AWS Insight

What is a managed service in AWS?

One ‘gotcha’ I’ve experienced when discussing cloud ecosystems is that the term ‘managed services’ has drastically different meanings depending on the context. This is unfortunate as it adds extra effort to get to truly valuable conversations around the power of cloud. Below I’ll spell out some of these different meanings in the context of Amazon Web Services (AWS) by answering three questions:

  1. What does it mean when a consulting company says they offer AWS Managed Services?
  2. What does it mean when AWS says they offer AWS Managed Services?
  3. What does it mean when a product is a Managed Service?

Q: What does it mean when a consulting company says they offer “AWS Managed Services”?

A: They are offering to serve as your outsourced I.T. Infrastructure Team and your DevOps Team.

When your company does not have a dedicated capability in cloud infrastructure and DevOps, you’ll lean into an AWS Managed Services vendor to fill the gap. Generally speaking, the vendor always offers:

  • 24x7 support with tight SLAs combined with robust monitoring
  • Security, patching, and overall hygiene of the ecosystem
  • Automation of builds and deployments
  • Provisioning, change management, and cost controls
  • Collaboration with developers and stakeholders for continuous improvement

One important element that may be absent here is application feature and security support. While this is a service that can be procured from certain AWS managed service providers, the majority of managed services contracts assume that you have an internal software development team that is focused on those facets of your application.  Even if feature development is not taking place, security updates and updates to keep up with changing devices (new versions of phones, etc.) are an important consideration.

Q: What does it mean when AWS says they offer AWS Managed Services?

A: AWS is offering to serve as your outsourced I.T. Infrastructure Team (no DevOps).

AWS itself offers to be an outsourced team for the same services offered above, however they usually stay out of the DevOps business. This means you'll need another vendor to manage application development and the usual capabilities of DevOps (automation, some aspects of provisioning, builds and deployment, etc). Other than that common exclusion, they will take care of the 24x7 support, change management, patching, and other items in the above list.

Q: What does it mean when a product is a Managed Service?

A: The product abstracts away the underlying infrastructure so your developers can solely focus on application development.

Most cloud services can be broken up into a rule of thirds as so:

  • Application: These services are for developers exclusively, and the cloud handles all the managed services away from view.
  • Platform: These services are a mix.  In some cases, you can manage the underlying infrastructure, in other cases the underlying infrastructure is viewable but not something you manage. 
  • Infrastructure: These services are the classic ‘hardware in the cloud’, where you move your physical data centers to virtualized machines in the cloud.

When talking about products that are ‘fully managed service’, we are mostly talking about the ‘Application’ services above. In some cases, ‘Platform’ services fit in this category as well.

Let us know if you’d like to learn more about cloud services, and the complex approaches to achieving a right-sized outsourcing model for your I.T. teams when the capabilities are not available in house.  

Date posted: February 26, 2021

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About the Author

Tony Rost, Chief Technology Officer

Tony believes that customers' technology problems can be solved with deep respect, sound data, strong process, and adventurous teams. He uses data-driven methods to improve all stages of the development lifecycle – from design, to beta, to final deployment. With numerous ties to the open-source community, Tony also works to solve client problems faster and more effectively with well-tested open-source solutions.

Several dozen products have shipped under his guidance over the past 14 years: collaborative internal sites at Nike, social networking integrations with Adidas, server-monitoring websites at Hewlett Packard, open source contributions to Drupal, entertainment sites such as The Emmys, community sites such as FearNET, and HTML5 apps for tablets and Smart TVs.

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