Understanding Amazon EC2 Terminologyby@kunalyadav
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2,146 reads

Understanding Amazon EC2 Terminology

by Kunal YadavOctober 16th, 2018
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Hello everyone, in this article we are going to discuss the complete terminology of Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud).

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Hello everyone, in this article we are going to discuss the complete terminology of Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud).

EC2 is the backbone of AWS. It provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. You can boot up a new server optimized for your work in minutes and quickly scale it up and down as your computing requirements change.

Understanding the terms used in EC2 will help you in learning EC2 quickly.

If you have an AWS account, sign in to your console and click on EC2. You should see a similar page as shown in the following image -

We are going to cover all the terms shown in the left sidebar. Let’s get started

  1. EC2 Dashboard — This gives you an overview of your EC2 usage in the current region (Mumbai region in my case).
  2. Events — It may include planned activities that are being carried out by AWS in a particular region.
  3. Tags — You assign tags to your resources in AWS to easily filter and manage them. In EC2 you can assign tags to your instances, EBS volumes, Elastic Load Balancers, Snapshots, AMIs etc. You can see all those tags here.
  4. Reports — Here you can see your cost and usage reports for your EC2 usage. You can use these reports to analyse and optimise your resource usage.
  5. Limits — This shows you your EC2 resource limits like Instance Limits (Number of instances you can launch), EBS Limits (Amount of storage in TiB you can provision), etc.

EC2 instances dashboard


  1. Instances —This shows you all the details of your running and stopped instances.
  2. Launch Templates — Create a template which specifies the instance configuration, permissions, best practices and use it to automatically launch instances using autoscaling and EC2 fleet.
  3. Spot Requests — In EC2 you can launch spot instances for non-critical tasks. These instances offer upto 90% discount as compared to On-demand instances. You can see the status of your spot requests here.
  4. Reserved Instances — You can also opt for Reserved instances for performing critical tasks while saving cost. These instances offer upto 70% discount as compared to On-demand instances but you have pay for 1–3 years to use them.
  5. Dedicated Hosts — You can use dedicated hosts to fulfil your compliance and licensing requirements. A dedicated host is a physical server is Amazon’s data center dedicated for your use. No other user’s instances ever run on your dedicated host.


  1. AMIs — It stands for Amazon Machine Images. An AMI provides the information required to launch an instance. It is like an ISO but for EC2.
  2. Bundle Tasks — It is used to create bundles of Amazon instance store-backed instances. You can then register these bundles as AMIs to launch new instances.

Elastic Block Store

  1. Volumes — EBS volumes are just like hard-disks in the cloud. They can be attached to your EC2 instances. You can install Operating systems and softwares on them or use them to serve your dynamic website like WordPress. This page shows you the details of your current EBS volumes.
  2. Snapshots — You can create backup of your EBS volumes as Snapshots. These snapshots can be used to create multiple EBS volumes which contain the same data. This page shows you your current snapshots.
  3. Lifecycle Manager — This allows you to schedule creation and deletion of your EBS snapshots so you don’t have to worry about regular backups and don’t pay extra for older snapshots.

Network & Security

  1. Security Groups — They are like a virtual firewall for your EC2 instances. All the traffic to an instance passes always passes through its security group. You can specify which ports to open and who can send and receive data through that port.
  2. Elastic IPs — If you have ever heard of static IPs that’s exactly what it is, IPs that stay attached to your running or stopped instances. You can assign Elastic IPs to your EC2 instances to allow easy SSH access.
  3. Placement Groups — You can create placement groups where you need low-latency high speed communication between multiple instances. It is preferred to use instances of similar sizes in placement groups.
  4. Key Pairs — To connect to your EC2 instances you have to use key pairs. You can see all your key pairs on this page.
  5. Network Interfaces — You can create network interfaces and attach them to your EC2 instances. You can attach multiple network interfaces to a single instance.

Load Balancing

  1. Load Balancers — You can use them to balance load on multiple small servers instead of provisioning a single large server. This approach is called horizontal scaling. This page shows you the details and status of your load balancers.
  2. Target Groups — Target groups are used by load balancer to decide on which port and instance to route the incoming traffic.

Auto Scaling

  1. Launch Configuration — You can create launch templates which specifies the configuration of instances that will launched using AutoScaling. These templates includes data such as the instance type, AMI to launch instance, EBS volumes to be attached, etc.
  2. Auto Scaling Groups — Auto Scaling manages your EC2 capacity automatically so you don’t have to worry about manually provisioning new instances when traffic is high and manually terminating instances when traffic is low. This page shows you your currently active Auto Scaling Groups.

Systems Manager Services

  1. Run Command — You can use Systems Manager to configure and manage all your instances. Using run command you can run a command across all your instances at a specified time.
  2. State Manager — This can be used to automatically keep your instances in a desired state. It ensures that your instances have the necessary softwares installed at startup and are patched with specific software updates.
  3. Configuration Compliance — This allows you to scan your fleet of managed instances for patch compliance and configuration inconsistencies.
  4. Automation — It simplifies common maintenance and deployment tasks such as updating Amazon Linux Images across the instances managed by Systems Manager.
  5. Patch Compliance — It shows you the compliance status of your patches like Number of instances that are up to date, missing updates and error State.
  6. Patch Baselines — These defines which type of patches are approved for installation on your instances. You can specify auto-approval rules to specify that certain types of updates (like system critical) should be automatically approved.

Systems Manager Shared Resources

  1. Managed Instances — This shows you your instances that are managed by Systems Manager.
  2. Activations — To manage on-premises servers using Systems Manager you have to create an activation. This allows you register multiple on-premise instances.
  3. Documents — An AWS Systems Manager Document (SSM) defines the actions that Systems Manager can perform on your managed instances. You can also use pre-configured documents.
  4. Maintenance Windows — Maintenance windows can be used to define recurring window of time to run administrative tasks across your instances. It ensures that you business critical systems are not disrupted.
  5. Parameter Store — You can use parameter store to centrally manage your configuration data like passwords, license keys, or database connection strings. You can then securely access this data across your instances and among your development teams.
  6. Patches —This shows you a list of latest patches released for different operating systems along with their severity.

So guys that was a lot of theory, congrats if you read it all!

I hope you now understand the basics of EC2 and its features. In the next article we will go practical and launch an EC2 instance.

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