This article is for anyone interested in learning more about Amazon Web Services (AWS). I’ve tried to keep things relevant to people with a wide range of roles. This includes Software developers, testers, technical sales and others.
Perhaps your team or company is looking to invest more in the cloud. You might want to increase your knowledge to develop your career. Maybe you’re starting a new business which you’d like to host on AWS.
Whatever your reasons you’ll be in good company. According to Synergy Research Group, spend on cloud infrastructure increased by 42% in the first quarter of 2019. Many of the biggest household brand names such as Netflix, Airbnb and Expedia host their services on AWS. Although other cloud providers are catching up, AWS is still the largest by a long way. It commands around a third of overall market share (around twice the size of its next nearest competitor).
At first sight the scale and complexity of AWS can be a bit intimidating. At time of writing there were one hundred and forty services listed on the AWS dashboard. Fortunately, you don’t need to know about every service to get started.
There are several key “building block” services which form the core of the AWS platform. Getting familiar with these is a good place to start your learning:
- Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2): virtual servers
- Relational Database Service (RDS): relational databases
- Elastic Block Store (EBS): block storage
- Simple Storage Service (S3): file storage
- Identity and Access Management (IAM): users, groups and roles
- Virtual Private Cloud (VPC): networking
Amazon has a free Learning Library which provides videos covering these services and many others. I’ve included some suggested videos from the library below:
- Introduction to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)
- Introduction to Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS)
- Introduction to Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)
- Introduction to Amazon S3
- Introduction to Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
- Authentication and Authorization with AWS Identity and Access Management
One approach is to dip into each of these videos based on your interests. You can follow up with more advanced videos to find out more.
If you’d like a guided approach instead then Amazon provides the Cloud Practitioner Essentials course. The course is fairly high-level and can be covered in a day or two (four and a half hours of digital content). It will give you a general introduction to both AWS and all the key services.
There are also paid video learning sites like LinuxAcademy and acloud.guru. I haven’t used LinuxAcademy but do have an acloud.guru account and find the videos to be clear and generally high quality.
One of the best ways to learn is to get practical experience with AWS services. Most of the courses I mentioned earlier include labs which you can follow. There are also plenty of tutorials online for the different AWS services. Better still you could also come up with a project to try things out in a more realistic scenario.
To get started you can get a free tier account which gives you a free offer for lots of services for the first twelve months. Additionally, some services have an always free offer.
One thing to be aware of is that you can still be charged on the free tier. It’s a good idea to set up a budget alert on your free tier account which can be either zero or a small amount. Unfortunately this won’t stop any overspend but it can notify you by email or text when you exceed (or are forecast to exceed) your spending limit.
I’d recommend you always familiarise yourself with the pricing for a service and any free tier limits before launching resources. A search for “AWS [X] pricing” will usually land you on the relevant documentation. AWS also has a pricing calculator which can be useful.
A deeper dive
You can deepen your knowledge using the AWS whitepapers. These include topics like cloud computing economics and DevOps, or even papers specific to your industry.
Some important papers include the AWS Well-Architected Framework and Security Best Practices. You can get some of these papers on the Kindle store for free and this can be good for reading on the morning commute (assuming you use the train/bus).
There is a lot to keep up with in AWS and new services are being released or updated constantly. A lot of the churn won’t necessarily be relevant to your use case but it’s good to keep an eye out. Occasionally a new service or feature is released which can make your life a lot easier or can save you a lot of money. You can keep up-to-date with the latest developments by following the AWS blog or the AWS announcements page. There are also excellent weekly summary videos from acloud.guru and Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr.
There are regular AWS events which you can attend in person or online. I recently attended Amazon’s Builders Day in Edinburgh. The quality of speakers was excellent and there was a lot of interesting content. I would recommend attending a conference if you’re able.
In this article I’ve covered some resources for taking your first steps into using AWS. I hope you will find these to be helpful and enjoy the journey of learning more about the cloud!