth.

Also Read: AWS CloudFormation | Manage Infrastructure and Services

Who Uses AWS?

The list of companies housing their IT environments in AWS reads like a who’s who of the most successful global organizations: 

  • Adobe uses AWS to provide multi-terabyte operating environments for its customers by integrating its system with AWS Cloud. Adobe can focus on deploying and operating its own software instead of trying to deploy and manage the infrastructure.
  • Airbnb, the online vacation rental marketplace for property owners and travelers to connect, maintains a huge infrastructure in AWS, using nearly all the available services.
  • Autodesk develops software for the engineering, design and entertainment industries. Using services like Amazon RDS and Amazon S3, Autodesk can focus on developing its machine learning tools instead of spending that time on managing the infrastructure 
  • America Online (AOL) has used AWS to economize, closing data centers and decommissioning about 14,000 in-house and co-located servers. They’ve moved mission-critical workloads to the cloud, extended its global reach and saved millions of dollars on energy resources.
  • BitDefender is an internet security software firm and their portfolio of software includes antivirus and anti-spyware products. Using Amazon EC2, they’re running several hundred instances that handle about five terabytes of data. BitDefender also uses the  Elastic Load Balancer feature to load balance the connection coming in to those instances across availability zones, providing seamless global delivery of service.
  • BMW uses AWS for its new connected car application, collecting sensor data from BMW 7-series cars to give drivers dynamically updated map information.
  • Canon's imaging products division benefits from faster deployment times, lower cost and global reach by using AWS to deliver cloud-based services such as mobile print and office imaging products.
  • The world's largest cable company and the United States’ leading provider of internet service, Comcast, uses AWS in a hybrid environment. Out of all the other cloud providers, Comcast chose AWS for its flexibility and scalable hybrid infrastructure.
  • Docker is a company helping to redefine the way developers build, ship and run applications making use of containers. The Amazon EC2 container service helps them do it.
  • Although much of the European Space Agency’s work is done by satellites, some of the program's data storage and computing infrastructure is built on Amazon Web Services.
  • The Guardian newspaper uses a wide range of AWS services to power an analytic dashboard used by editors to see how stories are trending in real time.
  • The Financial Times is one of the world's leading business news organizations and they use Amazon Redshift to perform their analyses. In fact, Redshift performed their analyses so quickly, some thought it was malfunctioning. They were used to running queries overnight. The Times found that the results were correct, just much faster.
  • General Electric (GE) is, at this moment, migrating more than 9,000 workloads - including 300 disparate ERP systems - to AWS while reducing its data center footprint from 34 to four by 2021.

The list goes on: Howard Medical School, McDonald's, NASA, Kellogg's and many more benefit from Amazon Web Services. 

Why is AWS so Successful?

Companies report a key set of reasons for not only selecting Amazon Web Services but relying on it for crucial parts of their IT infrastructure:

  • Security and durability - AWS encrypts the data, offering end-to-end privacy and storage. 
  • Experience - Developers can rely on Amazon’s established processes. Their tools, techniques and suggested best practices are built upon years of experience. 
  • Flexibility - There is great flexibility in AWS, allowing developers to select the OS language and database. 
  • Ease of Use - AWS is easy to use. Developers can swiftly deploy and host applications, build new applications or migrate existing applications.
  • Scalability - Applications can be easily scaled up or down depending on user requirements. 
  • Cost savings - Companies only pay for the compute power, storage and resources used, with no long-term commitments. 

Commonly Used Services Provided by AWS

The catalog of services available from Amazon Web Services is extensive -- storage, migration, security, customer engagement, developer tools and dozens more. These are among the most commonly used services from AWS:

  • Amazon EC2 - Providing secure compute capacity in the cloud, EC2 is resettable based on the user’s requirements. For instance, in a scenario in which web traffic varies, this service can expand its environment, behind the scenes, to three instances when required and then shrink to just one resource when load decreases. 
  • Amazon Elastic Beanstalk - Made with a number of programming languages, this service helps scale and deploy web applications. Simply upload the code and Elastic Beanstalk automatically handles the deployment from capacity provisioning to load balancing to auto-scaling to application health monitoring.
  • Amazon Lightsail - Simple to launch and manage, Amazon Lightsail is a virtual private server and includes everything needed to quickly launch a project on a virtual machine, like SSD-based storage, tools for data transfer, DNS management and a static IP.
  • Amazon Lambda - Lambda allows companies to run code with no need for provisioning and managing servers. It scales automatically from a few requests per day to thousands per second. Companies only pay for the compute times used; there is no charge when the code is not running.

AWS Storage Services

With the sheer amount of data collected by organizations, data storage is in high demand. Amazon Web Services offers several solutions: 

  • Amazon S3 - S3 can store and retrieve data from anywhere -- websites, mobile apps, IoT sensors and the like. It offers data management flexibility, durability and security for internet storage. 
  • Amazon Glacier - A cloud storage service for archiving data and long-term backups, Glacier is a low-cost, highly secure option. 
  • Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) -  EBS provides block store volumes for instances of EC2 and is a reliable storage volume that can be attached to any running instance in the same availability zone.
  • Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) -  EFS can be used with the AWS Cloud service and resources. Simple and scalable, it's an elastic file storage for on-premise resources. Featuring an intuitive interface, EFS allows users to create and configure file systems without disturbing the application growing and shrinking automatically as files are added and removed.

AWS Databases

AWS provides databases in two basic flavors:

  • Amazon RDS - Easing the process of setting up, operating and scaling a relational database in the cloud, Amazon RDS provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administrative tasks such as hardware database setup, patching and backups. The service is optimized for memory performance and input/output operations.
  • Amazon Redshift - This data warehousing service enables users to analyze data using SQL and other business intelligence tools. It can run complex queries against terabytes of structured data and receive results in seconds. 

More AWS Services

While we could dig much deeper into all the functionality available from AWS, here are few more notable services:

  • Amazon Application Discovery Services (ADS) - ADS help enterprise customers plan migration projects by gathering information about their on-premise data centers. Planning a data center migration can involve thousands of workloads, often deeply interdependent. Server utilization data and dependency mapping are important early steps in the migration process and this service collects and presents configuration, usage and behavior data to help companies understand their workloads.
  • Amazon Route 53 - A network and content delivery service, Route 53 is a scalable cloud DNS service.
  • Amazon Elastic Load Balancing - Also a network and content delivery service, Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets such as Amazon EC2 instance containers and IP addresses. It can handle the varying application traffic loads in a single available zone or across availability zones.
  • AWS Auto Scaling - This application automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady and predictable performance across multiple services. It can be applied to web services and database services.
  • AWS Identity and Access Management - Manage user and group access to AWS services and resources using this free service. 

Now that you are familiar with AWS and its various services, let us see how you can deploy a web application using EC2, S3, CloudWatch and Route 53. Watch the video below to follow the step-by-step process to deploy a web application in AWS:

The Future of AWS

As IoT, artificial intelligence and business intelligence evolve and truly come into their own, the need for cloud computing, data storage and security will reach entirely new levels. More services will move into the cloud as healthcare, financial markets and other industries become more dependent on these technologies. Thankfully, Amazon Web Services has released - and continues to develop - easy and scalable solutions to deploy and manage web applications in the cloud. It’s clear that the future is bright and that this cloud has a silver lining.

Ready to be part of Amazon Web Services’ future? The AWS certification course from Simplilearn will prepare you to be an in-demand, industry-ready Amazon Web Services solutions architect, giving you hands-on experience with the AWS management console. You will learn how cloud computing redefines the rules of IT architecture and how to design and scale AWS cloud implementations with best practices recommended by Amazon. 

About the Author

Shivam AroraShivam Arora

Shivam Arora is a Senior Product Manager at Simplilearn. Passionate about driving product growth, Shivam has managed key AI and IOT based products across different business functions. He has 6+ years of product experience with a Masters in Marketing and Business Analytics.

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