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Introduction to Amazon Cloud Services

Amazon Web Services is the umbrella of services provided by the company, under which Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3 are found.


In the first of many articles to come, I would like to cover the Amazon Cloud Services.  This is just to set the basis for future articles and set our understanding of cloud and cloud services. 

Amazon launched its Web Services business back in 2006, and is/was on the forefront of an industry-wide overall Cloud initiative.  Amazon Web Services is the umbrella of services provided by Amazon, under which Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3 make up the most popular of the services. 


Amazon EC2

The Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud or EC2, allows users to pay for what they use.  Server instances are “spun up” on demand, and are “spun down” when usage ceases.  These instances are simply virtual machines based atop of the Xen VM that are managed by Amazon’s internal resource management facility. 

The VM’s are better known as Elastic Compute Units (ECU), which are pre-packaged and can be “ordered” just like the way you order Sushi, simply pick and choose what you want and pay for it after you are done.  Pricing is based on the type of ECU and amount of data transferred or the time used. 

Elastic Compute Unit (ECU)

There are a number of different ECU types:

    -          Micro ECU: 1-2 instances, 633MB

    -          Small ECU: 1 instance, 1.7GB

    -          Large ECU: 4 instances, 7.5GB

    -          XL ECU: 8 instances, 15GB

    -          High-Mem XL ECU: 6.5 instances, 17GB

    -          High-Mem Double XL ECU: 13 instances, 34GB

    -          High-Mem 4XL ECU: 26 instances, 68GB

    -          High-CPU XL ECU: 20 instances, 7GB

    -          High-CPU 4XL ECU: 33.5 instances, 18GB

The names vary from what you read in the documentation, but the concept is the same.  You can either ask the basic, high-memory instances or high-CPU instances.  An instance of a VM or ECU is CPU equivalent of a 1.0-1.2 GHz 2007 Opteron or 2007 Xeon processor. 

In addition to the compute, you need other components such as:

    -          Network: EC2 provides static IP address for each VM instance which are actually tied to the account and NOT the individual VM.  This allows you to “re-use” your IP

    -          Network connectivity to the instances: SOAP, HTTP and REST: the same protocols that you used to connect to Amazon Web Services

Building an Environment

By now, you have a very basic overview of what the overall architecture and capabilities of EC2 are.  The next step is to actually integrate your application with the provided EC2 APIs. 

Keep on reading.

Art Sedighi -- Contributing Editor, Cloud, HPC and Grid -- is a freelance writer and IT consultant. Mr. Sedighi was the CTO and founder of SoftModule and held the senior consulting engineer position at DataSynapse. He received his BS in Electrical Engineering and MS in Computer Science, both from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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