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Overview of Amazon Web Services (AWS)



Amazon provides a suite of web services that enables developers to create dynamic and robust applications. Although these tools are effective and versatile, they can be complicated to use. RightScale is dedicated to providing powerful and intuitive solutions and ways to take full advantage of Amazon Web Services.  Deploying on AWS can save you time, money, and administrative effort compared to building and maintaining more traditional systems.  Deploying on RightScale will magnify your return on investment, cut your time to market, and reduce the resources required to manage your hosted environment.  Before we show you how we make it easier, let's cover the basics of the services that Amazon provides.  For more information, see

Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

EC2 introduces a new paradigm for web hosting. By allowing developers to scale their number of machines up or down within minutes, it offers the capability to create distributed and scalable applications that run in the cloud. EC2 is flexible, reliable, secure, and, most importantly, inexpensive. By only paying for the resources that you actually use, you can bring your multi-server application to market much more cheaply than ever before, and maintain an extremely high level of quality and availability. Let's take a look at some of the basic concepts of how this service works. 

For more information, see

Amazon Machine Images

An Amazon Machine Image (AMI) is a packaged environment that contains a configured operating system--for example, Linux, Unix, or Microsoft Windows. RightScale supports and suggests using our own custom RightImagesTM. RightImages are designed specifically for use on EC2 through RightScale, and each contain a lightweight server installation with a suite of necessary tools prepackaged.  We publish the scripts we use so that you can see how they work and even modify them, building your own to suit your particular needs.

Instance Types

Amazon provides a number of different instance types, representing varying degrees of computing power and so on. For example, a small instance runs on a 32-bit platform, while large and extra-large instances run on a 64-bit platform. Different instance types have different levels of computing power and hardware resources. See EC2 Instance Types.

SSH Keys

When you launch an image, you specify a particular SSH key to associate with that image. This allows you to gain access to your machines without using passwords. This is the recommended and most secure way to communicate with your instances. RightScale uses this key to configure and monitor your instances. You should not modify this key or your instances will no longer be able to communicate with the RightScale Dashboard and you won't be able to use key features.

Access Key IDs

Amazon issues two kinds of access key IDs to authenticate requests between instances. Your public access key identifies you as the originator of a request, but is not encrypted. Your secret access key is used to calculate a specific request signature that authenticates you as the true user for services that require authentication on your instances. As the name suggests, this key should be kept private.

X.509 Certificates

Amazon also issues two kinds of X.509 certificates to digitally sign bundled images in AWS. The private certificate is used to verify that a signature could only have come from you. You can request X.509 certificates from the AWS site.

Security Groups

To provide the highest level of security possible, Amazon has implemented security groups. Security groups provide functionality similar to a traditional firewall, but have some additional features. You have the ability to filter traffic based on IP address (either a specific address or subnet), packet types (TCP, UDP or ICMP), and ports (or ranges of ports). You can also grant access to an entire security group, allowing your trusted machines to access each other without having to open ports to the public.

Public Access

For even more security, Amazon provides the option of completely removing public access to an instance. This will ensure that you are safe from any outsiders gaining access to your machine, and even prevents denial-of-service attacks.

Simple Storage Service (S3)

Amazon S3 provides a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers.

Pricing for S3 is usage and location based, meaning that charges vary according to the amount of storage space consumed (measured in 1-GB increments) and corresponding transfers and get/put requests acting on the data, as well as the physical location (regional cloud) where data is stored. As part of the free usage tier, new AWS customers receive a 5 GB allocation of free S3 storage for one year.

For more information, see

Simple Queue Service (SQS)

Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) offers a reliable, highly scalable hosted queue for storing messages as they travel between computers. By using Amazon SQS, developers can simply move data between distributed application components performing different tasks, without losing messages or requiring each component to be always available. 

Pricing for SQS is usage based. New and existing AWS customers receive a set quantity of SQS queuing requests for free each month.

For more information, see

To add this service to the Dashboard, see Upgrade Your Account.

CloudFront (CF)

Amazon CloudFront is a web service for content delivery. It integrates with other Amazon Web Services to give developers and businesses an easy way to distribute content to end users with low latency, high data transfer speeds, and no commitments.Amazon CloudFront delivers your content using a global network of edge locations. Requests for your objects are automatically routed to the nearest edge location, so content is delivered with the best possible performance. 

CloudFront is priced based on usage (according to the quantity of data requests and size of the content transfered) and is not included in the AWS free usage tier.

For more information, see

To add this service to the Dashboard, see Upgrade Your Account.

AWS Import/Export

AWS Import/Export accelerates moving large amounts of data into and out of AWS using portable storage devices for transport. AWS transfers your data directly onto and off of storage devices using Amazon’s high-speed internal network and bypassing the Internet. For significant data sets, AWS Import/Export is often faster than Internet transfer and more cost effective than upgrading your connectivity.

AWS Import/Export supports importing and exporting data into and out of Amazon S3 buckets in the US Standard, US West (Northern California), EU (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Singapore) Regions. AWS Import/Export is priced based on usage and is not included in the AWS free usage tier.

For more information, see

SimpleDB (SDB) (beta)

Amazon SimpleDB is a web service for running queries on structured data in real time. This service works in close conjunction with EC2 and S3, collectively providing the ability to store, process, and query data sets in the cloud. These services are designed to make web-scale computing easier and more cost-effective for developers.

Traditionally, this type of functionality has been accomplished with a clustered relational database that requires a sizable upfront investment, brings more complexity than is typically needed, and often requires a DBA to maintain and administer. In contrast, Amazon SimpleDB is easy to use and provides the core functionality of a database--real-time lookup and simple querying of structured data--without the operational complexity. Amazon SimpleDB requires no schema, automatically indexes your data, and provides a simple API for storage and access. This eliminates the administrative burden of data modeling, index maintenance, and performance tuning. SDB is intentionally feature poor, and specific architecture considerations must be made before adopting SDB. 

Pricing for SDB is usage based. New and existing AWS customers receive a set quantity of SDB machine hours and storage for free each month.

For more information, see

Elastic Load Balancing

Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple EC2 instances. It enables you to achieve even greater fault tolerance in your applications, seamlessly providing the amount of load balancing capacity needed in response to incoming application traffic.

Elastic Load Balancing is priced based on usage (that is, hours during which your Elastic Load Balancer is running and the size of the data transfers) and is not included in the AWS free usage tier.

For more information, see

Route 53

Amazon Route 53 is a highly available and scalable Domain Name System (DNS) web service. It effectively connects user requests to infrastructure running in AWS--such as an EC2 instance, an Amazon Elastic Load Balancer, or an Amazon S3 bucket--and can also be used to route users to infrastructure outside of AWS.

Amazon Route 53 is priced based on usage (that is, the quantity of "hosted zones" used to store DNS records as well as the volume of DNS queries handled) and is not included in the AWS free usage tier.

For more information, see

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Last modified
09:41, 25 Jul 2013



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