Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
User Guide (API Version 2014-02-01)
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What Is Amazon EC2?

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) provides resizable computing capacity in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. Using Amazon EC2 eliminates your need to invest in hardware up front, so you can develop and deploy applications faster. You can use Amazon EC2 to launch as many or as few virtual servers as you need, configure security and networking, and manage storage. Amazon EC2 enables you to scale up or down to handle changes in requirements or spikes in popularity, reducing your need to forecast traffic.

Features of Amazon EC2

Amazon EC2 provides the following features:

  • Virtual computing environments, known as instances

  • Pre-configured templates for your instances, known as Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), that package the bits you need for your server (including the operating system and additional software)

  • Various configurations of CPU, memory, storage, and networking capacity for your instances, known as instance types

  • Secure login information for your instances using key pairs (AWS stores the public key, and you store the private key in a secure place)

  • Storage volumes for temporary data that's deleted when you stop or terminate your instance, known as instance store volumes

  • Persistent storage volumes for your data using Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), known as Amazon EBS volumes

  • Multiple physical locations for your resources, such as instances and Amazon EBS volumes, known as regions and Availability Zones

  • A firewall that enables you to specify the protocols, ports, and source IP ranges that can reach your instances using security groups

  • Static IP addresses for dynamic cloud computing, known as Elastic IP addresses

  • Metadata, known as tags, that you can create and assign to your Amazon EC2 resources

  • Virtual networks you can create that are logically isolated from the rest of the AWS cloud, and that you can optionally connect to your own network, known as virtual private clouds (VPCs)

For more information about the features of Amazon EC2, see the Amazon EC2 product page.

How to Get Started with Amazon EC2

The first thing you need to do is get set up to use Amazon EC2. After you are set up, you are ready to complete the Getting Started tutorial for Amazon EC2. Whenever you need more information about a feature of Amazon EC2, you can read the technical documentation.

If you have questions about whether AWS is right for you, Contact AWS Sales. If you have technical questions about Amazon EC2, use the Amazon EC2 forum.

You can provision Amazon EC2 resources, such as instances and volumes, directly using Amazon EC2. You can also provision Amazon EC2 resources using other services in AWS. For more information, see the following documentation:

To automatically distribute incoming application traffic across multiple instances, use Elastic Load Balancing. For more information, see Elastic Load Balancing Developer Guide.

To monitor basic statistics for your instances and Amazon EBS volumes, use Amazon CloudWatch. For more information, see Monitoring Your Instances with CloudWatch.

To monitor the calls made to the Amazon EC2 API for your account, including calls made by the AWS Management Console, command line tools, and other services, use AWS CloudTrail. For more information, see the AWS CloudTrail User Guide.

To get a managed relational database in the cloud, use Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to launch a database instance. Although you can set up a database on an EC2 instance, Amazon RDS offers the advantage of handling your database management tasks, such as patching the software, backing up, and storing the backups. For more information, see Amazon Relational Database Service Developer Guide.

Accessing Amazon EC2

Amazon EC2 provides a web-based user interface, the Amazon EC2 console. If you've signed up for an AWS account, you can access the Amazon EC2 console by signing into the AWS Management Console and selecting EC2 from the console home page.

If you prefer to use a command line interface, you have several options:

AWS Command Line Interface (CLI)

Provides commands for a broad set of AWS products, and is supported on Windows, Mac, and Linux/Unix. To get started, see AWS Command Line Interface User Guide. For more information about the commands for Amazon EC2, see ec2.

Amazon EC2 Command Line Interface (CLI) Tools

Provides commands for Amazon EC2, Amazon EBS, and Amazon VPC, and is supported on Windows, Mac, and Linux/Unix. To get started, see Setting Up the Amazon EC2 Command Line Interface Tools on Linux and Commands (CLI Tools) in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud Command Line Reference.

AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell

Provides commands for a broad set of AWS products for those who script in the PowerShell environment. To get started, see AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell User Guide.

Amazon EC2 provides a Query API. These requests are HTTP or HTTPS requests that use the HTTP verbs GET or POST and a Query parameter named Action. For more information about the API actions for Amazon EC2, see Actions in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud API Reference.

If you prefer to build applications using language-specific APIs instead of submitting a request over HTTP or HTTPS, AWS provides libraries, sample code, tutorials, and other resources for software developers. These libraries provide basic functions that automatically take care of tasks such as cryptographically signing your requests, retrying requests, and handling error responses, so that it is easier for you to get started. For more information about downloading the AWS SDKs, see AWS SDKs and Tools. For a list of available APIs for Amazon EC2, see Available APIs for Amazon EC2.

Pricing for Amazon EC2

When you sign up for AWS, you can get started with Amazon EC2 for free using the AWS Free Usage Tier.

Amazon EC2 provides the following purchasing options for instances:

On-Demand Instances

Pay for the instances that you use by the hour, with no long-term commitments or upfront payments.

Reserved Instances

Make a low, one-time, upfront payment for an instance, reserve it for a one- or three-year term, and pay a significantly lower hourly rate for these instances.

Spot Instances

Specify the maximum hourly price that you are willing to pay to run a particular instance type. The Spot Price fluctuates based on supply and demand, but you never pay more than the maximum price you specified. If the Spot Price moves higher than your maximum price, Amazon EC2 shuts down your Spot Instances.

For a complete list of charges and specific prices for Amazon EC2, see Amazon EC2 Pricing.

To calculate the cost of a sample provisioned environment, see AWS Economics Center.

To see your bill, go to your AWS Account Activity page. Your bill contains links to usage reports that provide details about your bill. To learn more about AWS account billing, see AWS Account Billing.

If you have questions concerning AWS billing, accounts, and events, Contact AWS Support.

For an overview of Trusted Advisor, a service that helps you optimize the costs, security, and performance of your AWS environment, see AWS Trusted Advisor.