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AWS Cloud Services: 20 Amazon Services You Might Not Know About (But Should)

The cloud computing leader continues to roll out new services related to machine learning, containerization, virtual reality, application development and more.

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Are there AWS cloud services you haven't heard of? We're pretty sure of it. By now, every IT professional has heard of popular Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings like Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). However, with well over a hundred cloud services available, Amazon has plenty of other Coud offerings that sometimes fly under the radar.

The latest data from Synergy Research Group shows that spending on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and hosted private cloud climbed by an impressive 46 percent in the last quarter of 2017, and Amazon brought in most of that money. According to the report, "AWS maintained its dominant position with revenues that exceeded the next four closest competitors combined."

But the dominant cloud computing provider hasn't been content to sit on its laurels. In 2017, AWS announced dozens of new services, including many related to hot technology areas like containers, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality and security.

The list below highlights 20 interesting/fascinating AWS Cloud services that you might not know about, including many of these recently released services.

AWS Cloud Services: 20 You Need to Know

1. AWS Fargate

As containers have become more popular as a way to deploy applications, many people have become familiar with Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon EKS, AWS's two container solutions based on Docker and Kubernetes, respectively. In fact, the company says it saw 400 percent growth in containers deployed to its cloud between 2016 and 2017.

However, fewer people are aware of Fargate, a separate container service launched in November 2017 that abstracts away some of the management responsibilities involved with deploying containers in the cloud. With Fargate, users no longer have to worry about the availability, capacity, and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure. "To put it simply, Fargate is like EC2 but instead of giving you a virtual machine you get a container," explains the Amazon website. "It’s a technology that allows you to use containers as a fundamental compute primitive without having to manage the underlying instances."

2. AWS Lambda

Lambda has been around since 2014 and Datamation has written multiple times about the benefits of serverless computing, but many enterprises still haven't started experimenting with this new type of cloud service.

Ideal for Agile and DevOps teams, Lambda allows developers to upload their code without giving any though to provisioning or managing instances. The service handles all of those responsibilities, scales automatically, and bills organizations in 100 millisecond increments when their code executes.

3. AWS Snowball

Many organizations want to store or analyze their big data in the cloud, but transferring petabytes worth of information to the cloud via the public Internet is often too time-consuming to be practical. Amazon's decidedly low-tech solution, launched in 2015, is the Snowball. It's a self-contained appliance that AWS will ship directly to customers. They then upload up to 50TB of data onto each appliance, which they then ship back to Amazon the old-fashioned way.

AWS cloud services, snowball

AWS Snowball, a self-contained appliance. Image Source: Amazon.com

In November 2016, AWS followed up the Snowball with two related products: Snowball Edge, which can handle up to 100TB of data and includes compute capabilities, and Snowmobile, a semi-truck that can store up to 100PB of data in the shipping container on the back and drive it directly to an AWS data center.

4. Amazon Neptune

Currently available only to select customers, Neptune is a super-fast, fully managed graph database. Announced in November 2017, it supports the Property Graph and RDF models, as well as the Apache TinkerPop Gremlin and SPARQL query languages. It promises greater than 99.99 percent availability and is ACID-compliant. To take it for a test run, you'll need to sign up for the preview.

5. AWS Direct Connect

In many ways, traditional networking capabilities have not kept pace with today's dispersed, multi-cloud environments. One way to improve bandwidth and performance is to use Amazon's Direct Connect capabilities to set up a dedicated, private connection between your premises and Amazon. The service has been around for several years, but in order to use it, organizations had to be fairly close to one of the Direct Connect locations. In 2017, AWS added many new locations to the service, including 10 that came online in December alone.

6. AWS Cloud9

In 2016, Amazon acquired Cloud9, a startup that offered a cloud-based integrated development environment (IDE) that allows developers to write code from their browser. In November 2017, Amazon relaunched the Cloud9 service with a host of new features. Most notably, it integrates with other Amazon development services like the CodeStar continuous delivery toolchain service.

It's also worth noting that developers can use AWS Cloud9 for no additional charge. They play only for the EC2 compute and S3 storage necessary to store and run their code.

7. AWS X-Ray

Moved into production in April 2017, X-Ray is a service that helps DevOps teams troubleshoot application performance problems, particularly in microservices applications. Microservices architecture has a lot of benefits, but it can make debugging more difficult. X-Ray is particularly good at tracing requests as they flow through microservice applications, making it easier to identify and fix trouble spots. Importantly, it works with other AWS services, including EC2, ECS, Lambda and Elastic Beanstalk, and it supports Java, Node.js and .NET.

8. AWS OpsWorks

Many DevOps teams use Chef or Puppet to automate their configuration management. And many DevOps teams also rely on cloud computing services to develop, test and deploy their applications. OpsWorks brings both of those things together, providing managed instances of Chef and Puppet that run in Amazon's cloud. Launched in 2016, it comes in three flavors: AWS OpsWorks for Chef Automate, AWS OpsWorks for Puppet Enterprise and AWS OpsWorks Stacks.

9. AWS Trusted Advisor

As public cloud computing has become more popular, some large enterprises have struggled to manage and optimize their cloud usage. Cost control, in particular, has become a big issue as cloud usage proliferates throughout an organization. Trusted Advisor is a feature of Amazon's services that provides recommendations related to cost optimization, performance, security, fault tolerance and service limits. Any AWS customer can use the core checks and recommendations; customers with Business or Enterprise support plans get access to additional Trusted Advisor checks, as well as notifications and access to the AWS Support API.

10. AWS Elemental MediaStore

In November 2017, Amazon rolled out a quintet of services for media companies, all under the Elemental brand name. Elemental MediaStore is storage optimized for videos and live streaming. Other related services include Elemental MediaConvert (file-based video transcoding), Elemental MediaLive (broadcast-grade live video processing), Elemental MediaPackage (packages videos for Internet delivery) and Elemental MediaTailor (inserts ads into video streams). According to Amazon, the purpose of the services is to put high-end video processing capabilities into the hands of smaller companies, without requiring them to make a large, upfront investment in hardware and software.

11. Amazon SageMaker

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are some of the hottest trends in IT right now, but many of the tools related to these technologies require a great deal of skill and training to use. Released in November 2017, SageMaker attempts to make machine learning accessible to all developers. It’s a fully managed platform for building, training and deploying machine learning models, and it runs on superfast AWS instances equipment with NVIDIA GPUs.

12. AWS DeepLens

At the same time it unveiled SageMaker, Amazon also announced DeepLens. It's not actually a cloud service; instead, it's a video camera that integrates with SageMaker to teach developers the basics of deep learning, which in turn could be used for cloud development. It comes with tutorials, sample code and pre-trained models — basically everything you would need to start adding deep learning skills to your resume.

Amazon is taking preorders for DeepLens now. Devices will begin shipping in June.

aws cloud services, deeplens

DeepLens teaches developers the basics of deep learning. Image source: Amazon.com

13. Amazon QuickSight

Today, every business hopes to mine its big data for valuable business insights that will help it outperform the competition. However, many of the business intelligence (BI) tools that perform that analysis are very expensive. QuickSight promises to change that with "fast, easy-to-use business analytics at 1/10 the cost of traditional BI solutions." This AWS cloud service hit general availability in November 2016, and last year, Amazon added several new features including geospatial visualizations, private VPC access, flat table support, calculated SPICE fields, wide table support, HIPAA compliance and more.

14. AWS Glue

Flashy visualizations and advanced analytics get a lot of the attention in the big data world, but many analysts and data scientists spend the bulk of their time on lowly ETL chores that get the data ready for processing. Glue, which hit general availability in August 2017, aims to simplify and streamline ETL by running these workloads in the cloud very cost-effectively. It integrates with AWS databases and analytics tools, as well as MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and PostgreSQL databases in an AWS Virtual Private Cloud. It's serverless (meaning that users don't have to configure the infrastructure), and uses familiar technology like Scala, Python and Apache Spark.

15. Amazon Cognito

AWS offers a wide variety of services to developers, and Cognito is one of them. It simplifies the process of adding a sign-on to a Web or mobile app. It integrates with Google, Facebook and (of course) Amazon log in services, as well as Microsoft Active Directory and SAML for enterprise authentication. It also supports multi-factor authentication and meets most compliance requirements, including HIPAA, PCI DSS and SOC.

16. Amazon Organizations

Organizations is one of several Amazon tools designed to make it easier for large enterprises to manage their AWS cloud services. Generally available since February 2017, it offers policy-based management for companies with lots of AWS accounts, and it includes the ability to group certain accounts together and apply consistent policies to them. It also helps simplify billing. Best of all, any AWS customer can use AWS Organizations for no additional charge.

17. Amazon Pinpoint

These days most companies interact with their customers via multiple points of contact — email, text, phone, mobile push messages, etc. Pinpoint makes it possible to send and track messages through all these customer engagement channels. Amazon also offers a REST API that enables developers to embed Pinpoint’s capabilities into their apps, and the service has built-in customer segmentation and analytics capabilities. It has a substantial free tier, and then it charges users per message sent and per event.

18. Amazon Sumerian

Launched in November 2017, Sumerian simplifies the process of creating and running augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive 3D content. It supports multiple hardware platforms, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Android and iOS mobile devices. It's simple enough for novices to use, and it integrates with other AWS services, including the AI services that make it possible to add interactive characters to VR scenes. It has a free tier, and pricing beyond that depends on the amount of data stored in the service and the number of views it receives. Note that you may incur other costs from related services that are integrated into Sumerian scenes.

19. Amazon Chime

Similar to Skype, Chime is Amazon's unified communication service, which it launched in February 2017. It allows users to set up and run voice or video meetings and calls, and it includes the ability to share content with participants. Unlike many services that require participants to dial in, Chime automatically calls the people invited to the meeting at the specified start time, and it works on a wide variety of devices. It also integrates with Alexa for Business.

20. Amazon WorkDocs

You might not have realized it, but Amazon has a file sharing and collaboration service that's similar to Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. WorkDocs, as the service is known, includes integrated security, pay-as-you-go pricing and powerful integration capabilities, and it also can serve as the repository for an enterprise content management solution. In addition, it has an SDK and an API for integrating WorkDocs into other applications and services.




Tags: cloud computing, AWS, Amazon Web Services, machine learning, containerization, AWS services


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