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Amazon RDS vs EC2 – Which is a better fit for you?

Charleste King | | September 7, 2017


You’ve decided to migrate your on-premises MySQL database to Amazon Web Services. Now you have a choice to make: RDS or EC2? These services have differences that impact how they will fit into your environment, and determines how to choose one over the other. Let’s compare capacity, pricing, and flexibility of these two options.

Amazon EC2
This cloud service focuses on scalability and being user-friendly for developers. When you need more capacity, you have an interface that streamlines the entire scaling process. There’s no need to worry about configuring new hardware or taking servers away as your requirements fluctuate. You can put together the instance types you require, with full flexibility in the operating system and software.

The pricing structure is also straightforward. You pay for what you use, rather than spending for a high capacity that you may never need. Your upfront and ongoing costs drop significantly.

When you’re working on your databases in EC2, you have complete control over their operation. If you need to stop an instance or reboot it, you can do that without facing any restrictions. Boot up time is also speedy, which is convenient when adjusting to sudden spikes in demand.

The primary issue you run into with EC2 is the amount of flexibility available. You face a learning curve before you can optimize this service for your MySQL databases. The powerful feature set and ability to work with any operating system and software on the server requires a lot of experimentation before you find the right combination for your development needs.

You can take a shortcut around the trial and error portion of the process by working with a specialized IT services partner that knows the EC2 environment and how to get the most out of your migrated databases.

Amazon RDS
While EC2 does a good job at offering a user-friendly experience, RDS takes this one step further with more simplification in administrative processes and provisioning. You can automate some basic functionality so your database administrators may focus on more pressing duties. When you need to set up cloud-based MySQL databases as quickly as possible, RDS to allows even relatively inexperienced users to do so successfully.

The simple interface and services come at the cost of flexibility, however. You don’t have as much flexibility as you do in EC2. Notably, you’re unable to make changes to the operating system, many plugins are unavailable, failover is limited and you typically can’t perform operations that fall under SUPER privileges. If RDS doesn’t handle it through its own set of processes, you won’t be able to execute the commands.

While you can quickly set up new instances, you run into problems reclaiming the storage used for it. You must rebuild it if you wish to recapture this capacity for other resources. This introduces complexity if you need to scale rapidly. The extra layer of management also contributes to costs that are generally higher than EC2.

Both Amazon cloud computing services offer compelling features, but for most use cases, EC2 is the best option. The streamlined and simplified processes on RDS might seem like they’re the best choice when you don’t have a lot of experience with AWS, but you end up hitting a wall down the line when you need more flexibility. Bringing in a managed services partner like Datavail can help you harness the flexibility and value of EC2. To learn more about migrating MySQL databases to AWS please download our white paper, “Database Migration Services for AWS MySQL.”

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