What is most valuable?
The features which are most valuable are EC2, S3, and the networking functionality. EC2 allows me to provision new servers in minutes. S3 allows me infinite, redundant, easily accessible storage. The networking functionality (VPC, Security Groups, subnets, etc) allow me to create robust networks that make sense. Availability Zones allow me to design systems that are resistant to failure.
How has it helped my organization?
One example is our devops people can provision new products and systems almost immediately. They have set up an instance of GitHub Enterprise which has become our "source of truth." We have created proofs-of-concept in hours to days to test and evaluate new products across the enterprise. We have been able to leverage the agility of AWS to work faster and, in some cases, "fail fast" so we can get on to the next thing, which works.
What needs improvement?
Probably customer education and awareness, especially in the Cyber Security area. Many people are mistrustful of public cloud offerings or misunderstand how things work. We'd like to use AWS a lot more for various workloads, but gaining approval to do the things we want to do is currently our biggest roadblock. This isn't necessarily AWS's fault, but hopefully they have the capacity to gain acceptance in the broader Cyber Security community.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using the product for two years.
What was my experience with deployment of the solution?
Our main issues are learning how to deploy the most efficiently. We use Puppet and Jenkins to deploy. Other issues are employee awareness and training (which instance type to use, where to put things, which keys or security groups to use, etc).
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
No more than expected number of stability issues. We have the occasional EBS volume go down but we expect that.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
None at all. AWS is infinitely scalable. Though on one occasion, our preferred instance type was not available in the Availability Zone we wanted it in.
How are customer service and technical support?
Customer Service: AWS's customer service is ridiculously good. Back when I was admin of an account that only used a few hundred dollars a month, I got top-notch support from my account manager. He set up a couple of conference calls with Solution Architects with no hesitation. Now I preside over an account with significantly more usage, and the customer service remains great.Technical Support: AWS has some really smart people who can analyse my technical questions and give me a cogent, useful answer in short order. Their tech support is top-notch.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We have also use Terremark e-Cloud, but their cost and lack of features turned us off. I don't believe it was an either-or situation, though. We used both but are moving out of e-Cloud and are staying in AWS.
How was the initial setup?
I was not with my current agency during the initial set-up phase.
What about the implementation team?
The agency used a vendor team. I'm with that vendor team and I think we're pretty good, but I'm biased.
What was our ROI?
We don't calculate ROI, but AWS definitely helps us fulfull the agency's mission, which is how we measure things here.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
I personally have evaluated Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Neither seemed as robust or mature as AWS.
What other advice do I have?
Jump right in and make liberal use of AWS' technical support. Even now, I see people hesitating to ask and trying to figure it out for themselves. AWS is always ready to help. It's both complicated and useful enough that it's very easy to build things in a suboptimal way if you don't think things through and follow their guidance. So get all your hands-on staff to take the training they offer and don't be shy about asking for help. The training is big.