What to Ignore in AWS

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A popular question asked revolves around making sense of all the AWS services.

You may have asked yourself "Just what do all these AWS services DO?"

I like this question better: What services can I ignore? You'll be relieved to hear that the answer is: almost all of them 🎉.

Just look at this (incomplete!) list os services:

AWS Services

Niche Servies

Many of the services serve a niche audience.

Just look at Ground Station:

"Easily and cost-effectively command and control satellites."

I'll be sure to thank Bezos at our next yacht party.

Don't be afraid of AWS's complexity.

It's complex because there are a lot of tools. Most of them we can ignore (forever). Many of them you'll learn about only when and if you need them.

With something as sprawling as AWS service offerings, you learn as you go. And that's how it should be!

Services to Care About

So, we can ignore most stuff. But what about the services that we can't ignore?

Here are the services that I think you should know about.

Essential Services:

  • EC2: Servers (virtual machines). Like spinning up a server on Digital Ocean, you can spin up a server here.
  • IAM: Identity and Access Management, otherwise known as "permissions". Once you know a few concepts, it's not too bad. Until it is.
  • S3: File management - the very first AWS service offering! Some things are randomly complex for historical reasons.
  • VPC: Private networks - You can use the default VPC and never think about this, but learning about the VPC unlocks some magic powers.

Runner Ups

  • RDS: Managed databases (worth the price!)
  • ElastiCache: Managed Redis/Memcached
  • ECS: Containers
  • Route53: A very reliable DNS service
  • CloudWatch: Metrics, Alarms, Logs and more


  • Lambda: This is the main one - run a single function "in the cloud" without caring much about how/where it gets run
  • DynamoDB: A really fancy key-value (nosql) database
  • ECS Fargate: Run containers without caring about the server they run on Aurora Serverless: Run your MySQL/PostgreSQL on serverless (with caveats!)

Just for Fun:

  • CodeStar/CodeCommit/CodeArtifact/CodeBuild/CodeDeploy/CodePipeline: A extremely confusing set of overlapping services that form a CI/CD pipeline.
  • API Gateway: Accept HTTP requests and do something with them! Often paired with Lambda for serverless HTTP.
  • AWS Organizations: Manage multiple accounts (unified billing and more)
  • Systems Manager: With a small tweak to how you create your servers, you can have Systems Manager know your server exists (lol, what?). One killer feature is the ability to SSH into a server without allowing public-internet SSH access (no need for a jump-host).

There's probably some incredibly important service I'm forgetting - but that's the point. Even the most seasoned AWS "guru" couldn't list all the services, never mind know how they work!

We are all learning as we go.

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