Datacenters are crucial for any cloud infrastructure provider, and Amazon AWS, being a global public cloud provider, is constantly building them around the world. Amazon Web Services serves millions of customers around the world and as a result, has to set up a global infrastructure to provide a high performance, low latency, and cost-effective service. Therefore, it offers a unique global architecture to build highly available, redundant, and reliable applications. This unique infrastructure is built in what AWS refers to as Regions, each having multiple Availability Zones with one or more datacenters. It allows customers to choose the Region and AZ to plan business continuity and build infrastructure which suits their business best in terms of compliance, proximity to end users, cost, or data residency constraints.
It is essential for customers to understand how the AWS infrastructure works and how best to deploy their application to build reliable architecture. It’s vital to understand each of the components of the infrastructure (Region, AZs, & Edge Location), how they are linked, and how you can use them. Below we explain the concepts of AWS global infrastructure as well as the best practices for maximum deployment, and how you can avoid losses in the unlikely event of failover and disaster.
As part of preparing for the AWS Certification Exams, you need to understand how to utilize Amazon’s Global Infrastructure to build highly available, scalable, fault tolerant and cost-effective solutions in the cloud!
An AWS Region is a geographic location in the world, from where Amazon operates its Cloud services, for example, the US West region, Singapore region, and EU region. The AWS Cloud has 18 geographic Regions and 1 Local Region, which are grouped into larger geographical areas for easy management. The Regions are spread over different geographic regions to reduce latency and customers can choose any of the Regions. For instance, if you wish to serve your customers in Europe, you should pick a Region in Europe to deliver a great experience for your customers. Having Regions spread across different areas also allows for compliance with laws and regulations relating to data storage. Each of these Regions is capable of existing independently when it comes to cases of natural calamities such as Tsunami or Earthquake. Therefore, your business will continue even in the worst cases possible.
Choosing a Region
When selecting your Region, it’s best to host your infrastructure as close to the end users as possible to minimize latency. You can pick the Region you want to deploy your infrastructure from the dashboard of the service you select within the AWS Console. Also, you should note that not all AWS services are available in all Regions. Some services such as Amazon CloudFront or AWS Identity & Access Management are classified as global services, meaning that they are not tied to a specific Region. However, most AWS services are Region-specific. Therefore, when architecting your infrastructure, you need to understand which services are available in which Region.
Availability Zones are locations where Amazon hosts the network, storage, and database resources. A single Availability Zone can have more than one datacenter. Each Region consists of at least two Availability Zones which are physically separated, fault tolerant, and connected among themselves by high throughput, low latency, and highly redundant network. Each AZ has independent power, security, and cooling. Having two or more zones allows customers to deploy applications across different Availability Zones in the same region, thereby improving performance, low latency, and fault tolerance.
To have a highly resilient and high available application in a Region, AWS customers should run their applications independently and simultaneously across multiple AZs. Launching instances in different Availability Zones also helps you to protect your applications from failures that can affect a single zone such as power outage, as well as natural or other disasters such as fire and weather. In most cases, companies host applications in one geographic location and hold a backup in another location. However, with this Amazon’s model, customers can host and backup within the same Region across different Availability Zones.
AWS Edge Locations (Points of Presence)
Another component of the AWS Global Infrastructure is Edge Locations. These are AWS sites that are deployed worldwide in major cities and places with a high population. Edge Locations are used by AWS services such as AWS Lambda@Edge and AWS CloudFront to cache data and reduce latency for end-user access. For instance, if a user is in Singapore and the data is stored in Seattle, CloudFront recognizes the place of origin of the request and moves the data from Seattle to an Edge Location closest to the user. Therefore, the second request from Singapore will access the data faster than the first request as the system will access the data from the Edge storage in Singapore without having to go back to Seattle, therefore, significantly reducing latency.
In total, as of June 2018, AWS Cloud Global Infrastructure has 55 Availability Zones within 18 Geographic Regions and 1 Local Region. It also plans to have 12 more Availability Zones and four more Regions. Amazon CloudFront global network spans 119 Edge Locations in 58 cities, across 26 countries. However, the numbers increase every year as AWS works to keep up with the increasing demand for cloud computing services.
Amazon Web Services offer customers a very effective way to architect and deploy infrastructure, an application, a service or a platform that is highly available, resilient, fault-tolerant and scalable. Customers can achieve this by launching multiple EC2 instances in different Availability Zones. Similarly, customers can utilize multiple regions to create high availability and ensure minimal or no impact occurs to their infrastructure in the unlikely event of a region failure. Services such as Relational Database Service (RDS) are fault tolerant because they have multi-AZ deployment models built-in. Therefore, depending on the level of business continuity you need, or if you’re a global organization with customers across different countries, you may choose to build your AWS environment to support your applications and services across multiple regions.
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