What is Amazon EC2 and S3 and why does O'Neil use them?

AWS-logoOne of the questions we get asked a lot is where do we store data “in the cloud”?  The simple answer is that we made a decision to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) as our business partner for our new cloud development efforts.  If you are not aware of AWS, then a brief history will help explain.

Amazon Web Services is a spin-off from Amazon.com.   In late 2003, a white-paper was presented,  proposing the company could build and sell a set of services based on the experience of building and operating its own infrastructure.  At that time Amazon was growing its online store at such a rate that it needed to build infrastructure to support it.  By 2006, AWS became a reality and is now a major supplier of infrastructure to companies such as Netflix, reddit, Foursquare, SAP, Yelp, and NASDAQ (A more detailed list is available here).  It is rumored that AWS revenues today, although not publicized, are in excess of $1.5 billion per year.

So from the history, you can see that there is an amazing infrastructure in place, which is trusted by many respectable companies. It is also growing and is continuing to receive heavy investment.  This was a great fit for O’Neil.

Now AWS offers many services, with the primary two used by us named EC2 and S3.  Let me provide some details on these two exceptional services.

Here is what AWS says about EC2:

“Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud.”

What that means is that we can “rent” servers located in Amazon’s infrastructure and use them as if they are our own, but with many more benefits.  For example, we can grab as much or as little computer resources as we want, when we want it.  We can start up new computer instances in minutes (no servers to purchase), and turn them off when not required.  We can also increase processing power at peak times, such as at month-end when invoicing is in full flow all automatically from our applications. 

So you can see that EC2 is much more than just “hosting” a database. It is a true cloud-based platform that, when used with an application developed for the cloud, allows the increase or decrease of capacity in minutes (known as being Elastic), providing flexibility and reliability.  The economies of scale mean it is affordable and the nature of the client base mean that over the last 7 years it has become very secure.

So let’s look at what AWS say about S3:

“Amazon S3 is storage for the Internet.  Amazon S3 is intentionally built with a minimal feature set [providing the ability to] write, read, and delete objects.”

Pretty simple, eh?  What this means is that from AWS we can also “rent” huge amounts of secure storage and retrieve any amount of that data, at any time, from anywhere over the internet.  As you can imagine, any cloud service will generate large amounts of data, which needs to be securely stored.  Amazon S3 is reported to store more than a trillion computer files and is growing every day. By using Amazon S3, we can be sure that we never run out of storage space which will support our data intensive records management business which allows us to concentrate on providing the best possible service to our customers.

So the final part of the question was why does O’Neil use these services?  As you can see, coupled together AWS EC2 gives O’Neil the computing power we need, when we need it, while AWS S3 gives us the storage capacity we need, with access from anywhere. Amazon Web Services has been a great partner during the past 2 ½ years and we are looking forward to utilizing their services for many years to come.

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