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.
Improvements to 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.
Room for 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.
Use of Solution
I have been using the product for two years.
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).
No more than expected number of stability issues. We have the occasional EBS volume go down but we expect that.
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.
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.
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.
I was not with my current agency during the initial set-up phase.
The agency used a vendor team. I'm with that vendor team and I think we're pretty good, but I'm biased.
We don't calculate ROI, but AWS definitely helps us fulfull the agency's mission, which is how we measure things here.
Other Solutions Considered
I personally have evaluated Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Neither seemed as robust or mature as AWS.
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.
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: AWS premier partner
Jul 28 2014