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Back in the summer Gartner positioned Amazon Web Services once again as its Magic Quadrant Leader for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. For the sixth consecutive year, AWS was way ahead of the competition for its “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute.” It remains the market leader for public cloud.

So, it’s no surprise that AWS is where many turn when looking to utilise the power of pay-as-you-go cloud. However what looks exciting at the start can become a daunting prospect once you dig deeper.

AWS announced over 700 new services and features in 2015, that’s an increase of around 40% over the previous year and so far in 2016 they’ve debuted over 630. With the Re-Invent conference coming up at the end of this month, that number is sure to continue to move in an upward direction.

So, with so many services available from AWS where on earth do you start?

Which AWS services should you use?

Given the rapid nature of change when planning any migration to the public cloud, it is clear that a well-defined strategy is key in enabling your business to keep up with the pace of innovation and maximise the potential benefits. Amazon’s Cloud Adoption Framework offers a structure to assist in planning your journey to their cloud and your transition into a digital business.

On-premise workloads

For example, if you have an on-premise workload that consists of multiple servers accessing a traditional file-based shared storage solution such as a SAN or NAS, you could ‘lift and shift’ to AWS using EC2 instances for compute backed by EFS for storage of your shared data. This would be a perfectly reasonable migration approach. The question is, how much better off are you by moving to the cloud? If we anticipate the volume of data will grow by 1TB per month this would mean your storage costs would rise by $300 per month or around $11,000 over a 3 year period using EFS. That’s a big increase and probably compares unfavourably alongside increasing the capacity of your already provisioned on premise solution. However, if you reconfigured the application to use object-based storage, such as Amazon’s S3 service, the increase in cost would shrink to just over $1000 over the three years – that’s a 90% saving with the additional benefit that you don’t need to worry about running out of physical capacity, as you would do with on premise. The elastic nature of AWS means you would just continue to consume as much storage as you need.

The right instance

Similarly, choosing the right instance type for your compute workloads can often present a challenge, especially where the easy option is to simply replicate the capacity that you currently have provisioned on your on-premise environment. Again, although this may initially seem like a sensible approach, it fails to exploit some of the fundamental benefits of using a public cloud platform. AWS currently offers 11 different instance types – comprising various combinations of CPU, memory, storage and networking capacity – and each type comes in several sizes, enabling you to choose which is most appropriate for your workload. The inherently flexible nature of the cloud can help here as, unlike traditional on-premise deployments, you are not tied into the hardware choices made at the outset.

With AWS you can profile multiple, different instance types in combination with features like autoscaling to identify exactly which instance type best fits your applications needs. This kind of testing can even be integrated into your Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery process. Whether AWS brings new instance types online or your application’s new features place different demands on the underlying infrastructure, continual reassessment and evaluation ensures that you are always getting optimal performance at the lowest possible cost.

When considering migrating to the cloud the sheer wealth of services on offer can at first appear overwhelming. Businesses need to be more agile in their approach to the delivery and operation of their workloads as an initial assessment is unlikely to be 100% accurate. The flexibility of cloud-based services means you are not locked in to initial design choices. You can and indeed should, continually reassess and benchmark your architectural approach to ensure you are getting the most out of what the public cloud has to offer.

By Jeff Tooke, Cloud Solutions Architect, SystemsUp

SystemsUp’s highly technical consultants design, build and implement cloud solutions that produce better business outcomes. They are vendor agnostic and will only select the cloud services that best suit your requirements. SystemsUp has high level status with the main public cloud vendors, including Advanced Cloud Consulting Partner and Authorised Government Partner status with AWS.

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