In technology circles, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is widely considered as the clear leader in Cloud Computing. To fully appreciate why AWS holds this position, we must understand and agree on what Cloud Computing is. Cloud Computing is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as follows:
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
This basically means that “Cloud Providers” must support rapid elasticity and scalability of resources through self-service capabilities/services. Keeping to this definition, let’s examine more closely why AWS currently leads the pack.
AWS has the most complete feature set of any provider including full auto scaling and elastic load balancing offerings. It also offers multiple database services, including relational and NoSQL, as well as data warehouse and in-memory cache service offerings. Additional capabilities include compute power, storage, messaging, workflow, and other building block services that run business applications.
AWS is a truly global offering with data centers (Regions) available worldwide. AWS currently has 3 regions available within the US (Virginia, California, and Oregon) plus five regions spread across the globe (Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, Ireland, and Sao Paulo). Additionally, within each of these “Regions”, AWS makes use of “Availability Zones”. Availability Zones are distinct locations within a given region that protect your applications from failure of a single location (high availability). As a result, AWS is delivering more than five times the compute capacity than the aggregate total of the next fourteen leading providers.
The AWS pricing model is primarily pay-per-use so you only pay for the resources you utilize. This holds true for both their public offering as well as their virtual private cloud offering (VPC). AWS does not view or treat public versus private differently either from a services or pricing perspective. Private cloud is simply viewed as a configuration option in provisioning your environment. They do offer price breaks for paying up-front for infrastructure (Reserved Instance billing model). Therefore, it behooves you to fully understand the capacity and load of your solutions to property allocate and operate under the optimal amount of resources.
The rich features, capacity, and low entry-price-point all contribute to the leadership position that AWS holds in Cloud Computing marketplace. However, as a consumer of Cloud services, one must also be cautious of the potential drawbacks of AWS. For example:
To fully realize the benefits of AWS you need to embrace and make use of the services available, and be aware that this locks you into the AWS infrastructure. A fully optimized solution that utilizes auto scaling and elasticity deployed globally cannot be simply lifted and shifted out from the AWS cloud to another provider. The solution would need to be disassembled and refactored all over again.
The AWS pricing model is extremely granular. As such, in performing a cost benefit analysis of migrating to the Cloud, it is not easy to predict your costs. The individual unit charges for resources and services can quickly lead to high cost expenditures for a robust enterprise class solution.
The bottom line is that organizations need to be aware of what and when it makes most sense to move to the Cloud regardless of the cloud provider.
What do you think about Amazon Web Services?
Co-Authored by: Brian Cole
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Lou Fucito is an Associate Director for Paragon Solutions with over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. He excels in relating to both business and technology stakeholders, analyzing business needs, setting strategic direction, decomposing business functions, and planning/implementing solutions. Lou has experience with applications that operate in multi-tier environments, from web-based clients through mid-range servers and mainframes. Having also worked with a major Cloud services provider, Mr. Fucito is keenly aware of the opportunities the Cloud can offer when considering future state solutions.