Amazon AWS Review
An amazing platform to build on but IAM policies, and cross account access needs improvement.


Valuable Features

The whole IaaS model is an invaluable service. The ease of deployment, maintenance, and scalability, and pay as you go model make AWS an amazing platform to build on.

Improvements to My Organization

AWS sitting at the core of our service, and we have been able to provide an amazing number of features, that were otherwise very expensive, and labor intensive to put in place, these include high availability, business continuity planning, disaster recovery, among others.

Room for Improvement

AWS has an amazing feature set but I have not used all of them to be able to have a well rounded opinion about improvement. However, of the features I have used, I would say IAM policies, and cross account access would probably be one of the main areas of improvement. Amazon is working on a "Service Catalog" which could potentially fill some of these holes.

Use of Solution

I've used it for three years.

Deployment Issues

Surprisingly, since starting to use AWS, the process has been quite simple. The deployment was very smooth. Despite this, it does take a bit of getting used to when working with VPCs, and networking in an AWS context, but that's a fairly quick learning curve that can be attained easily.

Stability Issues

Like anything, failures happen every once in a while. I have experienced some failed hardware under my instances, which caused a brief outage. The stability of the service, however, is also much more reliant on the architecture of the application than the stability of the AWS infrastructure. In any case, AWS has been quite stable over all.

Scalability Issues

Scalability is one of AWS' strengths. Scaling resources, be it an AWS EC2 instance, or an RDS instance is a snap. Also, scaling into multiple geographic regions in the world is also possible, and quite a realistic view in that environment.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Customer Service:

My experience with AWS customer service has been stellar. Everyone I come into contact with from Sales, to Technical Support are always friendly, and courteous.

Technical Support:

The technical support team is quite knowledgeable, and there is no question asked that doesn't get addressed with full attention, complete with references, examples, and a recap of conversations that were conducted.

Their technical support processes are clearly well thought out. I can always know what communication to expect, and the level of help that I can expect to receive. I have yet to call them on an issue where a resolution wasn't reached on the first or second contact.

Previous Solutions

Previously, I used co-location services. The reason I switched is quite obvious:

  • Cost
  • Constant overheads
  • Constant challenge of meeting budgets with consistent cutting edge technology

AWS has removed all these variables, and allowed me to concentrate on growing my services without having to worry about aging servers, or under capacity hardware, etc.

Initial Setup

Understanding AWS is actually quite easy. There are some notions that require a bit of previous knowledge to grasp. The good news is that the documentation available about the different services is quite extensive, which can give anyone a head start in launching their AWS services. The complexity of using AWS is directly related to the robustness of the application/service that is being deployed. The more AWS services are integrated together, the more complex the deployment will become.

Implementation Team

All AWS services were deployed in-house, with assistance from AWS support teams.

ROI

Because there is no initial investment in AWS services (it's a pay as you go service in its basic form) the ROI is immediate. Because AWS costs are consistently being reduced, it is a great way to build services, offered at affordable prices, while still getting good returns on investment.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

As mentioned above, AWS does not really have initial setup costs. It's like a utility company; you use the service, and pay for your usage. The daily cost is dependent upon the service being deployed at that point in time. For the flexibility, and consistent cutting edge technology that AWS operates on, it's well worth the price.

Other Solutions Considered

I have evaluated Azure, and Google as IaaS. Quite honestly, Google was too convoluted for my purposes, and although Azure had some nice "Microsoft-y" features that AWS doesn't necessarily have, I still felt that it was much easier to get started with AWS, than it is with the other services.

Other Advice

Don't be afraid of "The Cloud". As prominent as it is today, a lot of people, and small businesses, are still afraid of storing their data away from their physical office. There are a ton of advantages in using AWS for your infrastructure instead of on-premises equipment. Give it a serious look before dismissing it. There is a lot that can be added here, but that could be an article all on its own.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
1 visitor found this review helpful

6 Comments

Mat ThomasReal User

Please provide some info: on how you addressed IAM isssues - not clear

24 March 15
George KhairallahReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

Hi Mat,
I'm not sure exactly what you are referring to. In my reference to IAM, I was simply pointing out that the rules and policies that currently exist out of the box aren't necessarily cut out for most use cases.
I was actually even suggesting an IAM policy community, where IAM users can share different types of IAM policies, as they can get pretty convoluted. (something similar to the AMI community I guess).

In my case, to solve my immediate problem, I simply spend the time once to create the policy that I need, and then I have a private repository of policies that I can re-use in the future.
You can find some policies in the aws forums of course, I'm just hoping for something dedicated for IAM policy repositories that is community based.

Hope this helps.

24 March 15
Orlee GillisConsultant

George, do you still address IAM problems in the same way? What has or has not changed since March '15?

01 November 16
George KhairallahReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

Hi Orlee! IAM has made a some improvements, which are welcome, and they even introduced cross account access via IAM roles, that has not proved too useful for my purposes, but it may for yours.

As it relates to the IAM repository, nothing has changed, but with that said, I have to say that between AWS available documentation and examples on IAM, the IAM policy generator, and the random community forum posts, I've been able to resolve my own issues, and come with every policy needed.

For every other situation where the above wasn't sufficient, opening a case with AWS support always helped provide the solution I'm looking for.

Bottom line, it hasn't really been a major pain point.
Hope this helps,

01 November 16
Orlee GillisConsultant

Great, glad to hear you've had success in this area! Is there anything in their repository feature that you can point to as being a 'virtue' that other solutions lack and would benefit from taking on?

01 November 16
George KhairallahReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

Not necessarily anything that other products would lack, it would actually be more of a "nice to have". It's definitely not a deal breaker by any means. I take the idea from the concept that AWS has with AMIs, for instance, or places where there are public repositories of UDF for scripts... same type of thing, for IAMs. there are a lot of out-of-the-box IAM policies that user can benefit from, and rather than re-inventing the wheel, it would be nice if they're compiled in a central place. That said, there's nothing that a Google search can fix :)

01 November 16
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