What is Amazon EC2 – Part 2: Features

by Alexander Weiß

Amazon EC2 has a lot to offer. In this post I want to give you a short overview of the core features of Amazon EC2. It hopefully extends your knowledge about what Amazon EC2 is.

I don’t want to bother you with chit-chat: here’s a list of the main features of Amazon EC2:

Elastic: Imagine the following scenario: your company makes a new press release and the news goes viral unexpectedly. Suddenly the traffic of your website raises by ten times. It happens more often than one might think that in such cases the web services fail to respond. Although this could lead to more press releases ;-), you usually want to avoid it.
When your service runs under Amazon EC2 this wouldn’t happen if you are prepared, because you can scale up your service’s infrastructure almost instantly. With the Amazon Web Service API the rescaling can also be done automatically.
However, the best thing is that if the traffic slows down after a few days you can cancel the additional infrastructure as easy as you created it. And as soon as you dismissed it, Amazon will stop charging you.

High level of control: does not limit the control you have over your instances. You can easily access each machine and reconfigure them almost like the server would be in your own server room. You want to change the hard disk? No problem. You want to reconnect your network devices? Just do it. Restarting, stopping and starting can all be done remotely via the web service API. Besides that you have full root access to all instances and can access the console.

High Flexibility: You have complete flexibility concerning hardware and software. There are many different combinations of CPU, memory and storage available. Some of them can easily be adjusted individually. You also have a wide choice of operation systems. Images with various Linux distributions exist, but you can also choose Microsoft Windows Server.

Reliability: The Amazon EC2 Service Level Agreement states a 99,95% availability for each Amazon Region. Besides that the service uses Amazon’s datacenters and network infrastructure which are known for their high quality. There have been reports of outages though.

Security: There are two security features, which help you to keep your data safe. First, a firewall is attached to every instance. It is easy to configure the firewall by using the web service. Second, you can create a Virtual Private Cloud and isolate it by using a specific network range. This isolated network can connect to your existing network via a secure site-to-site VPN.

Attractive Pricing: Due to the high flexibility you only pay for what you need. Besides that, the rates Amazon asks for their services are very competitive.

Compatible with other Amazon Web Services: Amazon has a wide range of other Web Services. They are all compatible with EC2, for example Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon SimpleDB and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). The great variety of services should make it possible to meet all your architectural needs.

Easy to Start: Last but not least it is very easy to start with Amazon EC2, especially with the free tier offers. You can try out the service at no cost. Just sign up for the AWS Free Usage Tier, select a preconfigured Amazon Machine Image (AMI) from the AWS Marketplace and deploy it to EC2 with one click.

In my next blog post I’ll tell you something about the different instance types of Amazon EC2.

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