Q&A | Amazon Web Services | 9xb Digital Agency

Q&A | Amazon Web Services

1. Firstly, can you give a brief description of AWS?

AWS stands for "Amazon Web Services". It is an array of cloud computing services provided by Amazon, used predominantly for web hosting and file storage. Many other interesting products and services are included in the platform, such as a 3D game engine for gaming developers. Unfortunately it doesn't get quite that exciting for 9xb! AWS has datacentres stretching across the globe and despite its already huge size is growing rapidly, far outperforming all of its competitors which includes Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer, Google Cloud Platform and Rackspace Cloud.

2. Can any type of company consider moving to AWS or is it industry specific?

AWS has such a broad offering that it is suitable for almost any company and combination you might imagine. As well as a vast array of products, each product tends to have a lot of different offerings, stretching from minimal to enterprise level usage. This offering makes it a solid platform even when not knowing how your company and applications might evolve over time.

3. What makes AWS better than other cloud hosting providers?

AWS has really pushed this service over the past few years. Now 10 years old it has been aggressive at getting new cloud computing products to market, both in terms of creating the community and tools to do so, and also ensuring that its prices are extremely competitive, if not cheaper than most of its rivals. This combination means that not only are you likely to get a market leading product, but you will do so at an extremely competitive price.

4. How does it perform in comparison to other cloud hosting providers?

A 2GB RAM web server with 1 core will probably perform very similarly whether it is on AWS or a competitor such as Google Cloud or Rackspace Cloud. Where 9xb believes AWS outperforms its competitors is in its flexibility. Some other providers do not have a product which allows you to scale do easily. For instance a simple web server with AWS can be turned off, changed to a different size (RAM/CPU combination) and turned back on again in just a few minutes. To do similar with some other providers tends to require a much more complex migration which can require a lot more time, clever scripts and a lot more coordination.

5. What benefits will I see moving to AWS?

The main benefit we believe you will see is the flexibility AWS provides, and the ability for your service to evolve over time as your business evolves. For instance your solution can easily scale as your business grows, and if you find that you are not utilising all of your services it can also move in the other direction. If your application needs to scale to multiple server in multiple locations to ensure complete resiliency, although this is going to be more expensive, AWS gives you that ability. Your application might not need cache clusters or automated deployments initially, however if and when it does you can be confident that AWS will offer the right solution. As they constantly evolve the platform, AWS continually provide new solutions to make your applications work more effortlessly. This can often save on development costs, since these new products often negate the need to re-engineer an application in need of more scale.

6. Will AWS cater for my hosting requirements?

In tandem with 9xb, almost certainly yes. Some will not feel that the very low volume of activity warrants the cost of entirely independent infrastructure, however 9xb can provide options where you will share this infrastructure with a small amount of like-minded clients. This will make your costs extremely low while still gaining most of the benefits you would expect when having your own architecture. At the other end of the scale, on occasion there are companies who want a direct relationship with the hosting provider. Even though 9xb might build your applications, we are very comfortable working with this arrangement as well. We can even configure your hosting environment on your own AWS account, should it be required.

7. If my hosting budget can't stretch to multi-location hosting, how resilient will AWS be?

Many 9xb clients do not utilise multi-location hosting, where your application would be hosting in different datacentres and/or locations, hence providing the resiliency should there be a major datacentre failure. While AWS allows you to very easily host across different datacentres and locations at a reasonable price, it is still extremely resilient when hosted at one location only. Firstly AWS is now an extremely reliable service with very little service downtime in any locations. It is more likely that the hardware your cloud hosting is associated with will fail itself, which is where you might typically run into problems. With AWS however, an alarm can be created which will, if necessary, stop your server and bring it back to life with another set of hardware. The only downtime you will experience in this instance is therefore a few minutes, without any manual intervention required.

8. Which other useful services are on offer on AWS?

9xb only makes use of a relatively limited set of services with AWS. These typically include the following:

  • VPC - where we configure private networks for our web applications
  • EC2 - the basic servers, which we normally use as web servers.
    - This is the product group also includes elastic load balancing and where auto-scale functionality can be configured when required
  • RDS - where we host relational databases
  • SES - this is Amazon's transactional email service which makes it straightforward to sign server generated emails using DKIM, therefore improving the chances of your web applications emails arriving as intended in your users' inboxes.
  • S3 - which is used for file storage and for backups
  • CloudFront - a CDN service which allows us to leverage content served very quickly from the most effective locations
  • IAM - where we configure users and access keys and credentials, in order that our applications can talk to each other or to third parties
  • CloudWatch - this is the AWS monitoring service, where many different monitors and alerts can be configured, as well as giving access to some lovely graphs
  • SNS - a straightforward and flexible notification service, which works well in tandem with CloudWatch, among other uses.
  • Route53 - the flexible domain management service provided by AWS

As mentioned above, you can even develop games using the AWS Game engine "GameLift" if you wish. We think you're more likely however to use one of their other services such as "Lambda" - when your application needs to run event based scripts, or "DynamoDB" - if you need to regularly report on large datasets.

If you have further questions regarding AWS please get in touch with our team.