Amazon became big by selling books online. They were the first to do this, when the market didn't exist. What got them big, and ultimately profitable, was their constant drive to improve their services, that is, offer more and different products, offer free delivery, add distribution centers for faster delivery, and improve their web services and IT infrastructure to handle the growing volume.
What eventually happen is they had an excess of computer servers on their network sitting idle during slack periods. They decided to sell time on their servers and thus was born Amazon AWS. Currently, Amazon AWS is the market leader in cloud computing.
Amazon AWS is not easy to get started using, there is a learning curve to figure out their terminology, and another learning curve to understand how to use the technology.
Because of the AWS learning curve, and that, a lot of companies have excess computer servers, there are a large number of companies offering cloud computing with more computer power at lower prices.
Amazon AWS still is the market leader. I think the reason is they offer a minimal virtual server to the public, called their "free tier" for one year for free. To get your feet wet in cloud computing it's easy to take advantage of this free tier for one year to learn cloud computing.
As you get going in the cloud, you want more computer power, and with AWS, its easy to put on more computer power, more memory, more storage space, and as you do, your monthly costs grow, but you've spent so much time learning AWS, it's just too much trouble to start over with another vendor, so you pay the monthly fee, and stay with AWS, after all it just goes on your credit card, you hardly notice the fee. I don't know why other companies don't offer this free tier for a year to compete with AWS, but right now I'm not aware of any companies that do.
AWS is marketed as an IaaS service, or infrastructure as a service. That means they offer you a computer in the cloud that you can configure any way you would like, including picking the operating system for your computer, and where that computer is located geographically.
You can run cloud computers in Singapore, Oregon, Virginia, and other locations around the world, all running the same software. You can keep these computers isolated or shared. That offers companies a lot of flexibility in configuring their networks for best response to their worldwide customers.
To configure your cloud computer, AWS offers 27 different areas of functionality, all with unique acronyms, thus the complexity and learning curve.
Before I get into this functionality, one has to ask why would an individual want a computer running on the Internet? We know why companies would want cloud computing, better reliability, controlled IT costs, better load balancing during peak usage, are a few of the reasons, but why an individual?
Running a computer in the cloud means I don't have to have a home computer, just a net book. It means I don't have to worry about computer viruses. If I get a virus, I just terminate that cloud computer, and start a new one. It's redundant, everything is backed up, and your instances are saved if you want to start a new identical instance, no problem. Bye, bye virus scans. It's reliable. If I have a software program I want to run 24 hours a day, I don't have to worry about power going off in my home. I can access my cloud computer anywhere in the world with a computer browser and I don't have to worry about logging into my home computer over the Internet. Finally, its secure. You have to set up an encrypted, secure password just start your instance, and Amazon generates a separate secure password for your log in.
Essentially, I have a computer running 24 hours a day, if I want, I can run it less, and turn it on and off to save money, that runs my software, on my operating system, with great reliability, and redundancy. I can have memory and disk space and special communication channels. I don't have to worry about a disk crash, or data backup. It's all done for me. All I have to do is pay the monthly fee.
As an example, I use a cloud computer for stock market investing. In the cloud on AWS, I have a computer running a trade processor, a bridge program, that takes stock trades from a company that runs a stock trading system, and places trades with my stock broker. All done over the Internet without human intervention. It runs 24 hours a day, and I can monitor it, if I want, but if I don't, I can sit back with ten toes up on a beach with a mai tai and trade stocks with out having to even look at, or think about, the stock market. I could run this on my home computer by leaving my home computer running all the time, but what happens if the power goes off at my house, while I'm away. This is much more reliable, and I can check my system with a web browser from any where in the world.
In my next post, I'll talk about the AWS alphabet soup functionality, and how to get started with AWS.