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The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Ecosystem

Without delving too deeply into the various pieces of the AWS puzzle, it should be clear that Amazon offers a number of services to its users. However, AWS hosts a far richer set of services than only the ones it provides.

In fact, users can find nearly everything they need within the confines of AWS to create almost any application they may want to implement. These services are available via the AWS ecosystem — the offerings of Amazon partners and third parties that host their offerings on AWS.

So, in addition to the 25+ services AWS itself offers, users can find services that

  • Offer preconfigured virtual machines with software components already installed and configured, to enable quick use

  • Manipulate images

  • Transmit or stream video

  • Integrate applications with one another

  • Monitor application performance

  • Ensure application security

  • Operate billing and subscriptions

  • Manage healthcare claims

  • Offer real estate for sale

  • Analyze genomic data

  • Host websites

  • Provide customer support

And really, this list barely scratches the surface of what's available within AWS. In a way, AWS is a modern-day bazaar, providing an incredibly rich set of computing capabilities from anyone who chooses to set up shop to anyone who chooses to purchase what's being offered.

On closer inspection, you can see that the AWS ecosystem is made up of three distinct subsystems:

  • AWS computing services provided by Amazon: As noted earlier, Amazon currently provides more than 25 AWS services and is launching more all the time. AWS provides a large range of cloud computing services — you'd do best to become familiar with many of them.

  • Computing services provided by third parties that operate on AWS: These services tend to offer functionality that enables you to build applications of a type that AWS doesn't strictly offer.

    For example, AWS offers some billing capability to enable users to build applications and charge people to use them, but the AWS service doesn't support many billing use cases — user-specific discounts based on the size of the company, for example.

    Many companies (and even individuals) offer services complementary to AWS that then allow users to build richer applications more quickly.

  • Complete applications offered by third parties that run on AWS: You can use these services, often referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service), over a network without having to install them on your own hardware.

  • Many, many companies host their applications on AWS, drawn to it for the same reasons that end users are drawn to it: low cost, easy access, and high scalability. An interesting trend within AWS is the increasing move by traditional software vendors to migrate their applications to AWS and provide them as SaaS offerings rather than as applications that users install from a CD or DVD on their own machines.

As you go forward with using AWS, be careful to recognize the differences between these three offerings within the AWS ecosystem, especially Amazon's role (or lack thereof) in all three.

Though third-party services or SaaS applications can be incredibly valuable to your computing efforts, Amazon, quite reasonably, offers no support or guarantee about their functionality or performance. It's up to you to decide whether a given non-AWS service is fit for your needs.

Amazon, always working to make it ever easier to locate and integrate third-party services into your application, has created the Amazon Marketplace as your go-to place for finding AWS-enabled applications. Moreover, being part of the Marketplace implies an endorsement by AWS, which will make you more confident about using a Marketplace application.

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