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Elevate to the cloud with AWS startup program

Startups can claim incentives when joining AWS and other public cloud providers, but choose resources carefully from the get-go.

The public cloud is an exciting prospect for new companies. Startups aren't so bound by the inertia of legacy data...

center investments; they are often free to use cloud services as a fast and easy utility computing model. Public cloud can play a greater role in startup organizations, but successful cloud use requires careful consideration. Startups should assess several criteria before making or expanding public cloud commitments.

Know the available cloud incentives. Public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and others understand the appeal of "zero footprint" computing for new and growing businesses. It's that long-held promise of utility computing. But cloud workload design, deployment and management is different from traditional application development. New companies often need help getting started in the cloud, but lack the staff and know-how to launch successful cloud applications. Today, cloud providers are more than willing to help new businesses take those steps, with an AWS startup program available to get started in the Amazon cloud.

Programs like AWS Activate cater to the cloud needs of startup businesses, providing a mix of support, credits, training and technical advice to accelerate use of public cloud services. For example, the AWS Portfolio Package offers up to $15,000 in credits, up to one year of business-level support, a variety of training options, consultation time with AWS architects and other perks to drive Amazon cloud use. Both Google Cloud Platform for Startups and AWS promote even more aggressive offerings with up to $100,000 in credits, support and consultation for new companies.

For small startups, the combination of credit incentives, training and support can make a pivotal difference in public cloud adoption and workload design. Just remember to read the fine print: Not all enterprises may qualify for every AWS startup program, package or benefit.

Know the services and resources you need. All public cloud services are not created equal. AWS provides a wide range of compute, storage, database, network and security services along with an array of analytics and application development resources. Each of these services cost money every month, and services can vary dramatically in capability, resilience and price.

Simply choosing an AWS virtual server such as an EC2 instance requires assessment. There are currently 39 EC2 instance variations -- including a free tier -- listed for the US East region alone. It's a bewildering array of instance types that offer unique combinations of virtual CPUs, memory and storage. These instances are designed to accommodate varied application types from general tasks to compute-optimized, memory-optimized, storage-optimized and graphics processing unit support. And every instance is priced differently per hour.

Auto scaling and load-balancing services can support clustered EC2 deployments, if necessary. AWS also offers a range of cloud-based storage, database, analytics and security services. Carefully consider current and future workloads and management requirements, and match those requirements to appropriately sized and architected AWS offerings. Falling short can impair workload performance or compromise resilience or security, but overbuying can waste money by underutilizing the acquired services.

Deploying a typical workload in the public cloud often requires a mix of interconnected services. A business application needs the appropriate server instance or cluster of instances, which might include load balancing and auto scaling; it also needs an adequate amount of storage at a suitable performance tier, Identity and Access Management controls, monitoring and other services. Each of these individual services carries a cost and can seriously complicate cloud deployments. Business managers need cloud reporting that clearly correlates the business workload to the associated group of cloud services deployed against it.

The challenges of launching a business in the public cloud can be overwhelming, especially for small businesses and startups. Seeking help is one way to avoid making costly mistakes. Cloud service brokers, architects and consultants can assist businesses in formulating and implementing public cloud services, negotiating costs and so on. Even AWS offers technical consulting to build public cloud use.

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This was last published in August 2015

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Does your company have an internal data center or is it entirely cloud-based?
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We have both. We actually did a TCO study with Amazon a couple of years ago to better understand when it made sense to use our internal data center, when it was better to use Amazon, and identify situations where it made sense to start on one and move to the other.
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