Amazon Web Services (AWS) is Amazon’s cloud computing business. The term identifies both Amazon’s cloud computing division and the ecosystem of cloud services contained within it. AWS is currently the largest provider of cloud computing solutions in the world by market share.
Uses of Amazon Web Services
At its core, AWS provides cloud computing infrastructure, which means that computing resources (computers, servers, data centers) are made accessible to anyone with an internet connection and the ability to log in to the AWS portal.
These hardware services are coupled with software services that AWS users can access on AWS’s website.
The list of services, or cloud products, is as long and vast as the variety of uses one can make of them, but we can identify a set of primary use cases for the platform. A customer might use these services individually or combine them in no particular order, depending on the AWS client’s business objective.
Customers use AWS’ computing and processing powers by accessing a network of computing clusters stored in various data centers all across the globe. This effectively means customers are paying to rent Amazon’s network of computers to run their applications.
Unstructured Data Storage
Storing file data is on the list of services AWS provides. This use case is primarily used for data that’s not structured, such as images or videos.
Structured Data Storage
Database customers also store data that comes directly from their websites or applications. AWS provides a number of options for storing structured data (such as customer transactions, stock trades, sensor data and more).
Networking and Content Delivery
Customers rely on AWS’ computer network infrastructure to optimize the transmission of information to and from their website or application. In practice, this means the goal is that the user experience is optimized for low latency and rapid content delivery (such as the quick retrieval of information from a website).
Analytics and Machine Learning
AWS provides a set of solutions for organizations to run analytical workloads in the cloud (i.e. data processing, manipulation and modeling) so customers can derive insights from their operations. Additionally, customers rely on machine learning solutions to leverage the power of predictive analytics. These capabilities allow organizations to not only derive insights from past and present data but to also make predictions about the future based on that data.
Security, Identity Management and Compliance
AWS provides a number of solutions to help companies and applications remain compliant with data regulations in specific countries (the GDPR, for example). These tools allow organizations to secure their applications that contain sensitive information and manage users’ permissions in order to facilitate secure identity management.
Advantages of AWS
There are several advantages to using AWS as a solution to build, manage and deploy cloud applications.
Optimize for Cost
Resource consumption is tied to usage with no up-front commitments. In other words, cloud resources are billed in a pay-as-you-go model that lets customers pay only for resources that are running and not idle.
Focus on Core Capabilities
Launching (not to mention managing) software and hardware infrastructure is difficult and complex. Since AWS specializes in these areas, AWS customers can focus more on their core business rather than worrying about managing their cloud applications.
Offload Infrastructure Management
By relying on AWS and moving applications to the cloud, customers no longer need to buy, own, manage and maintain proprietary data centers or their computing, storage and networking solutions. This ultimately frees up both money and time that are best invested elsewhere. The shift from on-premise resources to cloud resources is one of AWS’ biggest selling points.
Access Best-in-Class Software Services
By offloading resources to the cloud, customers can optimize for data compliance and security by making use of AWS’s distributed network of global data centers. If a company needs certain market data to be held within a given region, it can use the cloud platform to store that data close to that geography in order to achieve legal and security compliance.
Who Uses Amazon Web Services?
In short, everyone — whether directly as customers or indirectly as users of a specific platform. From individual developers looking to grow their business all the way to multinational enterprise companies in the most regulated industries, AWS counts customers in the millions across all industry sectors and company sizes. Here’s a list of some of AWS’ most recognizable customers.
AWS pricing is a complex topic as fees are based on each specific service within the ecosystem of AWS and many other factors such as product tier, usage frequency and more. AWS itself provides products to better handle the combination of different AWS service prices to facilitate the management and billing of AWS resources.
For a complete deep dive on price tiers for each different service, the AWS Pricing Catalog provides detailed information.