Skip To Content

Introduction to Amazon Web Services terminology

Before you begin working with ArcGIS Enterprise on Amazon Web Services, familiarize yourself with some related terms and concepts.

Amazon Machine Image (AMI)

An Amazon Machine Image is a preconfigured template that allows you to create a virtual machine on Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2).

Esri AMIs are available through Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace. Each AMI includes ArcGIS software and a database management system (DBMS) that you can use for your stand-alone ArcGIS Server site's managed database.

ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services

ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services is a free downloadable app that helps you create an ArcGIS Server site on AWS. The app runs on your desktop and requires your Amazon Access Key and Secret Access Key to log in to the app. Once you've logged in to the app, choose the operating system you want to use for the ArcGIS Server site and how many machines it can contain, along with some other parameters and options.

Once an ArcGIS Server site is created using ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services, you can also edit existing sites that you've created with the app.

AWS CloudFormation

You can also copy and modify these templates to fit your specific needs, or create your own templates to implement your own deployment patterns.

Esri provides sample CloudFormation templates to help you deploy ArcGIS Enterprise and stand-alone ArcGIS Server sites.

AWS Management Console

The AWS Management Console is Amazon's web-based interface for managing your Amazon EC2 instances. The AWS Management Console allows you to manage your ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Server deployments on AWS, such as allowing you to add storage volumes or adjust security groups.

The AWS Management Console requires you to log in with an account that you've set up with Amazon to use its cloud. The AWS Management Console allows you to view your account information and accumulated charges.


Amazon DynamoDB is a NoSQL database service managed by AWS that distributes data and traffic for a table over multiple servers to meet requests.

You can use DynamoDB for the configuration store of your highly available ArcGIS Server site on AWS.

EC2 instance

An EC2 instance is a virtual machine that you create on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. In the context of ArcGIS, you create the instance using an AMI that is preconfigured with an operating system and ArcGIS software already installed.

There are two types of Amazon EC2 instances: EC2-Classic and EC2-VPC. When you deploy using ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services or the Esri sample CloudFormation templates, EC2-VPC instances are used.

Once you create the instance, you can log in to it. For example, you can access a Windows instance using a Windows Remote Desktop Connection.

You can stop and start EC2 instances in much the same way you can shut down and start a computer. Instances can also be terminated when they are no longer needed. Once you terminate an instance, all information about it is lost. For this reason, it's recommended that you store your data on Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes attached to your instance and optionally back up your data using Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes are virtual disk drives that you can attach to your EC2 instance to add more storage. The Esri Windows AMIs create an EBS volume and attach it to the instance as the D: drive. The Esri Ubuntu AMI creates an EBS volume named /gisdata that is mounted to the instance.

You can choose to place your data on these preattached volumes, replace them with volumes of a different size, or attach more volumes.

If you create your own EBS volume, you must do the work of formatting the drive and attaching it (for example, you can configure it as drive E: on Windows). You can configure the drive to contain as much or as little space as you need.

EBS volumes are an excellent way to manage your data in the cloud independently from your software. For example, you can easily detach an EBS volume from one instance and attach it to another. When you terminate an instance, any previously attached EBS volumes are left behind, allowing you to attach them to other instances, if desired.

You can create snapshots of your EBS volumes, which allow you to quickly generate identical volumes. Snapshots are useful if you need to share data across Amazon availability zones, or if you want to make the same data available to several Amazon accounts. Finally, snapshots provide a means of data backup. If a volume fails for some reason, you can deploy a new volume from the original snapshot without much loss.

Elastic Load Balancer

Amazon Elastic Load Balancers are a way to distribute work across multiple EC2 instances. All requests to your site go through the load balancer, which evenly distributes the requests to the available EC2 instances. You can add or remove participating EC2 instances from the load balancer at any time. When you build a site with ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services, a load balancer is configured for you and your ArcGIS Server instances are placed beneath it.

Regions and Availability Zones

Amazon EC2 consists of multiple data centers around the world that are designed to address enterprise architecture challenges.

  • Amazon Regions represent data center facilities in dispersed geographic locations such as the United States, Europe, and Asia.
  • Amazon Availability Zones are distinct locations within a region that are engineered to be isolated from failures in other Availability Zones. Configuring your application in multiple zones provides an extra layer of availability in case one of the zones should fail.

Relational Database Service

Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) is a web service that provides you access to a database instance. Amazon patches the database software for you and creates backups of your databases, which are retained for one day by default. When you build an ArcGIS Server site with ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder on Amazon Web Services or CloudFormation templates provided by Esri, you have an option to include an Amazon RDS for Microsoft SQL Server instance or Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL with your site.

If you use the AWS Management Console to build your site and want to use an Amazon RDS for Microsoft SQL Server instance or Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL, you must manually create a geodatabse in an RDS instance using the Enable Enterprise Geodatabase geoprocessing tool and register it as your GIS Server site's managed database.


Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) is an AWS service designed specifically for data storage in the cloud. This storage option supports several data migration workflows to help you move data in and out of the cloud. Data in S3 is stored in buckets that you configure to define the region in which they reside and who has access to them.

You can use S3 in the following capacities with your ArcGIS Enterprise on Amazon Web Services deployments:

  • To store data backups
  • As a middle ground for data transfer between your on-premises deployment and your EBS volumes
  • Register as a data source for ArcGIS Server web services
  • To store snapshots you create of your EBS volumes
  • As a highly available option for your ArcGIS Server configuration store
  • As a highly available option for your portal's content directory