I Love the Cloud: My Never-Ending Journey with AWS

[GUEST POST] I started exploring the cloud computing world around 5 years ago, and I must admit that my initial understanding of the cloud was a disaster. At first, it was difficult to find a comprehensive definition, but I finally settled on one from the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). It clearly defined the cloud’s attributes and models, and removed my doubts regarding what falls under the cloud umbrella. The experience that I had finding this definition made me realize that I wanted there to be an easier way for others to find it, as well. Therefore, I decided to create my own list of cloud guidelines. This was a turning point in my cloud journey, as it pushed me to teach many students and IT professionals about cloud computing.
Stumbling upon AWS is inevitable when discovering the cloud, and just as with the cloud, my first interaction with AWS was not simple, either. I remember the moment of “Eureka!” that came after I was finally able to launch an EC2 instance and deploy a simple application. Sometimes, I laugh at the sheer joy I experienced from such a small achievement, but I realize that this was a stepping stone in my AWS journey and my love for Amazon. I am now able to manage bigger AWS cloud infrastructures, and I’ve consulted for and successfully designed various Amazon projects. I’ve conducted sessions on how to scale applications and how to make scalable applications using Amazon.
I see that two things have remained steady over the past few years: continuous innovations at AWS and my love for AWS. AWS has always kept me motivated to learn new things with its consistent new offerings, and I’d like to share the reasons that I believe make it the immense influence on the cloud that it is today.

8 Reasons that Make AWS the Cloud’s Market Leader

1. Fantastic Pricing Models
AWS’ ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing model allows for flexible use of its services. This type of model allowed me to perform my own demos, research, scaling, development, and testing with ease and efficiency. AWS announced over forty price reductions from its launch in 2006 until today. Over the years, I, personally, have witnessed more than thirty price reductions, and not a single price increase. AWS also offers innovative pricing models for its long term customers (Reserved Instances), as well as for short term or non-mission-critical projects (Spot Instances).
2) A Wide Variety of Services
Today, AWS offers almost forty different services and the list keeps growing. These services are offered for all cloud models, such as IaaS (EC2, EBS, Auto Scaling, ELB), PaaS (Elastic Beanstalk), database (RDS, NoSQL), deployment (Cloudformation, CodeDeploy), application services (SQS, SNS, SWF), DevOps (OpsWorks), security (IAM, HSM, CloudTrail), mobile services (Amazon Cognito, Mobile Analytics), Big Data (EMR) and many more.
3) Omnipresence
AWS provides a virtually unlimited infrastructure. Its competitors usually have three or four data centers, whereas AWS boasts eleven regions. Of these regions, nine are public, with more than twenty five data centers spread across them. In 2013, Gartner noted that AWS offered five times the utilized compute capacity than the total offered by fourteen of its largest competitors.
4) Secure Cloud Environment
Many are skeptical of the cloud because they fear it’s not secure. However, at the most recent re:Invent, AWS VP, Andy Jassy, announced that companies are actually adopting AWS because of its secure environment. It’s extremely easy to manage and it offers mechanisms such as Security Group, Key Pairs, subnets with VPC, encryption for data at rest and in transit, IAM, MFA, HSM, security logs, key management, and more.
AWS provides a shared model, where customers are just as responsible as Amazon for securing their environments. Catastrophic events can occur if necessary precautions aren’t taken, no matter what service you choose. InfoWorld published an article, Murder in the Amazon Cloud, about Code Spaces, a company that suffered from a huge security compromise because necessary precautions weren’t taken. Sounding very much like a Hollywood film, the hacker asked for a ransom and monitored all activities. When Code Spaces tried to seize control by changing passwords, the hacker deleted all of its instances, along with its backup and data.
5) New Services are Always Emerging
After seeing the last three re:Invents online, I really feel that AWS is moving at a great pace by constantly introducing new services. With two or three new services introduced at the previous two re:Invent conferences, at this past conference in November 2014, we were witness to five new service offerings, as well as new announcements for existing offerings. At times, it seems like AWS is doing more than we could even imagine or keep up with, and that like its infrastructure, its innovation is virtually unlimited.
6) Great Ecosystem
Over the last few years, so many companies have come into existence to provide services around AWS. Most of them act as cloud brokers, offering services with a pay-as-you-go model. Services such as RightScale, Cloudyn and Cloudability, N2WS, and CloudAcademy are notable examples that offer services specifically geared towards AWS customers. This has also created a huge pool of AWS enthusiasts who are always happy to help and share their experience. AWS capitalized on this enthusiasm with AWS Marketplace, where vendors can offer services following AWS’ pricing model.
7) Transparency
With AWS, you only pay for what you use, without any hidden charges. Its best-in-class infrastructure comes along with clear documentation so that you can use its services in the most optimal way. If you have any doubts or questions, AWS’ ecosystem also offers forums, social groups, and AWS cloud brokers that you can turn to.
8) Customer Service
AWS follows the unparalleled standards set by Amazon in customer service. I’ve seen that AWS is extremely generous and more client friendly than its competitors. I remember an incident where a friend of mine mistakenly kept all of his EC2 instance’s security group ports open. This resulted in a security compromise, followed by a huge data transfer, which ended up costing him more than six hundred dollars. Once he was aware of what had happened, he contacted the AWS support team, that was generous enough to provide him with financial compensation for what he had lost. You can find many more stories about AWS putting its customers first by displaying this kind of generosity all over the internet.

What We Can Expect from AWS in 2015

Considering the trends of the last three to four years, it’s clear that the degree of AWS’ innovation parallels that of its customer satisfaction. Below, you’ll find what I think we can expect from AWS in 2015:

  • It appears that AWS is moving more towards managed services, with enterprise apps such as Desktop On Demand (AWS Workspace), and AWS Enterprise storage (Zocalo) added in the last two years. I believe that by the end of this year or by the next re:Invent, we’ll have one or two new offerings in the same arena.
  • In the last six months, AWS added many security features, and I feel like there are more to come, bringing more maturity to cloud security.
  • DevOps has been all the rage the last few years, and Amazon started focusing more on CICD (Continuous Integration Continuous Development). We’ll probably be seeing enhancements of its existing services, as well as new deployment and management offerings to help end users focus more on development rather than environment.
  • IoT is the latest buzzword, and I believe that AWS is going to have a new platform or offering in store for us.
  • AWS will most likely continue focusing on its infrastructure’s growth. At the rate in which it’s growing, I wouldn’t be surprised if AWS announces an additional region or a few more data centers by the end of the year.

Ultimately, I am sure that AWS will surpass all of my expectations this year, and offer much more than we can imagine.

Taral Shah

About the Author:
Taral Shah is an associate-level AWS Certified Solutions Architect, and he’s currently working as a Cloud Solutions Architect with Tata Consultancy Services LTD. His role involves cloud computing consulting, evaluating different tools, and migrating applications to the cloud. Additionally, he’s an active AWS blogger and trainer.

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