AWS global infrastructure

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

AWS has set up Regions, Availability Zones and edge locations to help you deliver efficient and reliable services to your users across the globe.
Regions are geographically isolated areas, where you can access services needed to run your enterprise. Four key factors to choose a Region: compliance, proximity, feature availability, and pricing.
Regions contain isolated Availability Zones (AZs) which are one or a group of data centres. AZs help you solve high availability and disaster recovery scenarios, without any additional effort on your part. You should always deploy infrastructure across at least two AZs.
AWS edge locations gets content closer to your customers, no matter where they are in the world.

To understand the global infrastructure AWS, let's begin with the users (that's you)!

You have an application that you have to run, or content you need stored, or data you need analysed. This means you have stuff that has to live and operate in a physical server somewhere.

Now historically, businesses had to run applications in their own data centres - they didn't have a choice. Once AWS became available, companies could now run their applications in other data centres they didn't actually own.

These big data centres are managed by AWS, and they're scattered all across the world.

Why isn't there just one huuuuuuuuuuge data centre that has all the servers AWS needs?

  • If something were to happen to that data centre, like a power outage or a natural disaster, everyone's applications would go down all at once.
  • You need high availability and fault tolerance*.
*Think of fault tolerance as a system's ability to keep working even if something breaks, like a server suddenly shuts down.

AWS Regions

AWS operates in all sorts of different areas around the world called Regions.

  • These Regions include locations like Paris, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Dublin, and Ohio.
  • Inside each Region, you'll find multiple data centres equipped with computing, storage, and other essential services.
  • Each Region is completely isolated from every other Region in the world.
  • No data moves in or out of a Region without your explicit permission, ensuring security and data sovereignty*, aligning with local laws and regulations.
*Data sovereignty means that your data has to obey the rules of the place where it's stored. It's like following the local laws of the land where you keep your stuff.
  • For example, you might have government compliance requirements that your financial information in Frankfurt cannot leave Germany. AWS helps you meet this requirement, as any data stored in the Frankfurt Region never leaves the Frankfurt Region.
  • These Regions are interconnected through a high-speed network and managed by AWS, and voila, a global infrastructure is born.
  • You get to choose which Region you want to use.

Which Region should I take?

When selecting a Region, four key factors come into play:

1. Compliance: If your data must remain within specific borders, such as the UK, you should choose the corresponding Region, like London.

2. Proximity: The physical distance between the Region and your customers matters. The closer you are to your customers, the faster you can deliver content.

- For example, if most of your customers live in Singapore, consider basing your services in the Singapore Region. You certainly can basing your services in another region, but the time it takes for information to be sent and received (this waiting time is called latency) between other Regions and Singapore might make it less attractive.

- You might consider running your infrastructure close to company headquarters (e.g. Sydney), and run the applications that customers use out of the Singapore Region.

3. Feature availability: Different Regions may not have the same features and services. If you need specific features, you can only pick from the Regions that have it.

- Every year, AWS releases hundreds of new features and products to answer customer requests and needs.

- Sometimes those brand new services take a lot of new physical hardware that AWS has to build out to make the service work.

- That means they have to build the service out one Region at a time, so it's not available across all Regions at the same time.

4. Pricing: Every Region charges you differently for the same service, because of differences in tax and labour costs.

- Fun fact: Brazil's tax structure makes it cost heaps more (average, 50% more) to run AWS services in Brazil compared to the United States.

AWS Availability Zones

Each AWS Region is made up of Availability Zones (AZs), which are a single data centre or groups of data centres with redundant* power, networking, and connectivity.

*Redundancy = having backups. You have extra parts or systems in case something goes wrong.
  • This means an AWS Region will have many isolated and physically distant AZs inside.
  • AZs are located tens of miles apart. If a large scale incident (e.g. natural disaster) were to happen, you could lose connectivity to everything in that AZs. This would be really disruptive to your operations, so AZs are distant enough to prevent multiple being affected by the same event.
  • Now, if a disaster strikes, your application continues just fine because this disaster only knocked over some of your capacity, not all.

AWS always recommends running across at least two AZs in a Region. If one AZ were to fail, your application would still be running in the other.

Many AWS services run at the Region level, meaning they run at the same time across multiple AZs.

  • For example, Elastic Load Balancing is a regional service. It runs across all AZs, communicating with the EC2 instances that are running in a specific AZ.
  • Regional services already highly available at no additional cost of effort on your part.
  • So as you plan for high availability, any service that is listed as a regionally scoped service will already have that box checked.

AWS edge locations

Remember how proximity to customers is a big factor when selecting your Region?

How would this work if you have customers all over the world, or in cities that are not close to one of AWS' Regions? If you have a good customer base in a new city, you can build a satellite store* to service those customers.

*A satellite store is like a second safe place where you store your resources. It's typically a backup location for your data, but in this case, we're using it to bring data closer to customers.

To deliver content quickly to customers worldwide, AWS uses edge locations.

  • These locations allow you to store data closer to your users, reducing latency.
  • Caching copies of data closer to customers all around the world uses the concept of content delivery networks, or CDNs. We'll learn CDNs in the next topic!