TL; DR: Arguably the foremost on-demand computing platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS) began as an in-house innovation that retail leader Amazon took public in 2006. The cloud solutions have since forged paths of efficiency and boosted revenue for millions of companies with a pay-as-you-go pricing model that offers even small- to medium-sized firms an opportunity for an enterprise-grade, secure, and highly responsive infrastructure at a minimal investment. We discuss how the global network of instantly scalable resources, coupled with its cost-effectiveness, empowers companies of all sizes to maximize profitability while serving customers on a global scale.
Over the last half-century, many innovative technologies have emerged because a company had an internal need or pressing problem to solve. The Ruby on Rails web application platform, for example, is just one case in which a solution was first developed for internal needs and later introduced to the general public.
As one of the largest online retailers, Amazon has relied on a host of technologies — largely developed in house — to power their own industry-leading customer service experience. Long before the Cloud and Big Data became industry buzzwords, Amazon blazed a trail leveraging those same technologies for their own internal computing infrastructure. It made perfect sense to offer these same on-demand web services to the business world. Enter AWS.
Organizations of all sizes with a need for a cloud-based infrastructure don’t need to invent their own. AWS is a product with a customer base ranging from well-known companies, like Spotify, Reddit, Netflix, and Pinterest, to a host of smaller firms.
A flexible pricing structure combined with a scalable, secure, worldwide network offers startups a chance to grow rapidly without sacrificing revenue.
What a Secure Global Network and Pay-As-You-Go Mean for Business
Managing a small business or a startup requires an owner to wear many hats. Being able to focus on their core business is one of the major advantages gained by smaller growing companies when using cloud-based services. One important feature separating the industry-leading cloud infrastructure providers from the rest of the pack involves their customers’ ability to expand quickly without technical or financial constraints.
AWS provides customers a measure of financial flexibility with their pay-as-you-go pricing model. The lack of long-term contracts lets businesses use a payment model similar to their utilities. This kind of cost certainty is invaluable for startups.
Their secure, distributed network infrastructure provides the worldwide access and scalability to ensure a fast response no matter the location. AWS takes advantage of the technical lessons learned by Amazon over many years of online retail experience.
Pay-As-You-Go Cloud Resources Eliminate the Risk of Commitment
A flexible pricing model gives businesses the opportunity to grow without overcommitting to a long-term IT budget. More than 60 AWS resources are available using pay-as-you-go pricing. Additionally, organizations only pay for the actual services they use which helps to mitigate costs.
AWS offers tier-based pricing for their Simple Storage Service (S3), charging organizations based on the amount of storage used. The amount (billed by the GB) varies slightly based on location. Volume-based discounts are also built into the pricing tiers.
Data requests are billed at the transaction level with outbound data transfers charged by throughput (in GB). All incoming data transfers are free of charge.
When an organization expects extra traffic, they are able to purchase Reserved Instances on EC2 — the basic AWS Cloud service offering — which adds extra capacity in a cost-effective manner. This is another example of the pricing flexibility provided by AWS.
Companies interested in performing due diligence have the option to use the AWS Free Tier for up to 12 months, although some of the free resources come with monthly limits to both hours and bandwidth. For example, customers receive 750 hours of EC2 usage time per month or 5GB of S3 storage with 20,000 GET requests and 2,000 PUT requests per month.
While it may not be enough horsepower to actually run most businesses, it provides a good taste of what AWS brings to the table.
Secure Global Infrastructure Means a Fast Response Anywhere
The modern business runs on a 24/7 basis all over the world. Customers expect an immersive experience wherever they are located. Security remains an important concern as well.
AWS’s global infrastructure ensures their customers — and their customers’ customers — enjoy quick responses, no matter the application or the device being used. Their current system spans 13 global regions, with more being added each year.
Each region houses multiple datacenters enhancing any hosted application’s fault tolerance and minimizing latency — major components to providing a responsive online experience to end-users. AWS customers also have the option to replicate their applications and data to various availability zones, both within a region and across regions, depending on their needs. The latter option provides a superior experience for a global audience.
AWS takes application and data security seriously. Their entire global infrastructure was built to meet the needs of some of the world’s most secure organizations. Amazon actually runs several compliance programs using AWS resources.
As one of the most respected firms in the finance and banking world, Capital One places utmost importance on security. “We worked closely with the Amazon team to develop a security model, which we believe enables us to operate more securely in the public cloud than we can even in our datacenters,” said Capital One CIO Rob Alexander of AWS’s security model.
Responding to Big Data Needs With an Instantly Scalable Platform
The advent of eCommerce and social media created masses of Big Data for businesses to handle. This places the burden on web applications to be highly scalable in a seamless fashion. Adding rich media content to the equation — movies, music, video games, et cetera — only further complicates things.
The worldwide footprint of the AWS infrastructure ensures businesses in any location are able to serve responsive online applications to their customers. AWS’s focus on scalability allows businesses in any stage of growth to get the server horsepower and data throughput they need. What’s more, hosting the data and applications close to the end-users means latency won’t hamper their experience.
Helping Startups Succeed with Large-Scale Solutions
Spotify is one of the leaders in music streaming. They are known for their expansive platform and exhaustive list of genres, and this is facilitated by the use of multiple AWS resources. While hosting more than 16 million songs, with 20,000 added each day to serve a global customer base, Spotify felt AWS S3 gave them a storage solution with the necessary flexibility and throughput.
AWS’s content delivery service, known as Amazon CloudFront, delivers the application, music content, and any software updates to end-users. Emil Fredriksson, Operations Director for Spotify, commented on the importance of scalability for rich media providers dealing with growing resource requirements. “Consequently, it is very important to design your systems so that they can react to variations in performance and compensate with scaling,” Emil said.
AWS made an especially vital impact on Spotify in their nascent stages. “By removing the restrictions incurred by in-house solutions, we enabled much faster development and deployment cycles,” noted Emil. This ultimately enabled their ability to compete with much larger companies — most notably Apple — in the music streaming arena.
Getting Results for Enterprises with Adaptable Scalability
Even existing enterprises stand to benefit from an AWS implementation. For example, Comcast is an established player in the media industry, including cable television and Internet services. The company recently implemented a hybrid solution using AWS to increase the rate of updates to their XFINITY X1 video streaming application.
With their old architecture, Comcast only released new updates once every 12 to 18 months. The company currently embraces Agile development methodologies and continuous delivery, supported by the scalable infrastructure delivered by AWS. Now, XFINITY X1 is updated several times each week, providing a better experience for their customers.
Comcast uses AWS Direct Connect to link AWS with their own datacenters, a key aspect of this hybrid solution. Direct Connect combines with Amazon Virtual Private Cloud to offer a secure, scalable environment to host the EC2 instances used in the system architecture — illustrating how even the leading ISP in the country benefits from using AWS.
AWS Creates a Model of Consistent Growth and Innovation
AWS’s story brings to mind a famous quote: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Amazon saw an internal need for a computing infrastructure to support their growing online retail business — and it made perfect sense to share these solutions with the general public.
The continued development of the AWS platform allows Amazon’s customers to concentrate on their own businesses without the need to budget for an on-premise computing infrastructure. This remains a major reason for organizations of all types to use cloud-based services.
AWS is still expanding their infrastructure footprint across the planet, with new datacenters opening this year in India and Brazil. Their new Amazon Kinesis Analytics system lets businesses derive actionable information from data in real time. Recently, they also rolled out Amazon EFS, a state-of-the-art cloud elastic storage system designed to be used with EC2.
Expect these technology advancements from Amazon to continue. As long as there is a business need, AWS will be there to help meet it.