What Is Amazon EC2?

Myles Brown | Thursday, January 27, 2022

What Is Amazon EC2?

As part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-computing platform, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) provides businesses a flexible approach to reliably achieve their performance goals. What is EC2? EC2 is the engine behind AWS that allows users to deploy as many virtual machines as necessary with all the advantages of their own state-of-the-art data center, but without the costs. Amazon EC2 makes it easy for you to obtain virtual servers, also known as compute instances or instances, quickly and inexpensively. You simply choose the instance type you want based on the requirements of the application or software that you plan to run on your instance, the template you’d like to use, which can be based on Windows or Linux, and launch the quantity of instances you need. Each instance type offers different compute, memory and storage capabilities. You can do this with a few clicks from the AWS Management Console or automate the process via an API using Software Development Kit (SDK) in your choice of language. EC2 allows users to launch, manage and scale the use of multiple virtual machines (instances) by automatically adjusting computing power for drops and spikes in traffic, which eliminates the need for forecasting. Amazon EC2 has a staggering rise in users, ultimately helping lead to rapid growth for AWS overall.

The AWS platform provides preconfigured templates — known as AMIs (Amazon Machine Images) — for users to launch instances for various configurations of CPU, memory and storage, and has an added layer of security for user access that involves AWS storing a public key as well as a private copy in a secure place. Moreover, Amazon EC2 security also allows users to store data in multiple regions and availability zones around the world. Users can even connect to a virtual private cloud (VPC) or a network outside of the AWS cloud infrastructure.

AWS user data is a set of commands when an instance is launched. This function is best used with AWS Auto Scaling, setting up newly launched instances and automating deployment. User data can be passed onto an instance, and then configuration tasks and scripts can be carried out. On top of the data that is automatically passed upon launch, "you can choose to pass additional user data to your instance, using the EC2 User Data field in your server or array properties,” according to Flexera. “However, this field is provided for special cases, such as when you are using an image that requires EC2 user data, or need to use EC2 user data for a specialized purpose."

The 5 Types of AWS EC2 Instances:

1. General Purpose Instance

Amazon EC2 is one of the most-used AWS services, general-purpose AWS EC2 instances provide a favorable balance of compute, memory and networking resources. They also have the added advantage of being suitable for a range of workloads. There are three subcategories under the "general purpose" umbrella:

  • A1 instances can be synchronized with the Arm architecture and are suitable for scaled workloads such as distributed data stores, caching fleets and web servers.
  • M5, M5a and M5d instances create a cloud that is ideal for gaming servers, small to medium databases and application servers. 
  • T2 and T3 instances allow users to increase or decrease a CPU's performance. This instance is best used for code repositories, microservices, websites and development and staging environments.

2. Compute Optimized Instance:

The compute-optimized instance is best for applications that rely on high-performance processors. Compute-dependent applications are ideal for use in this EC2 instance. These include high-performance web servers, scientific modeling programs, batch processors and highly scalable multiplayer gaming servers. The compute-optimized instances in this category include C5, C4 and C5n. Compute-optimized instances are a great option for many because they’re available for a relatively low cost given the amount of computing power needed.

3. Memory Optimized Instance:

Memory-optimized instances are great for delivering peak performance when processing large data sets. Moreover, this instance can easily be used for data mining and data analysis. This makes it especially useful to scientists and other professions that rely on collecting large data sets for continuous monitoring.

The memory-optimized instance is ideal when it comes to high-performance relational databases as well as applications that process large volumes of data in real time. These instances do not require a lot of computing power, but they do require a computer with a large amount of RAM to function efficiently. Instances of this type include X1e, X1 and R.

4. Accelerated Computing Instance:

Accelerated-computing instances are optimized for graphics-intensive applications. These instances are important because they can provide fast performance even when the CPU clock rate increases. Thus, accelerated computing instances are best suited for 3D rendering, speech analysis, genome sequencing and machine learning. The different instances under this broad umbrella include P3, P2, G3 and F1.

5. Storage Optimized Instance:

Storage-optimized instances are mostly used for professions that deal with large, varying data sets, which often must be written in memory and require sequential access. Storage-optimized instances are helpful when it comes to delivering high disk throughput and low latency SSD or HDD storage for applications. For this reason, storage-optimized instances are most used with big clusters of data and applications that process it. These can include Apache Kafka and NoSQL databases.

Storage-optimized instances include D2, H1 and I3. D2 instances offer the lowest price per disk throughput performance; H1 instances offer up to 16 TB of HDD-based local storage; and I3 instances provide non-volatile memory express (NVMe) instance storage, which is great for low latency, high random I/O performance requirements.

Amazon allows users to launch and manage server instances at their convenience. It also allows users to set up instances with their own choice of configurations. That’s why Amazon EC2 is one of the most-used AWS services — it’s extremely flexible and allows users to work with servers best suited to their goals.

AWS is set up to be automatically scalable, ensuring admins are consistently providing a crash-free experience on applications hosted on the cloud. You can also pay as you go, allowing you to save money by only paying for the hours you use. AWS is also super reliable, since its network spans 21 regions around the world with more than 60 availability zones. Amazon EC2 is the ideal solution for anyone who wants to increase the load speed of an application no matter where in the world it’s used.

Amazon EC2 is the ideal solution for anyone who wants to increase the load speed of an application no matter where in the world it’s used.