Amazon Web Services (AWS) has the ability to transform the infrastructure and development operations at your company. No longer do you need to wait weeks for servers and pay a hefty fee to go along with it — you have your servers in hours, if not minutes, and at a cheap rate. Developers can start working right away on a standard platform that can be discarded in a moment if they break it, and get a new one. If you use Amazon Web Services correctly, you can change your IT group from a risk adverse, slow-moving IT firm to a fast, value-based organization — and the effort is minimal.

AWS for Developers

Andy Jassy is the Senior Vice President of Web Services at Amazon, and he presented to my company. One of the most interesting aspects that he mentioned was that the mobile development on Amazon Web Services has picked up dramatically. Apparently many companies have started to develop their mobile apps on AWS, and if you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Mobile is catching on like wildfire, but it took corporations a while to catch on. That means they have no internal platform to use for mobile development and they may not want to use a third-party company to do the work, or at a minimum host it on their hardware, but you need to get moving and quick — in comes AWS. Sign up for AWS, throw up a platform and visit their development center.

In the development center you will see SDKs for Android, iOS, Java, .NET, browsers and plenty more. It is a quick and easy setup with the main focus being to get you doing what you want to be doing quickly and easily. As a developer you shouldn’t have to worry about trying to figure out how to get servers up and configured to create a mobile app. You just get AWS and you go. It is great for beginners too. If you have a great idea and want to start developing something on your own, they provide easy-to-use documentation for all the different languages to help get you going.

AWS Platforms

Amazon EC2 and S3 are its two bread-and-butter platforms, along with many other strong up and comers. S3 was their original platform under Amazon Web Services in 2006. I remember when it came out, I was highly skeptical that it would ever be that successful. I learned to never doubt Amazon. They revamped their web services several times over, keeping what works and scrapping what doesn’t. S3 works. I actually strongly considered creating my website on S3. In the end I decided for a much quicker solution for my personal use, but if I ever wanted to expand upon my super simple site, S3 unlocks loads of potential.

Amazon EC2 is a fantastic platform, which is probably one of my favorites. It gives you an easy-to-scale solution for remote servers. You pay for what you use or need, and nothing more. The scalable part is key to me. If you have no idea how well your application or tool will take off, you can start with one server, and it gets awesome adoption, you no longer have to panic about how you are going to add in more capacity, and if that will screw up the tool or create massive downtime. EC2 is very scalable. If you need more servers, you pay for them and they are up and running with very few issues. For these reasons, I have strongly considered using EC2 for SharePoint development. Quick, easy and you can grant access to the environment much more easily than you can from within your enterprise.

AWS Customers

I wasn’t originally going to post about AWS customers and what they have done, as it didn’t seem fitting to the site, but I think it is more about what these customers have accomplished and specifically how AWS helped them reach their goals.

  • NetflixNetflix has gone completely on AWS. During the case study and also from listening to Andy Jassy’s demonstration, the key is getting businesses to focus on what it is they do best, and removing distractions. In this case, managing data centers and server farms is a distraction, where Netflix was much better off letting Amazon do all that work and letting Netflix focus on creating a fantastic end-user experience. Another awesome idea employed by Netflix was using AWS to create an application to cause production issues (I know, crazy!) to double check that AWS was doing its job and defaulting to a non-damaged server or database.
  • PinterestPinterest is a great example of rapid growth. They use an AWS tool called auto scaling which allows them to use more servers during the day and less at night. They use a number of AWS platforms and tools, which allows them to grow rapidly and expand when they need to. They also have the platform to create new and interesting functionality easily.

Cost Benefits of Using AWS

If you think you might use AWS, I strongly urge you to check out their Economics Center. The site basically shows you all the different ways you can save money through AWS. The more you use, the more you pay, but they also have economies of scale built in so that the rate lowers the more you use it. I think the selling point to me was when Andy mentioned that Amazon has made its business through micro profits — they will sell their product for as low as possible to make a few pennies, but will take massive market share.

AWS Data

Talk about a section that could include just about anything! AWS uses a wide variety of data tools such as SQL, Oracle, caching, server load balancing, etc., etc. However, the big point about their data is that it is protected. That was a big part of the Netflix use case. The content you put in AWS should be secure as the data is replicated, and depending on which system you are on, should be available as close to one hundred percent of the time as possible. One of the demonstrations I viewed focused on servers going down and the sites running without a hiccup. If you go to the AWS website you will find all types of information on the various services, and it is worth your time to study it.

Conclusion

Amazon Web Services is a great alternative to brick-and-mortar infrastructure solutions for companies. AWS allows companies to spend their time in the areas that matter most and move past any expensive red tape. However, it does have a few drawbacks — if you go to the AWS homepage you will be instantly overwhelmed. The number of different services that Amazon offers is plentiful and many of them sound very similar, which can be very confusing. On top of that, while the pricing makes sense from a "you pay for what you use" mentality, if you have heavy usage you were not expecting, you may end up paying more for the service than expected.

Therefore, while Amazon Web Services can be a great tool for your business, make sure that you understand all of the options and details beforehand in order to get the most out of its services.