AWS goes local to bring compute services closer to users

Los Angeles has two Local Zones that AWS launched last year. The company plans to launch many more of these zones in 2021. (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

Amazon Web Services is extending its cloud compute, storage and database services closer to large populations with the debut of AWS Local Zones. The company said that five of these Local Zones are now available in four cities — Boston, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles (Los Angeles has two zones that launched last year) — with 12 more AWS Local Zones planned for this year.

AWS Local Zones are a new type of extension of an AWS cloud region that allows customers to run applications in close geographic proximity to end-users. This is important for applications that require single-digit millisecond latency such as video rendering and graphics-intensive, virtual desktop applications.

AWS said that Local Zones allows customers to bring compute and storage resources closer to end users without having to operate their own on-premises data center.

In a blog post, Jeff Barr, chief evangelist at AWS, said that these Local Zones are now ready to host production workloads. He also noted that each Local Zone is a “child” of a particular parent region and is managed by the control plane in that region. For example, the parent region for Boston, Houston and Miami is U.S. East, which is in Northern Virginia.

AWS will launch Local Zones in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix Portland and Seattle later this year.

Barr said that the use cases for Local Zones fall into two categories — distributed edge applications and local applications. Examples of distributed edge applications are customers that want to put parts of their gaming, social media and voice assistance applications in multiple, geographically disparate locations so they can deliver a low-latency experience to end users.  Examples of local application use cases are customers that need access to cloud services in specific locations that are close to their branch offices or data centers. Not only does this provide these customers with low latency access but it also enables them to process and store data within a certain geographic region to meet regulatory requirements.

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AWS Local Zones join AWS’ other portfolio of products that are designed specifically for low latency applications including AWS Availability Zones, AWS Outposts and AWS Wavelength. 

AWS Local Zones is different from Availability Zones because Local Zones only bring core services that are needed for low latency workloads while Availability Zones provide all the AWS services. However, both Local Zones and Availability Zones allow users to build applications for high availability.

AWS Outposts, meanwhile, are fully managed and configurable compute and storage racks built with AWS-designed hardware that allow customers to run compute and storage on-premises. AWS Outposts are designed for workloads that need to remain on-premises because of latency requirements.

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AWS Wavelength is designed specifically for ultra-low latency applications that are being delivered to 5G devices. Wavelength basically extends the AWS infrastructure and tools to 5G networks.