Amazon EC2 Review

An excellent IaaS service enabling quick deployment of applications


How has it helped my organization?

One way we have used AWS EC2 is to be able to orchestrate the creation and termination of temporary instances used for training and demo purposes. Instead of having to wait on limited internal resources to become available, we can easily create multiple instances for use and terminate them as soon as we’re done.

What is most valuable?

The ability to quickly spin up instances on demand with zero upfront costs or infrastructure is the most valuable for me. This significantly reduces the time it takes to onboard projects or quickly create POV environments. It also enables a low entry point for users to begin development without significant expertise.

What needs improvement?

Built-in and/or integration with other services to proactively identify potential failures before they occur. For example, if capacity is low in an availability zone, recommend placements in another zone, or return capacity status before launching new instances.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Yes. Issues with stability have occurred. In some cases, we have seen where instance performance has degraded significantly to the point where they have to be destroyed and recreated. There are ways to mitigate stability issues through the use of multiple availability zones.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Yes. Issues with scalability have occurred occasionally, due to low capacity of specific instance types in some regions.

How is customer service and technical support?

Technical support via email has been fairly responsive. A response is usually received within 24 hours.

Which solutions did we use previously?

Local VMs were being used before switching to AWS EC2. Local resources were not scalable and increased operational complexity. They were also costly to maintain.

How was the initial setup?

Setup was fairly straightforward. Using the console provides an easy to understand graphical user interface. The command-line and API options tend to be slightly more difficult to use due to the learning curve.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

EC2 pricing is somewhat transparent, in that AWS provides pricing for all instance types. However, the number of pricing options can be confusing, i.e., on demand vs reserved vs spot vs dedicated. It would be great if AWS provided a real-time calculator that displayed your estimated usage for a period of time, then notified you before you exceeded your estimated costs. Licenses for some instance types can be included or use BYOL, depending on the vendor.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

No.

What other advice do I have?

Take note of usage costs for all related services being used. For example, running an EC2 instance with vendor software may require paying for EBS volumes, Elastic IPs, Snapshots, and other software licenses. Enable Billing notifications to be alerted whenever costs exceed a certain threshold. Lockdown instances to only provide access via tightly controlled security groups. Use public key authentication, whenever possible, and restrict direct access to superuser accounts.

EC2 is an excellent IaaS service enabling quick deployment of applications.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are an AWS Partner.
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