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Amazon Web Services (AWS)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Explore new AWS offerings for developers and enterprises alike
Contributor(s): Stan Gibilisco

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a comprehensive, evolving cloud computing platform provided by Amazon.com. Web services are sometimes called cloud services or remote computing services. The first AWS offerings were launched in 2006 to provide online services for websites and client-side applications.

To minimize the impact of outages and ensure robustness of the system, AWS is geographically diversified into regions. These regions have central hubs in the Eastern USA, Western USA (two locations), Brazil, Ireland, Singapore, Japan, and Australia. Each region comprises multiple smaller geographic areas called availability zones.

The growing AWS collection offers over three dozen diverse services including:

  • CloudDrive, which allows users to upload and access music, videos, documents, and photos from Web-connected devices. The service also enables users to stream music to their devices.
  • CloudSearch, a scalable search service typically used to integrate customized search capabilities into other applications.
  • Dynamo Database (also known as DynamoDB or DDB), a fully-managed NoSQL database service known for low latencies and scalability.
  • Elastic Compute Cloud, which allows business subscribers to run application programs and can serve as a practically unlimited set of virtual machines (VMs).
  • ElastiCache, a fully managed caching service that is protocol-compliant with Memcached, an open source, high-performance, distributed memory object caching system for speeding up dynamic Web applications by alleviating database load.
  • Mechanical Turk, an application program interface (API) that allows developers to integrate human intelligence into Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs) using a network of humans to perform tasks that computers are ill-suited for.
  • RedShift, a petabyte-scale data warehouse service designed for analytic workloads, connecting to standard SQL-based clients and business intelligence tools.
  • Simple Storage Service (S3), a scalable, high-speed, low-cost service designed for online backup and archiving of data and application programs.

All AWS offerings are billed according to usage. The rates vary from service to service.

This was last updated in May 2013

Next Steps

Learn about the features and benefits of Amazon Web Services EC2 in this expert overview.

Before deploying Amazon Web Services, read this in-depth overview of the many features AWS public cloud storage has to offer.

AWS OpsWorks: Should you buy it today?

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