This post was contributed by: Pranav Chachra, Rob Chen, Alan Goodman

AWS launched a Local Zone in Los Angeles (LA), California, in late 2019 at re:Invent. Since the launch, we have seen a lot of interest from you, and have worked to bring additional features and services based on your feedback.

In this blog series, we share best practices and recommendations for hosting your applications in Local Zones based on what has worked for customers. Part one focuses on sharing more about Local Zones and how customers are already using the LA Local Zone. In this blog, we also address key questions asked by customers since the launch of the LA Local Zone. In the upcoming parts of this blog series, we do a deep dive into specific use cases for which our customers are using the LA Local Zone. We also list best practices to host your applications in Local Zones and plan to provide related architectural considerations.

AWS Local Zones introduction

local zone base picture

Today, there are a significant number of applications that can run in the AWS Cloud. Most applications work well in our Regions. However, for workloads that require low-latency or local data processing, you need us to bring AWS infrastructure closer to you. Without local AWS presence, you have to procure, operate, and maintain IT infrastructure in your own data center or colocation facility for such workloads. And, you end up building and running such application components with a different set of APIs and tools than the other parts of your applications running in the AWS Cloud. This results in a lot of extra effort and expenses.

And that’s why, based on your feedback, we launched AWS Local Zones, a new type of AWS infrastructure deployment that places compute, storage, and other select services closer to large cities. We designed Local Zones as a powerful construct that extends our existing Regions into new locations. This gives you the ability to run applications on AWS that require single-digit millisecond latencies to your end-users or on-premises installations in the local area. Just like Regions, Local Zones are fully managed and supported by AWS, giving you the elasticity, scalability, and security benefits of running on the AWS. The first Local Zone is generally available in LA, and is an extension of the US West (Oregon) Region (the parent Region).

Use cases

Like Regions, customers leverage the LA Local Zone for many different use cases. The top customer use cases include:

  1. Media and Entertainment (M&E) content creation: M&E customers are migrating expensive on-premises workstations to the LA Local Zone. They do this to accelerate content creation by getting rid of capacity constraints while improving security and operational efficiency. For artist workstations, latency is the key to having a jitter-free experience on a remote instance. These customers typically require less than five millisecond latency from their offices to virtual instances. With Direct Connect, most of these customers are able to achieve as low as 1-2 millisecond latency from their animation hubs in LA to the Local Zone, and run latency-sensitive workloads, such as live production, video editing.
  2. Enterprise migration with hybrid architecture: Enterprises have workloads running in their existing on-premises data centers in the LA metro area. These customers use the Local Zone to migrate complex legacy on-premises applications to AWS without expensive revamp of their architecture. Customers have told us that it can be daunting to migrate a portfolio of interdependent applications to the cloud. Now with a Direct Connect to the LA Local Zone, customers can establish a hybrid environment that provides ultra-low latency communication between applications running in the LA Local Zone and on-premises installations. In turn, this enables customers to migrate applications incrementally, simplifying migrations drastically and enabling on-going hybrid deployments in the LA area.
  3. Real-time multiplayer gaming: This category includes gaming companies that deploy game servers for multiplayer sessions all over the world to be closer to gamers. A latency of 20 milliseconds or less is considered ideal for good gameplay experience. Until now, these customers were using on-premises installations in the LA area to supplement AWS presence. However, now, customers are deploying latency-sensitive game servers in the LA Local Zone to run real-time and interactive multiplayer game sessions, enabling them to provide end users in the Southern California area with a great experience.

In the next parts of the blog series, we further dive into these use cases, cover respective best practices, and review architectural guidance for you.

Services and features

AWS launched the LA Local Zone with support for seven Nitro based Amazon EC2 instance types (T3, C5, M5, R5, R5d, I3en, and G4), two EBS volume types (io1 and gp2), Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, Amazon FSx for Lustre, Application Load Balancer, Amazon VPC and Amazon Direct Connect. Since launch, AWS added support for Amazon RDS, Amazon EMR, AWS Shield, and Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts, and are adding more services based on your feedback.

Other parts of AWS, like AWS CloudFormation templates, CloudWatch, IAM resources, and Organizations, will continue to work as expected, providing you a consistent experience. You can also leverage the full suite of services like Amazon S3 in the parent Region, US West (Oregon), over AWS’s private network backbone with ~20–30 milliseconds latency.

Getting started and using the Local Zone

Now that we reviewed some common use cases and services of Local Zones, we want to get you started using the Local Zone. First, enable the LA Local Zone from the new “Zone settings” section of the EC2 console, as shown in the following image:

console Zone Settings

Once enabled, Local Zones looks and behaves similarly to an Availability Zones (AZs).  You can access Local Zones through the parent Region’s console and API endpoints. The following image shows that the LA Local Zone is visible as us-west-2-lax-1a along with other AZs in the EC2 console:

service health of zone

Once the LA Local Zone is enabled, you can extend your existing VPC from the parent Region to a Local Zone by creating a new VPC subnet assigned to the LA Local Zone:

creating subnet

Once a VPC subnet is established for the LA Local Zone, simply select the subnet while creating local resources. For example, you can launch an EC2 instance in the LA Local Zone by selecting the local subnet as the following:

configuring instance details

Local resources are then ready within seconds. You can manage these resources in the LA Local Zone just like resources in AZs:

shows the local zone created

Just like Regions, you can set up an Internet Gateway to access your local resources in the LA Local Zone over the internet. Or you can use AWS Direct Connect to route your traffic over a private network connection from any Direct Connect location. To get the best latency performance, you should use one of the Direct Connect locations available in LA:

  • T5 at El Segundo, Los Angeles, CA (recommended for lowest latency to the LA Local Zone)
  • CoreSite LA1, Los Angeles, CA
  • Equinix LA3, El Segundo, CA

Pricing

From a pricing perspective, Instances, and other local AWS resources running in a Local Zone have their own prices that might differ from the parent Region. Billing reports include a prefix, “LAX1,” or location name, “US West (Los Angeles),” that is specific to a group of Local Zones in LA. EC2 instances in Local Zones are available in On-Demand and Spot form, and you can also purchase Savings Plans. For pricing information, you can visit the pricing section on the respective services and filter pricing information by choosing the Local Zone location as “US West (Los Angeles)” in the dropdown.

Data transfer charges in AWS Local Zones are the same as in the AZs in the parent Region today. For example, data transferred between Amazon EC2 instances in the LA Local Zone and Amazon S3 in the parent Region, US West (Oregon), is free. Similarly, data transferred IN and OUT from Amazon EC2 in the Local Zone to the Amazon EC2 in the Parent Region is charged at $0.01/GB in each direction. You can learn more about data transfer prices “in” and “out” of Amazon EC2 here.

Thinking ahead

Later this year, AWS plans to open a second Local Zone in LA (us-west-2-lax-1b). The two Local Zones in LA will be interconnected with high-bandwidth, low-latency AWS networking allowing you to architect your low-latency applications for high availability and fault tolerance. Based on your feedback, we are also working on adding Local Zones in other locations along with the availability of the additional services, including Amazon ECS, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service, Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon ES, and Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka.

Conclusion

Now that we provided AWS Local Zones that you requested; we are really looking forward to seeing what all you can do with them. AWS would love to get your advice on locations or additional local services/features or other interesting use cases, so feel free to leave us your comments!