cloud, Coaching, data, data engineering, data science

What is Amazon Web Services and Cloud Technology?

  1. What is a Cloud Platform?
  2. What is Amazon Web Services?
  3. Why Use a Cloud Platform?
  4. The Benefits of Cloud Computing
  5. How is Cloud Computing Changing Data?
  6. Some Technological Products of AWS
  7. Some Case Studies Using AWS
  8. Useful Links & Resources

I’ve recently been reading up on Amazon Web Services which is a cloud computing platform hosted by technology giants Amazon. I thought I’d write up and share what I’ve found to both cement my understanding and hopefully teach others at the same time.

What is a Cloud Platform?

First of all, what exactly is a Cloud Platform? A Cloud Platform, or Cloud Computing, essentially offers everything a normal server or computing architecture would, but securely via the internet. This means raw computing power, database storage, applications, content delivery and other functionality through the internet. Think of it more like a utility that you are renting – in the same way your electricity or gas. Only you are using computing power, whether that is for storage, streaming or other service.

What is Amazon Web Services?

Amazon Web Services (or AWS for short) is a secure cloud platform offered by technology giants Amazon (you may have heard of them!). AWS offers huge computing power, massive database storage, content delivery and a wide suite of technologies that offer support of a wide range of other functionality that are very easy to scale, grow and keep up to date.

According to Amazon:

“Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides on-demand computing resources and services in the cloud, with pay-as-you-go pricing. For example, you can run a server on AWS that you can log on to, configure, secure, and run just as you would a server that’s sitting in front of you.”

Why Use a Cloud Platform?

Traditionally, computing platforms for businesses would be locally hosted at the business or off-site at another business owned location. The business physically owns the entire infrastructure and architecture, as well as large recurring cost to run, maintain, service, expand, upgrade and even power that hardware. The difference with Cloud Platform is that the Cloud Host owns the computing platform, and effectively rents it out to anyone who needs it, when they need it meaning that businesses can save cost of running their own platforms.

The Benefits of Cloud Computing

  1. Cost Savings: By hosting data centres and computing on the cloud, businesses can make significant cost savings rather than having these systems locally hosted. This is the cost of physical space, disaster recovery and utility power. What’s more, once on the cloud, cloud computing services are pay-as-you-go. Meaning you only pay for the features and storage capacity that’s used.
  2. Security: There is a misconception that it is less secure by not having all your files and data stored locally on site and instead accessing everything from the cloud over the internet. This is counter to the truth; a cloud host’s primary concern is to carefully monitor security and to keep it secure, employing the best tools and intellect. This is significantly more efficient than bespoke in-house security systems, since a business must divide its resources between many aspects of its technology concerns, security being only one. Additionally, a high percentage of data thefts occur are actually perpetrated by its own employees, therefore it can actually be much safer to keep sensitive information off-site where access is logged and locked behind security.
  3. Agility & Flexibility: Cloud computing is made remarkably easing for organisations. After all, making it easy is in the interest of the Cloud Host. Whenever the business needs to change anything to do with its architecture, a cloud-based service can be changed instantly. So much quicker than undergoing an expensive and often complex change to your existing infrastructure. What’s more is that Cloud Hosts are able to offer a massive breadth of different systems, tools and can support many more through open source and third party. All your needs are  simply through a click of a button – as and when you need it, or scaled up and down automatically based entirely on your usage.

How is Cloud Computing Changing Data?

Data is valuable. When you think about it, information or intelligence, has always held value throughout history. Census information has been collected for centuries for more efficient taxation, farm yields for feeding population through winter, army troop counts, movements & equipment for waging war. Now, we call it data – and every single piece of information, intelligence or data holds value. From the millions of bits of information that surround every single action you, your business or your customer takes are nuggets of invaluable, actionable information just waiting to be identified and acted upon.

What has changed through time is the volume of data we can gather and store. With cloud computing, we can truly have Big Data, and have the storage capacity to collect every nugget of data we can and make it easy to analyse it for insight using analysis tools provided by the Cloud Host. Through these insights, a business can increase efficiencies and better understand their user or customer.

Some Technological Products of AWS

A handful of technologies that might interest a Data Engineer or Data Scientist:

  • Amazon RDS – Managed Relational DAtabase Service for MySQL, PostreSQL, Oracle, SQL Server and MariaDB
  • Amazon Redshift – Fast, Simple, Cost-effective Data Warehousing
  • Amazon ElastiCache – In-memory Caching System
  • Amazon EMR – Hosted Hadoop Framework
  • Amazon Kinesis – Work with Real-time Streaming Data
  • AWS Glue – Prepare and load data
  • Amazon Quicksight – Fast Business Analytics Service
  • Amazon SageMaker – Build, train, and deploy Machine Learning at Scale
  • Amazon Comprehend – discover insights and relationships in text
  • Amazon Lex – Build voice and Text chatbots

And many, many more

Some Case Studies Using AWS

  • Airbnb “Airbnb believes that AWS saved it the expense of at least one operations position. Additionally, the company states that the flexibility and responsiveness of AWS is helping it to prepare for more growth”
  • Epic Games – “Creator of Fortnite, the multiplayer battle royale game that has become a global phenomenon, relies on AWS for its expansive infrastructure, unmatched reliability, and global scale”
  • Netflix “AWS enables Netflix to quickly deploy thousands of servers and terabytes of storage within minutes. Users can stream Netflix shows and movies from anywhere in the world, including on the web, on tablets, or on mobile devices such as iPhones.”
  • Pinterest –  “By using AWS, the company can maintain developer velocity and site scalability, manage multiple petabytes of data each day, and perform daily refreshes of its massive search index.”
  • Expedia“By using AWS, Expedia has become more resilient. Expedia’s developers have been able to innovate faster while saving the company millions of dollars. Expedia provides travel-booking services across its flagship site and about 200 other travel-booking sites around the world.”

Useful Links & Resources