A Brief History Of AWS — And How Computing Has Changed
Even though the cloud hasn’t existed for too long in the grand scheme of things, looking back at the history of the cloud shows how far it has come in enabling businesses to accomplish their goals.
The forefront of the cloud revolution was conceived and is still driven today by one company, Amazon, and their Cloud computing division Amazon Web Services.
Whilst AWS was born out of a need to grow Amazon’s internal IT infrastructure, it has since become a multi-billion-dollar company, not only providing support for Amazon’s IT backbone, but for other industry titans like Netflix, Dropbox, and Reddit to name a few.
Where did it all start? And what problems does AWS solve?
The idea originated from a need to develop efficiency on Amazon’s side, and the need to scale rapidly as the business grew.
Back in 2003, Amazon realized that they had a significant advantage compared to their competitors. This advantage was Amazon infrastructure services, and their ability to manage and scale their infrastructure reliably and efficiently. This is where the idea of Amazon Web Services was originally born.
The idea began as an ‘Operating System of the Internet’, where different hardware resources are isolated (namely compute, storage, memory etc.) as components to this operating system and served up as managed services which take all the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” off the developers’ hands. This was a revolutionary idea which takes the need to manage hardware and physical infrastructure away and allows businesses to focus on their business case.
Amazon decided to dive into turning this idea into reality. Amazon was already fantastic at building reliable and cost-effective data centers (out of necessity) and as they continued to explore this idea more and more, they realized that this domain of computing was not only untouched but had massive potential for both Amazon as a business, and AWS as an arm of Amazon in its own right.
As Andy Jassy (former AWS CEO) said:
“We realized we could contribute all of those key components of that internet operating system, and with that we went to pursue this much broader mission, which is AWS today, which is really to allow any organization or company or any developer to run their technology applications on top of our technology infrastructure platform.”
The Beginnings of AWS
The very beginning of AWS was in 2006 when the Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) was launched. This was shortly followed by S3, EC2, and with these first offerings made by AWS, the foundations were being built to push AWS to be a global player in cloud computing.
Since then, AWS have come along in leaps and strides, hosting many conferences like Re:invent, Storage Day, Re:inforce to name a few. The total amount of services has grown to over 200 with a broad span of services based on storage, compute, machine learning, IoT, etc. This enables both startups and enterprises alike to be able to build scalable, manageable solutions much quicker than they would have had to in the past.
The future is looking remarkably bright for AWS — with an annual growth of circa 40%, there is no sign of the cloud going anywhere, and it is important to realize where this world has come from.
What is important to note is that the concept of cloud computing didn’t really exist until AWS began to pioneer the idea back in the 2000s, and the world of IT in general has changed unrecognizably.
There are several benefits that have been gained from shifting to a cloud computing model, only which become obvious when we compare it to the world we have come from.
The world before cloud (whilst it served us well), was fraught with issues in scalability, redundancy and massive over provisioning of servers. Just in case capacity went above what was expected. Anyone who wanted to have any kind of digital blueprint would have to purchase their own hardware, servers, data centers, and hire all the relevant staff to manage it all. This was exclusive as start-ups and cash poor businesses would massively struggle to get enough capital up front to launch their first website, build a database or anything similar.
Key Advantages compared to traditional Cloud Computing
The world AWS have built gives us the following key advantages compared to traditional computing:
- Trade capital expense for variable expense
Switching your expenses model to paying as you go versus all upfront enables startups and smaller enterprises to build quickly, and cost effectively.
- Benefit from massive economies of scale
With millions of other customers using AWS, you benefit from a shared pool of resources which on aggregate brings your cost down massively compared to running your own data center.
- Stop guessing about capacity
You don’t have to guess capacity upfront, because you can scale up and down as much as you need depending on your requirements, without being constrained by how much you have provisioned for yourself.
- Increase speed and agility
You can launch applications in minutes potentially with the use of AWS managed services. With a range of easy-to-use developer tools, you can launch projects quickly and efficiently.
- Focus on what matters
If you don’t need to provision servers, or look after the building, manage staff etc., you can focus on your business use case and focus on delivering value to your customers.
- Go global in minutes
You don’t have to worry about managing hardware overseas or having high latency for your end users. You can launch applications closely to your end users through the AWS Global Infrastructure, and have applications launched globally quickly.
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