Amazon Machine Image

What Is an Amazon Machine Image?

An Amazon Machine Image (AMI) is a preconfigured virtual machine (VM) designed to be deployed on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). It acts as a virtual appliance because the VM contains the operating system or application server and applications, launch permissions, and mapping to specify which storage volumes should be attached to the instance. An AMI is intended to be a streamlined way to deploy software services.

Benefits of Amazon Machine Images

An AMI provides speed, efficiency, and conformity of deployment. Because all the necessary elements are bundled and preconfigured together, including permissions, an AMI can be spun up on an Amazon EC2 VM ready to go. The capabilities will be the same across VMs deployed using the same AMI, enabling rapid, predictable scaling of a generic service. No manual installation of software dependencies will be required.

Due to its behavior as a virtual appliance, there can be a considerable cost benefit from using an AMI. A single instance can be deployed with a predictable price and then scaled up by adding further instances with the same linear cost increase as requirements grow. There is no need to over-provision just in case of future demand.

Deploying via an AMI can also offer flexibility, with options often available for different operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and UNIX. Additional services may also be available to extend functionality based on the same generic core image.

Examples of Amazon Machine Images

There are three main types of Amazon Machine Images.

1. Public

This is an openly distributed AMI that anyone can deploy for free on their own Amazon EC2 provision. These tend to be standard AMIs for essential functions. They could consist of just a base operating system or frequently used software such as a web server, database server, and other applications for deploying simple web services.

2. Paid

This AMI requires a subscription payment via the AWS Marketplace. The applications and services packaged within the AMI will include premium elements from developers. There are thousands of choices available on the AWS Marketplace.

3. Shared

This is a private AMI not listed publicly on the AWS Marketplace but only available to Amazon EC2 users with access enabled by the developer.
There are AMIs for various workloads, from basic infrastructure deployment, to DevOps, to business applications such as WordPress website hosting and IP telephony to machine learning and Internet of Things device support. Security applications, including VPNs and firewalls, can be deployed via AMI too.

How an Amazon Machine Image Works

Deploying an AMI usually starts with the AWS Marketplace, which provides a searchable storefront through which an Image that delivers the functionality required can be found. The user can then subscribe to the AMI for free or via various payment methods if it’s a premium image. An appropriate Amazon EC2 instance in a preferred region will be simultaneously deployed to host the AMI, with its costs rolled into a single regular fee.

The AMI and the VM hosting it are deployed together, providing a seamless series of steps that streamline the process. The VM will be spun up, the image copied across, and the configuration completed in a matter of minutes. Even with Shared AMIs not deployed via the AWS Marketplace, the developer can provide a similar process that combines the image and VM into one configuration sequence.

Amazon Machine Image vs. Container Image

Amazon Machine Images and container images operate via different types of virtualization. Where an AMI runs on a full virtual machine, a container image runs in a container. The latter sits on a container orchestration platform such as Kubernetes or Docker and a host operating system. While an AMI includes an operating system and VM in one bundle, a container image must be deployed onto appropriate containerized infrastructure.
The QNX® Hypervisor is a real-time, Type 1 hypervisor that offers virtualization technology and enables the secure separation of multiple operating environments on a single SoC. QNX Hypervisor brings containers to connected automobiles as a way to segment non-safety applications from critical systems.

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