A Crash Course in Amazon Terminology (Part 2)

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to A Crash Course in Amazon Terminology (Part 1).

In the first part of this article series, I explained that the reason why you sometimes hear the Amazon Web Services referred to by different names is that Amazon has unique names for each of its major services. Each of these services fall under the Amazon Web Services umbrella.

As of the time that this article was written, there were close to 40 individual services. Since I have only talked about a few of those services so far, this could easily turn into a very long series. However, I don’t think that there is really a need for me to discuss each service’s purpose individually. Amazon provides links to and descriptions of each service on the console dashboard, as shown in Figure A. The main thing that I wanted to convey in this article series is that the reason why you so often hear the Amazon Web Services referred to by different names is that people will often refer to individual services as opposed to talking about AWS as a whole.

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Figure A: AWS currently consists of nearly 40 named services.

Although I have no plans to discuss every service individually, there are a few of the more notable services that I do want to discuss. As I mentioned at the end of the previous article, Amazon doesn’t include databases in its storage offerings. Instead, Amazon has an entirely separate collection of database services.

The best known of Amazon’s database services is probably Amazon RDS, which you can see in Figure B. Amazon RDS is a relational database service (hence the RDS in the name) and is essentially Amazon’s commodity database offering. Amazon RDS allows you to create databases based on MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server, Postgres, and Amazon Aurora.

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Figure B: Amazon RDS is Amazon’s low cost database option.

Amazon also offers a database service called DynamoDB, which you can see in Figure C. DynamoDB is designed for workloads that need to be both predictable and scalable. DynamoDB is based on NoSQL and is a high speed non-relational database that supports seamless scalability.

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Figure C: Amazon DynamoDB is a fully managed, non-relational database.

Amazon also offers ElastiCache (shown in Figure D), which is a cloud based, in memory cache. You can use ElastiCache to build and manage cache clusters with relatively little effort.

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Figure D: ElastiCache lets you a build distributed, memory based cache.

Amazon’s other database offering is Redshift, which you can see in Figure E. Redshift is one of the better known database components and is specifically designed for really large scale databases or for data warehousing. If you need to store multiple petabytes worth of data on the Amazon cloud then Redshift is what you should be using.

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Figure E: If you need to build a really big database on the Amazon cloud then Redshift is the best service to use.

Virtual Servers

Another really notable AWS component is EC2, shown in Figure F. EC2 is Amazon’s solution for building virtual servers in the cloud. Although there is a bit of a learning curve associated with using Amazon EC2, the service allows you to do a lot of the same things that you could do using an on premise hypervisor such as VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V. In fact, Amazon even makes it possible to migrate virtual machines from your local datacenter to EC2 and also offers a vCenter plugin so that you can use vCenter to manage local and cloud based virtual machines.

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Figure F: Amazon EC2 allows you to run your own VMs in the cloud.

One of the best things about Amazon EC2 is that Amazon has pre-built a large number of virtual machine templates (which Amazon refers to as images). These templates allow you to build virtual machines based on any of the more popular operating systems. In some cases templates are even pre-loaded with business applications (such as SQL Server). Currently there are 22 available templates including:

  • Amazon Linux
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6 (HVM), SSD Volume Type
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 (HVM) SSD Volume Type
  • Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS (HVM), SSD Volume Type
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Base
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 with SQL Server Express
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 with SQL Server Web
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 with SQL Server Standard
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Base
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 with SQL Server Express
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 with SQL Server Web
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 with SQL Server Standard
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Base
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with SQL Server Express and IIS
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with SQL Server Web
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with SQL Server Standard
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Base
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 Base
  • Amazon Linux AMI 2014,09.2 (PV)
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3 (PV) SSD Volume Type
  • Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS (PV) SSD Volume Type

Networking

Amazon also has some really nice networking options. The first of these options is known as VPC, shown in Figure G. Amazon VPC lets you connect isolated resources within the AWS cloud to your own datacenter. The connection is established via an IPsec encrypted VPN.

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Figure G: Amazon VPC lets you connect cloud resources to your datacenter.

VPC isn’t Amazon’s only option for connecting your cloud resources to your on premises datacenter. Amazon offers another option called AWS Direct Connect, shown in Figure H. The difference between VPC and AWS Direct Connect is that VPC makes use of your existing WAN connection. In contrast, AWS Direct Connect makes use of a dedicated network connection between your datacenter and the Amazon datacenter. The advantage to taking this approach is that it often delivers a faster, more consistent experience than an Internet based connection because a direct connection eliminates bandwidth contention.

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Figure H: Amazon Direct Connect lets you establish a direct connection to the Amazon cloud.

Amazon’s other networking service is something called Amazon Route 53, which you can see in Figure I. Amazon Route 53 needs a little bit of explaining. To read Amazon’s caption at the top of the Amazon Route 53 page, it might seem as though Route 53 is really nothing more than a place to register domain names. Indeed, you can use Route 53 for domain name registration, but there is more to it than that.

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Figure I: Route 53 is Amazon’s domain management portal.

I tend to think of Amazon Route 53 as a domain management portal. Yes, you can use the portal to register domain names, but you can also use the portal to centralize the domain names that you own. Amazon provides a mechanism for changing the registrar for your existing domain names to Route 53, even if you bought the domain name from another provider.

Route 53 also includes a DNS management function. This service allows you to perform the same types of DNS related tasks that any other domain registration service would allow you to do. For instance, you can create host records, MX records, and that sort of thing.

The most unique component that is included in Amazon Route 53 is its health check. Amazon’s Health Check component works by monitoring your Web servers and Web applications. If a problem is detected then Amazon is able to redirect traffic to another server containing a healthy copy of the Web application.

Conclusion

There are nearly 40 individual services that make up Amazon Web Services. Each of these services has its own name and provides a specific function within the Amazon cloud as a whole.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to A Crash Course in Amazon Terminology (Part 1).

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