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Advice for when to pick AWS vs. third-party tools

Choosing AWS tools or third-party tools depends on the types of tools you want to employ. Here's some advice to help you better understand.

AWS has a great set of tools that come with its public cloud service. In many instances, the tools are there for...

use free of charge, with the clear bet being that these tools will drive AWS cloud service usage.

However, those IT shops that are AWS-focused are now seeking the best-of-breed tools that work and play well with their AWS deployments. Thus, the question comes up as to which path to take when it comes to selecting and using third-party tools that work with the AWS platform.

One of the great things about working with AWS is that while they list their own tools, they also list third-party tools sold by partners. This makes it easy to search and find the tools you're looking for, whether it's importing data, managing AWS services, or providing specific security or compliance solutions. The number and types of tools grow each day as more companies position themselves as AWS-compatible technology and tool providers.

So, when do you look inward to AWS? When do you look outward to third-party tool providers? It depends on the types of tools you're looking to employ. Here is some general guidance:

Looking inward

Within projects, I've found that the development tools that AWS provides are the best path to getting applications built, deployed and into production. For instance, the AWS SDK for Java provides Java APIs for many AWS services including Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, DynamoDB and others. Of course, AWS also provides tools for backup and recovery, archiving, dev/test, big data, etc.

The value of leveraging these native AWS tools is that AWS will provide the services ongoing, as well as provide the proper maintenance and upgrades required. Because of this, they have a tendency to be lower risk than tools provided by smaller companies that could be purchased or even go out of business.

And because these tools are specific to AWS, they typically don't support other cloud computing services, public or private. Therefore, these native AWS tools are usually tactical in nature, solving specific and narrowly focused problems directly associated with the AWS platform.

Looking outward

In contrast to AWS-provided tools, which are focused on just the AWS cloud platform and typically providing solutions to very tactical problems, you should look outward when considering more strategic tools. These tools typically deal with other technologies and cloud services beyond AWS.

These third-party tools typically include management and monitoring tools, such as CloudCheckr and other technologies used to keep tabs on AWS instances, insuring that performance and reliability are monitored while cloud applications are in production. Also, cloud management platform tools, such as RightScale and ServiceMesh, are able to provide cloud governance around AWS, as well as other private and public cloud technologies (multi-cloud).

If you've not yet picked up on the emerging pattern here, it's pretty simple. The tools that are tactical in nature and solve problems specifically around the use of the AWS platform are likely better provided by AWS. They are typically inexpensive or free, and certainly are easy to both provision and deploy.

Third-party providers, which are usually partners with AWS, typically provide better and more strategic tools that work with, and beyond, AWS. Since they have to sit above all of your private and public cloud solutions, it's best to have these controlled by a company that is independent of AWS.

All of this being said, there are really no hard or fast rules for picking the right tools from AWS or from a third-party. Keep your requirements in mind as you move through the tool selection process, and you'll typically make the right decisions.

This was last published in January 2015

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What’s your rule of thumb for using third-party tools vs. AWS?
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I believe once other cloud providers come out with services that AWS does not have tools will emerge that incorporate multi-cloud services in one tool.
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