The 10 Least Known Amazon AWS Services

Amazon Web Services offers more than 200 services, including computing, storage, machine learning, database, Internet of Things, and many more. Besides services like EC2 (computing), S3 (storage), and Lambda (serverless computing), which are probably the most famous ones, AWS has other less-known services. These services cover a niche that not every customer has demand for. The following list of 10 AWS services is just an example to give you some inspiration for services that you may not have used or even heard about before. Do let me know in the comments if you are using one of these already and how.

#1: AWS Ground Station

If you are planning to manage your fleet of satellites in orbit, but you do not want to establish and maintain ground stations all over the world, then AWS Ground Station [1] is for you. AWS Ground Station is a fully managed service that lets you control your satellite communication. Via the service, you can upload data to your satellites and, of course, download whatever kind of data gets collected for further processing in the cloud. Having your satellite data back and stored on Amazon S3, you can use, i.e., Amazon SageMaker to apply machine learning algorithms to your data set.

The pricing model of AWS Ground Station is Pay-as-you-go. To control the communication towards your satellites, you have to schedule and book antenna time. Currently, AWS offers antennas in Oregon (US), Ohio (US), Middle East (Bahrain), EU (Stockholm), Asia Pacific (Sydney), EU (Ireland), Africa (Cape Town), Hawaii (US), and Asia Pacific (Seoul). Depending on the communication band you are using, costs vary from $3 (Narrowband reserved) and go up to $22 per minute for Wideband On-Demand.

#2: AWS Snow Family

AWS Snow Family [2] supports you with edge computing and the possibility of migrating your data into the cloud. If you have a large amount of data that you want to migrate into AWS and you do not want to saturate your uplink for days, weeks, or even years, you can order a Snowball. The Snowball is a device with a capacity of 80 TB (Terabytes). Copy your data to the Snowball and then ship it back to Amazon, where your data gets finally transferred into your account. If you need even more capacity because you have to transfer an insane amount of data into the cloud, you can order a so-called Snowmobile. A Snowmobile is a complete data center on wheels, shipped in a 45-foot long ruggedized container with a capacity of up to 100 PB (Peta Bytes — 1 PB = 1,000 TB).

If you have to process your data as close to where the data is created (the edge), you can pick the device covering your needed computing power. Either the smallest device — the 2.1kg Snowcone device, which can run AWS IoT Greengrass or Amazon EC2 instances. The next bigger one would be the Snowball device — a mid-size edge device that provides 52 vCPUs, block and object storage, and an optional GPU if you have a machine learning use case.

#3: Amazon Honeycode

Amazon Honeycode [3] was launched in June 2020. The fully managed service allows you to build Web and Mobile Apps for your team without writing a single line of code. With a visual editor, you start with a so-called spreadsheet model which holds your data. Second, you build your app's layer defining the app's look&feel and link to the content it should show/work on—everything just with drag&drop and without knowing any programming language at all. You can add automatic actions that run if some conditions are fulfilled.

Honeycode comes with a huge list of app templates that you can use right out of the box or adapt to your teams' needs. Templates are, i.e., Todo- lists, Task tracker, Budget Approval, Employee Onboarding, and many more. Depending on the team size, pricing ranges from $0 and goes up to $29.99 per month. Plans differ mainly in the number of rows a workbook can consist of. Please note that the service is still marked as beta.

#4: AWS Wavelength

AWS Wavelength [4] provides you with the ability to build ultra-low latency applications running at the edge for 5G devices. The service embeds AWS compute (EC2) and storage services (EBS) within 5G networks. The so-called Wavelength Zone locations cover 5G networks from Verizon, KDDI, SK Telecom, and Vodafone. Running your applications on an EC2 instance in the desired subnet directly at the edge of the telecom provider allows your application to react as fast as possible. Possible use-cases are in the area of Machine learning or connected vehicle application where low latency is a key element and very important.

#5: AWS Cloud9

If you want to have a cloud-based, fully managed IDE (integrated development environment) running in a browser and do not want to maintain a local installation by yourself, AWS Cloud 9 [5] could be your service. Cloud 9 is already set up and ready to go for the most popular programming languages like Python, Javascript, PHP, C/C++, and others. It includes an editor, a terminal, and an integrated debugger. From the terminal, which gives you access to the underlying EC2 instance, you can get access to a pre-configured AWS Command Line Interface, which makes it easy to manage and communicate with other AWS services. If you share your development environment with others in your team, you can do pair programming in real-time, working on the same source code files and chatting about your progress in a chat window within Cloud9.

Pricing for Cloud9 is also Pay-as-you-go. You only pay for the amount of time the underlying EC2 instance is running and the storage resources you are using. For the price of a coffee-to-go, you can use Cloud9 roughly for a month.

#6: Amazon Braket

Amazon Braket [6] is a fully managed service for quantum computing in the cloud. You can either run your quantum algorithms within a simulator or on real quantum computing hardware called Quantum Processing Unit (QPU). Programming is done using the Python-based Amazon Braket SDK [11]. To run your quantum algorithms, it is recommended to use a simulator first. You can choose a simulator that runs locally within your environment or run your quantum circuits on an AWS-managed simulator. Braket supports two local quantum simulators — a state vector simulator can be used for small-sized simulations of up to 25 qubits. The second local simulator is a density matrix simulator that can be used on small circuits of up to 12 qubits. There you can choose particular qubits and gates and apply noise operations. The simulated system resembles a real quantum processing unit where noise is one of the most dominant factors. Managed AWS simulators are a State Vector Simulator (SV1), a Density Matrix Simulator (DM1), and a high-performance Tensor Network Simulator (TN1).

Running your algorithms on a QPU, Amazon currently provides five devices from D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti. D-Wave is only supporting quantum annealer devices where IonQ and Rigetti devices are gate-based. The IonQ QPU is based on ion trap technology, where Rigetti devices are based on superconducting qubits. More details about the provided Quantum computer hardware can be found here.

Like all the other AWS services, you pay by usage, and it differs if you’re going to run your algorithms on a simulator or a real quantum computer. Simulator pricing is calculated by the time your algorithms runs. Using dedicated hardware, you pay the number of how often your algorithm was executed. If you’re interested in more details about programming a quantum computer, you may want to have a look at a previous article I wrote: Quantum Computing With Amazon Braket

#7: AWS Device Farm

If you are an app developer and have to test your app against various real devices (smartphones and tablets), AWS Device Farm [7] could be an exciting service. After uploading your app file (APK or IPA), AWS Device Farm scans this file and offers you a list of compatible devices managed by Amazon in the cloud. Next, you specify/upload your prepared test cases (i.e., Appium or Calabash tests). Optionally you can specify a particular device state, i.e., set the device GPS position to given latitude/longitude, install other apps, select the device locale, or modify the network profile (i.e., turn on/off the Wifi). After this, you are ready to go and run your test against the defined device pool.

After your tests go through, a test report gets generated, and you get detailed information about which tests passed and which one failed. The report includes e.g. log files, metadata, and screenshots. AWS Device Farm pricing offers three different options. Either Pay-as-you-go with $0.17 per device minute, unlimited testing starts at $250.00 per month, or you can choose to pick a private device that starts at $200 per month. Besides testing on real devices, AWS Device Farm also supports testing your HTML5-based-apps on various Desktop browsers.

#8: Amazon Macie

Amazon Macie [8] is a fully managed service that helps you to protect your data. It uses machine learning algorithms and pattern matching to discover potential classified data that you are unaware of, might have already forgotten, or simply never intended to be publicly available within some of your Amazon S3 buckets. Therefore it continuously scans an inventory of your buckets. If Macie finds personal identifiable information (PII) like passwords, names, addresses, or credit card numbers the service can alert you on that sensitive data. Amazon Macie allows companies to fulfill regulations like the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Of course, you can set up custom-defined data types as well. Using regular expressions allows the service to discover whatever kind of proprietary or unique data you want to be detectable. Via the AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS), it is also possible to dump a database from Amazon RDS to a bucket and let Macie run over this data.

Pricing is per bucket, which gets supervised and continuously scanned and per scanned GB of data. $0.10 per bucket, the first GB of processed data is for free, and the next 50,000 GB/month would cost $1.00 per GB.

#9: Amazon Lightsail

Amazon Lightsail [9] belongs to the area of computing services of AWS and gives you the possibility to spin up virtual servers with just a few clicks. You can choose the underlying operating system (Linux or Windows) and then pick up an application you want to run on top of it. Installing a popular Content Management System like WordPress or Joomla can be done within seconds without knowing anything about virtual servers or database systems running in the background.

Lightsail also supports an easy way to run docker containers. The service is an easy way to create an environment for web applications, try out new things without knowing anything or less about the needed infrastructure and services behind it. Virtual servers start at $3.50 per month and you get 512 MB Memory, 1 Core Processor, 20 GB SSD Disk, and 1 TB transfer volume. Managed databases starting at $15 per month.

#10: Amazon Sumerian

With Amazon Sumerian [10] you can build and run browser-based 3D AR- (Augmented Reality) and VR- (Virtual Reality) applications. These applications can be embedded into existing web pages. The Sumerian editor supports you with pre-defined scenes and asset packets. An Asset Type is, for instance, a 3D Skeleton that you can use to create e.g. an avatar that communicates with your web users. For interacting and reacting programmatically on user input you can use Javascript to build up interaction logic.

Using the Sumerian editor to build your 3D scenes is free of charge. You are paying for the amount of storage your 3D assets are using. Additionally, you have to pay for the traffic volume your published scene is generating. Also, the traffic volume which gets generated during the development while editing and running your scenes are charged for.

Conclusion

It’s quite amazing how many services within different areas AWS is offering. This list is still increasing and if you are interested in AWS cloud services the AWS News Blog can help you to keep track of it. Most of the services are free-tier eligible so playing around with these services is for free within certain limits.

If you like this article please follow me to get informed on any new publications. Also, a clap is highly appreciated.

References

[1] AWS Ground Station
https://aws.amazon.com/ground-station

[2] AWS Snow Family
https://aws.amazon.com/snow

[3] Amazon Honeycode
https://www.honeycode.aws

[4] AWS Wavelength
https://aws.amazon.com/wavelength

[5] AWS Cloud9
https://aws.amazon.com/cloud9

[6] Amazon Braket
https://aws.amazon.com/braket

[7] AWS Device Farm
https://aws.amazon.com/device-farm

[8] Amazon Macie
https://aws.amazon.com/macie

[9] Amazon Lightsail
https://aws.amazon.com/lightsail

[10] Amazon Sumerian
https://aws.amazon.com/sumerian

[11] Amazon Braket SDK
https://github.com/aws/amazon-braket-sdk-python

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Frank Haubenschild

Frank Haubenschild

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Dad, Software Engineer, Photographer, Reef- & Bee-Keeper, Founder, Drone Pilot — 🤓 💻 📷 🐝 🐠 💡👨‍✈️