The Amazon Web Services API in Real-World Use - dummies

The Amazon Web Services API in Real-World Use

By Bernard Golden

Even though the Amazon Web Services (AWS) API seems to make everything easy, and the concept is easily understood, in practice it can be extremely challenging to use the AWS API properly — as you would expect, given the hundreds of pages devoted to the reference guide.

At this point, you might not feel confident about your ability to successfully use AWS. Understandably, you might feel that interacting with AWS is too complicated and difficult for even the old college try.

Never fear. Though the down-and-dirty details of using the AWS API are quite challenging, they’re unlikely to become stumbling blocks to achieving success with AWS.

That’s because many clever people have recognized that the API is difficult to use and have created tools to make AWS simpler to use. In this figure, you can see the four major categories of AWS interaction mechanisms that spare you from the burden of interacting with the AWS API directly.


  • AWS management console: Amazon offers a graphical web interface that allows you to interact with service (and your own) computing resources. For many people, the AWS management console is the primary mechanism they use to operate AWS. Even people who use the other two mechanisms to interact with AWS also make heavy use of the management console.

  • CLI/SDK: Many software engineers write applications that need to interact with AWS services directly. Now, calling the web services API directly is complicated and error-prone.

    Plumbing is a common way to refer to this sort of underlying functionality, like the AWS API — just as most of us wouldn’t want to have to install a whole new set of pipes only to fill a teapot, most software engineers would prefer not to have to deal with the details of the AWS API. To help them, Amazon and other companies have created language libraries (commonly called SDKs, standing for Software Development Kits) and a command line interface (commonly called a CLI), which allows commands to be entered in a terminal connected to AWS.

    The idea here is to offer a simpler programmatic interface to the set of functions that do the heavy lifting of interacting with the AWS API. A software engineer can more easily incorporate library routines into an application, making it easier and faster to build AWS-based applications.

  • Third-party tools: Many companies build tools that incorporate AWS. Some of these tools extend or simplify AWS itself, similar to what the language libraries do for software engineers. Other tools are products that offer separate functionality or even entire applications.

  • For example, a company might provide cloud management software that offers additional functionality not offered by the AWS management console. Other examples include programming environments from companies like Heroku and Engine Yard, data warehousing technology from Informatica and JasperSoft, and load-testing services from SOASTA. What these tools have in common is that they provide functionality to shield users from interacting with the AWS API, making AWS easier and faster to use.

All four of these AWS API interaction mechanisms act as proxies on your behalf — under the covers they make the necessary calls to the AWS API to use the AWS functionality for actions you want to perform.