If you have ever poked around in AWS, you probably noticed that “damn, Amazon has a lot of services”. This chart breaks down their services into plain English and explains what the AWS services can do for you.

All credit goes to ExpeditedSSL for writing AWS in Plain English.

Base Services

No matter what you do with AWS you’ll probably end up using these services as everything else interacts with them.

EC2

Should have been called
Amazon Virtual Servers
Use this to
Host the bits of things you think of as a computer
It’s like
It’s handwavy, but EC2 instances are similar to the virtual private servers you’d get at Linode, DigitalOcean or Rackspace

IAM

Should have been called
Users, Keys and Certs
Use this to
Setup additional users, setup new AWS Keys and policies

S3

Should have been called
Amazon Unlimited FTP Server
Use this to
Store images and other assets for websites. Keep backups and share files between services. Host static websites. Also, many of the other AWS services write and read from S3.

VPC

Should have been called
Amazon Virtual Colocated Rack
Use this to
Overcome objections that “all our stuff is on the Internet!” by adding an additional layer of security. Makes it appears as if all of your AWS services are on the same little network instead of being small pieces in a much bigger network.
It’s like
If you’re familar with networking: VLANs

Web Developer Services

If you’re setting up a web app these are mostly what you’d end up using. These are similar to what you’d find in Heroku’s Addon Marketplace

API Gateway

Should have been called
API Proxy
Use this to
Proxy your apps API through this so you can throttle bad client traffic, test new versions, and present methods more cleanly.
It’s like
3Scale

RDS

Should have been called
Amazon SQL
Use this to
Be your app’s Mysql, Postgres, Oracle database
It’s like
Heroku Postgres

Route53

Should have been called
Amazon DNS + Domains
Use this to
Buy a new domain, setup the DNS records for that domain.
It’s like
DNSimple, GoDaddy, Gandi

SES

Should have been called
Amazon Transactional Email
Use this to
Send one off emails like password resets, notifications, etc. You could use it send Newsletter if you wrote all the code, but that’s not a great idea.
It’s like
SendGrid, Mandrill, Postmark

Cloudfront

Should have been called
Amazon CDN
Use this to
Make your websites load faster by spreading out static file delivery to be closer to where your users are.
It’s like
MaxCDN, Akamai

CloudSearch

Should have been called
Amazon Fulltext Search
Use this to
Pull in data on S3 or in RDS and and then search it for every instance of ‘Jimmy’
It’s like
Sphinx, Solr, ElasticSearch

DynamoDB

Should have been called
Amazon NoSQL
Use this to
Be your app’s MongoDB
It’s like
MongoLab

Elasticache

Should have been called
Amazon Memcached
Use this to
Be your app’s Memcached or Redis
It’s like
Redis to Go, Memcachier

Elastic Transcoder

Should have been called
Amazon Beginning Cut Pro
Use this to
Deal with video weirdness (change formats, compress, etc.)

SQS

Should have been called
Amazon Queue
Use this to
Store data for future processing in a queue. The lingo for this is storing “messages” but it doesn’t have anything to do with email or SMS. SQS doesn’t have any logic it’s just a place to put things and take things out.
It’s like
RabbitMQ, Sidekiq

Mobile App Developer Services

These are the services that only work for mobile developers

Cognito

Should have been called
Amazon OAuth As A Service
Use this to
Give end users – (non AWS) – the ability to log in with Google, Facebook, etc.
It’s like
OAuth.io

Device Farm

Should have been called
Amazon Drawer of old Android devices
Use this to
Test your app on a bunch of different IOS and Android devices simultaneously
It’s like
MobileTest, iOS emulator

Mobile Analytics

Should have been called
Spot on Name, Amazon Product Managers take note
Use this to
Track what people are doing inside of your app
It’s like
Flurry

SNS

Should have been called
Amazon Messenger
Use this to
Send mobile notifications, emails and/or SMS messages
It’s like
UrbanAirship, Twilio

Ops and Code Deployment Services

These are for automating how you manage and deploy your code onto other services

CodeCommit

Should have been called
Amazon GitHub
Use this to
Version control your code – hosted Git
It’s like
Github, BitBucket

Code Deploy

Should have been called
Not bad
Use this to
Get your code from your CodeCommit repo (or Github) onto a bunch of EC2 instances in a sane way
It’s like
Heroku, Capistrano

CodePipeline

Should have been called
Amazon Continuous Integration
Use this to
Run automated test on your code and then do stuff with it depending on if it passes those tests
It’s like
CircleCI, Travis

EC2 Container Service

Should have been called
Amazon Docker As a Service
Use this to
Put a Dockerfile into an EC2 instance so you can run a website

Elastic Beanstalk

Should have been called
Amazon Platform As A Service
Use this to
Move your app hosted on Heroku to AWS when it gets too expensive.
It’s like
Heroku, BlueMix, Modulus

Enterprise / Corporate Services

Services for business and networks.

AppStream

Should have been called
Amazon Citrix
Use this to
Put a copy of a Windows application on a windows machine that people get remote access to.
It’s like
Citrix, RDP

Direct Connect

Should have been called
Pretty spot on actually
Use this to
Pay huge amounts of money to your Telco + AWS to get a dedicated leased line from your data center or network to AWS
It’s like
Stacking cash on the sidewalk and lighting it on fire

Directory Service

Should have been called
Pretty spot on actually
Use this to
Tie together other apps that need a Microsoft Active Directory to control them

WorkDocs

Should have been called
Amazon Unstructured Files
Use this to
Share Word Docs with your colleagues
It’s like
Dropbox, DataAnywhere

WorkMail

Should have been called
Amazon Company Email
Use this to
Give everyone in your company the same email system and calendar
It’s like
Google Apps for Domains

Workspaces

Should have been called
Amazon Remote Computer
Use this to
Gives you a standard windows desktop that you’re remotely controlling

Service Catalog

Should have been called
Amazon Setup Already
Use this to
Give other AWS users in your group access to preset apps you’ve built so they don’t have to read guides like this.

Storage Gateway

Should have been called
S3 pretending it’s part of your corporate network
Use this to
Stop buying more storage to keep word docs on. Make automating getting files into S3 from your corporate network easier.

Big Data Services

Services to injest, manipulate and massage data to do your will

Data Pipeline

Should have been called
Amazon ETL
Use this to
Extract, Transform and Load data from elsewhere in AWS. Schedule when it happens and get alerts when they fail.

Elastic Map Reduce

Should have been called
Amazon Hadooper
Use this to
Iterate over massive text files of raw data that you’re keeping in S3
It’s like
Treasure Data

Glacier

Should have been called
Really slow Amazon S3
Use this to
Make backups of your backups that you keep on S3. Also, beware the costs of getting data back out in a hurry. For long term archiving.

Kinesis

Should have been called
Amazon High Throughput
Use this to
Injest lots of data very quickly (For things like analytics or people retweeting Kanye) that you then later use other AWS services to analyze
It’s like
Kafka

RedShift

Should have been called
Amazon Data Warehouse
Use this to
Store a whole bunch of analytics data, do some processing and dump it out

Machine Learning

Should have been called
Skynet
Use this to
Predict future behavior from existing data for problems like fraud detection or “people that bought x also bought y”

SWF

Should have been called
Amazon EC2 Queue
Use this to
Build a service of “deciders” and “workers” on top of EC2 to accomplish a set task. Unlike SQS – logic is setup inside the service to determine how and what should happen.
It’s like
IronWorker

AWS Management Services

AWS can get so difficult to manage that they invented a bunch of services to sell you to make it easier to manage.

CloudFormation

Should have been called
Amazon Services Setup
Use this to
Setup a bunch of connected AWS services in one go

CloudTrail

Should have been called
Amazon Logging
Use this to
Log who is doing what in your AWS stack (API calls)

CloudWatch

Should have been called
Amazon Status Pager
Use this to
Get alerts about AWS services messing up or disconnecting
It’s like
PagerDuty, Statuspage

Config

Should have been called
Amazon Configuration Management
Use this to
Keep from going insane if you have a large AWS setup and changes are happening that you want to track.

OpsWorks

Should have been called
Amazon Chef
Use this to
Handle running your application with things like auto-scaling

Trusted Advisor

Should have been called
Amazon Pennypincher
Use this to
Find out where you’re paying too much in your AWS setup (unused EC2 instances, etc.)

Source: AWS in Plain English