AWS and a case study of one of its customer — Coursera

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 175 fully featured services from data centers globally. Millions of customers — including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies — are using AWS to lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster.

AWS has significantly more services, and more features within those services, than any other cloud provider–from infrastructure technologies like compute, storage, and databases–to emerging technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, data lakes and analytics, and Internet of Things. This makes it faster, easier, and more cost effective to move your existing applications to the cloud and build nearly anything you can imagine.

AWS also has the deepest functionality within those services. For example, AWS offers the widest variety of databases that are purpose-built for different types of applications so you can choose the right tool for the job to get the best cost and performance.

AWS has the largest and most dynamic community, with millions of active customers and tens of thousands of partners globally. Customers across virtually every industry and of every size, including startups, enterprises, and public sector organizations, are running every imaginable use case on AWS. The AWS Partner Network (APN) includes thousands of systems integrators who specialize in AWS services and tens of thousands of independent software vendors (ISVs) who adapt their technology to work on AWS.

AWS is architected to be the most flexible and secure cloud computing environment available today. Our core infrastructure is built to satisfy the security requirements for the military, global banks, and other high-sensitivity organizations. This is backed by a deep set of cloud security tools, with 230 security, compliance, and governance services and features. AWS supports 90 security standards and compliance certifications, and all 117 AWS services that store customer data offer the ability to encrypt that data.

With AWS, you can leverage the latest technologies to experiment and innovate more quickly. We are continually accelerating our pace of innovation to invent entirely new technologies you can use to transform your business. For example, in 2014, AWS pioneered the serverless computing space with the launch of AWS Lambda, which lets developers run their code without provisioning or managing servers. And AWS built Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed machine learning service that empowers everyday developers and scientists to use machine learning–without any previous experience.

AWS has the most extensive global cloud infrastructure. No other cloud provider offers as many Regions with multiple Availability Zones connected by low latency, high throughput, and highly redundant networking. AWS has 77 Availability Zones within 24 geographic regions around the world, and has announced plans for nine more Availability Zones and three more AWS Regions in Indonesia, Japan, and Spain. The AWS Region/Availability Zone model has been recognized by Gartner as the recommended approach for running enterprise applications that require high availability.

One of the company which got huge benefit from AWS is Coursera. Coursera is an educational technology company with a mission to provide universal access to the world’s best curricula. The company partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer online courses for anyone to take, for free. Coursera has more than 13 million users from 190 countries enrolled and offers more than 1,000 courses from 119 institutions, everything from Programming in Python to Songwriting. Coursera was founded in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.

“Amazon ECS enabled Coursera to focus on releasing new software rather than spending time managing clusters.”

— by Frank Chen, a Software Engineer in Coursera.

The challenges faced by Coursera :-

  • Coursera had a large monolithic application for processing batch jobs that was difficult to run, deploy, and scale.
  • A new thread was created whenever a new job needed to be completed, and each job took up different amounts of memory and CPU, continually creating inefficiencies.
  • A lack of resource isolation allowed memory-limit errors to bring down the entire application.
  • The infrastructure engineering team attempted to move to a microservices architecture using Docker containers, but they ran into problems as they tried to use Apache Mesos to manage the cluster and containers — Mesos was complicated to set up and Coursera didn’t have the expertise or time required to manage a Mesos cluster.

Why they choose Amazon Web Services above all :-

  • Docker containers on Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) enabled Coursera to easily move to a microservices -based architecture.
  • Each job is created as a container and Amazon ECS schedules the container across the Amazon EC2 instance cluster.
  • Amazon ECS handles all the cluster management and container orchestration, and containers provide the necessary resource isolation.

AWS solved all the challenges faced by Coursera. Customers are the main priority of Amazon, they never let their customers to feel disheartened.

Coursera enjoyed the following benefits of AWS :-

  • Ease of use: Because Amazon ECS setup is straightforward and it manages all of the details of the cluster, the team had a prototype up and running in under two months.
  • Speed and agility: Time to deploy software changes went from hours to minutes, and each team can now develop and update its respective applications independently because the applications are resource isolated with no cross-dependencies.
  • Scalable capacity: Auto Scaling groups allow the compute capacity to scale up to handle dynamic job loads.
  • Operational efficiency: No extra infrastructure engineering time is spent installing software and maintaining a cluster — Amazon ECS handles everything from cluster management to container orchestration.

Other extra benefits provided to Coursera by AWS from their side :-

  • Launched a prototype in less than two months
  • Reduced time to deploy software changes from hours to minutes
  • Reduced engineering time spent installing software and maintaining clusters

AWS services used by Coursera :-

Amazon ECS : Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) is a highly scalable, high-performance container orchestration service that supports Docker containers and allows you to easily run and scale containerized applications on AWS.

ECS is a great choice to run containers for several reasons. First, you can choose to run your ECS clusters using AWS Fargate, which is serverless compute for containers. Fargate removes the need to provision and manage servers, lets you specify and pay for resources per application, and improves security through application isolation by design. Second, ECS is used extensively within Amazon to power services such as Amazon SageMaker, AWS Batch, Amazon Lex, and Amazon.com’s recommendation engine, ensuring ECS is tested extensively for security, reliability, and availability.

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