My team is investigating a move to AWS. We are small, only one sysadmin and a few developers.

Is there a general rule for when it is better to build your own service instead of use an AWS counterpart (such as SQS, RDS, Route53, ElasticCache). Is there a decision framework that factors in budget, deadline, staff size, available skills, the risk of vendor lock-in, etc?


There's no general rule, and your question will be closed by a moderator soon as being too general.

In general the trend I've seen is start on AWS, and once you hit Dropbox scale you can save a fair bit of money if you create your own infrastructure. That takes a lot of planning, work, and more people of course. Netflix however are all-in with AWS.

Have a look at the AWS calculator and work out what your monthly costs would be. Assume your developers won't turn off the test / dev VMs, and make sure you look at reserved instances (note - they can be sold if required). Compare that with the hardware costs you expect in the next say three years, including administration. Of course you still need to administer AWS systems, it's just that the skills are different, and in some cases the ability to automate is provided.

AWS also has a total cost of ownership calculator. Keep in mind it's advertising for AWS, it's not necessarily meant to be objective and fair, and assumes you need to buy all your hardware new.

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    Netflix remaining on AWS never made much sense to me, but then again that TCO calculator overestimates server costs by an order of magnitude... – Michael Hampton Mar 22 '16 at 0:41
  • You have to wonder if Netflix get a special deal. Enterprize grade hardware can be stupidly expensive: I recently heard of a SAN with 10TB usable space costing around $100K, this inside an organisation that appreciates value for money. – Tim Mar 22 '16 at 0:43
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    Well, yeah, ### and ###### will take all the money they can get from you for their SAN products. As with everything, it pays to shop around, and in some cases - especially at very large scale - to build things yourself. – Michael Hampton Mar 22 '16 at 0:45

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