AWS 101: How Does Amazon EC2 Work in Cloud Computing?

Posted by Gerald Van Guilder, Senior Cloud Architect

Feb 25, 2020


The first step in moving to the AWS cloud is recognizing it’s time to do it. The second step is planning your migration, including understanding what services will make your cloud deployment work for your organization’s specific needs.

That’s where AWS 101 comes in.

In this ongoing introduction to modern cloud computing, we’re here to help you better understand the nuances behind architecting the ultimate cloud computing environment.

AWS offers a variety of critical services, each designed to address specific needs or challenges in cloud architecture. Over the next few months, we’ll take a look at each of these services to help you break down what makes up the Amazon cloud.

Does Amazon EC2 Deliver Functional Virtual Computing?

The first service we’ll dive into is Amazon EC2, ultimately answering the question, "How does Amazon EC2 work?"

This service focuses on your cloud environment’s compute capacity. The key terms to keep in mind when considering booting these web servers, also known as virtual machines (VMs) or instances are, “resizable,” and “secure.”

MachineSimply put, Amazon EC2 provides resizable, secure compute capacity in the cloud via a VM. Why is this important?

You get complete control. Amazon EC2 provides you with simplified elastic web-scale computing so you or your developers can build failure-resistant apps in the cloud within what AWS calls a “true, virtual computing environment.”

With this service, you can use simple web-based interfaces to…

  • Launch instances in a variety of operating systems, including Linux, Windows, CentOS and Debian
  • Load instances in your custom app environment
  • Manage identity permissions on your network
  • Use as many systems as you need to run your instance

What Are the Key Features of Amazon EC2?

When you want to build enterprise applications that are both scalable and failure resistant, Amazon EC2 delivers the features you need to make this happen for multiple instances. These include…

  • Ability to increase or decrease capacity within minutes, as opposed to hours or even days
  • 99.99% SLA commitment for each Amazon EC2 region, which consists of at least three availability zones
  • 275 instance types
  • A wide variety of workloads, including Machine Learning, Windows, SAP, HPC and more
  • Support of 89 security standards and compliance certifications
  • A lockdown security model that prohibits administrative access to eliminate error and tampering
  • Pause/resume capabilities for instances through hibernation to avoid instance usage charges
  • Optimized CPU configurations for greater instances control
  • Flexible storage options, including built-in instance storage, persistent, highly available Amazon Elastic Block Storage (Amazon EBS) and simple, persistent, scalable and fully managed Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS)
  • Multiple locations for instances
  • Monthly billing for only the resources you actually use in the month
  • Elastic IP addresses for dynamic cloud computing
  • Capacity auto-scaling according user’s custom-designed conditions for maximum performance and minimal costs
  • HDD storage instances for high-density storage needs
  • Enhanced networking for improved performance with lower latencies and network jitter

This list is merely a snapshot of all the great things Amazon EC2 delivers in a cloud computing environment. I could keep going on by listing more, but I want to jump into how you use this AWS service in your cloud deployment of applications so you can better understand why I find Amazon EC2 so exciting.

How Does Amazon EC2 Work?

It’s pretty simple to get up and running with Amazon EC2. You have a choice of pre-configured, templated Amazon Machine Images (AMI) to use for a quick launch. Or, if you prefer, you can create your own AMI that contains all of your libraries, data, applications and relevant configuration settings.

Amazon EC2 allows you to customize settings by configuring security and network access. After you do that, you determine your AMI instances and whether or not you want to run in multiple locations. You’ll also want to decide if you want static IP endpoints. You can do all of this in the AWS Console with minimum friction.

Elastic applicationsOnce you’re ready to get started, you’ll boot, terminate and monitor as many instances as needed. You can do this through a web service or a variety of available management tools. And, as I mentioned above, you’ll pay only for the resources you use.

The service’s elasticity supports the minimized costs that come with a “pay-for-what-you-use” billing model. Because you can instantly scale your VM environment to address usage spikes or drops, you have the power to control the number of resources being used at any point in time.

This differs from traditional on-premise hosting, which typically gives you a fixed amount of resources for a set amount of time. That means you typically don’t have the chance to quickly react to a change in usage like you can in a reliable, secure and elastic Amazon EC2 environment.

Why Should You Consider the AWS Cloud?

There’s no better time than now to take your AWS cloud computing journey to the next level. Amazon EC2 allows you to do this quickly with low risk.

You’ll also benefit from massive economies of scale, which means you won’t have to guess at usage capacity and, in turn, will enjoy lower infrastructure costs all on a pay-as-you-go billing model. Your cloud computing environment will help you dramatically increase your business agility, not slow it down.

This is just a high-level AWS 101 overview that answers the general question, “How does Amazon EC2 work in the cloud?” There are much deeper layers of the elastic AWS cloud and how Amazon EC2 supports it.

Should you have more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out for further conversation or even a cloud assessment. We want to be sure you understand all that Amazon Web Services has to offer, so also be sure to check out other blogs in our AWS 101 series.

AWS 101: An Introduction to Modern Cloud Computing

AWS 101: What is Amazon WorkSpaces?

AWS 101: What is Amazon S3 and Why Should I Use It?

AWS 101: How AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) Works

AWS 101: How AWS Cloud Security Securely Protects Your Data

AWS 101: Why You Should Be Deploying AWS Lambda to Run Code

AWS 101: Using Auto Scaling to Manage Infrastructure


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Gerald Van Guilder, Senior Cloud Architect

Gerald (Jerry) Van Guilder specializes in GCP and AWS architecture, deployments/implementations and migrations. One of the many things that he enjoys is enabling clients to feel empowered not only by technologies but also in the skill/knowledge transfer that transpires during the course of an engagement. Jerry lives (and works) in Syracuse, New York, with his wife and two pups.

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