Amazon Lightsail is an Amazon cloud service that offers bundles of cloud compute power and memory for new or less experienced cloud users.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) packages memory, processing, storage and transfer into virtual machines (VMs) for customers to purchase, and then releases that compute capacity as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. Amazon Lightsail derives its compute power from an EC2 instance and repackages it for customers who are new or inexperienced with the cloud.
AWS designed the Lightsail service to make it simpler to understand and purchase rudimentary compute capacity. AWS also manages the infrastructure, which shares the same uptime and global regions and availability zones as EC2, and makes it available with a few mouse clicks.
Amazon Lightsail launches virtual private servers, which are VMs with individual operating systems but restricted access to physical server resources. A customer can choose from five Lightsail plans with the following characteristics:
- Memory ranging from 512 MB to 8 GB;
- Processors with one or two cores;
- A solid-state drive with 20 to 80 GB of storage;
- Data transfer allowances of 1 to 5 TB;
- Prices from $5 to $80 per month.
All Lightsail plans include a static IP address, a management console, secure shell terminal access and key management, domain name server management, and server monitoring. Lightsail customers also have access to AWS tools.
Lightsail offers a variety of operating systems, applications and stacks so a customer can build a template. A developer uses the Lightsail command-line interface as an alternative to the console. Lightsail also provides a reference for application programming interfaces and documentation.
Lightsail is a lightweight, simplified product offering — hard disks are fixed size EBS SSD volumes, instances are still billable when stopped, security group rules are much less flexible, and only a very limited subset of EC2 features and options are accessible.
It also has a dramatically simplified console, and even though the machines run in EC2, you can’t see them in the EC2 section of the AWS console. The instances run in a special VPC, but this aspect is also provisioned automatically and invisible in the console. Lightsail supports optionally peering this hidden VPC with your default VPC in the same AWS region, allowing Lightsail instances to access services like EC2 and RDS in the default VPC within the same AWS account.
Bandwidth is unlimited, but of course free bandwidth is not — however, Lightsail instances do include a significant monthly outbound bandwidth allowance before any bandwidth-related charges kick in. Lightsail also has a simplified interface to Route 53 with limited functionality.
But if those sound like drawbacks, they aren’t. The point of Lightsail seems to be simplicity. The flexibility of EC2 (and much of AWS) leads inevitably to complexity. The target market for Lightsail appears to be those who “just want a simple VPS” without having to navigate the myriad options available in AWS services like EC2, EBS, VPC, and Route 53. There is virtually no learning curve, here. You don’t even technically need to know how to use SSH with a private key — the Lightsail console even has a built-in SSH client — but there is no requirement that you use it. You can access these instances normally, with a standard SSH client.
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