Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

August 24, 2006

What the heck is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud? Ad hoc virtualized servers! Hooray!

Deploys in minutes. Upload an “Amazon Machine Image” (basically a Linux file system tar ball, kernel and all), use a web service call to turn it on … and you’re rockin’.

Reasonable hardware, hot bandwidth. From the beta description: “Each instance predictably provides the equivalent of a system with a 1.7Ghz Xeon CPU, 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB of local disk, and 250Mb/s of network bandwidth.”

Fair pricing. 10 cents per instance hour; 20 cents per gigabyte of data sent; 15 cents per gigabyte of storage.

What does that all mean? Well, you’re looking at well equipped web server using 20GB of storage and 50GB of transfer per month for $85. More or less instantly available. HOT DAMN. That’s something that makes me want to throw my arms in the air and do a lot of dancing.

This is one of the most interesting things I’ve seen this year — something that could be quite disruptive in the hosting industry. I’m chomping at the bit to get my beta invite.

Now, the next big issues: load balancing and network topology. It’s Linux, so LVS would work alright. Tunnelling can provide a private network. Hmm. Food for thought, anyway.



5 Responses to “Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud”

  1. Actually, I think openVPN would work well if you need a private network between them. Throw in dynamic DNS to deal with the non-static IPs and add in a FUSE mount to S3 for permanent storage — you’ve got a nice little plan for a very scalable hosting system.

  2. Peat Says:

    Thomas: I’ve been thinking along the same lines. A lot of the storage issues are fairly static (media, backups, disk images, etc.), and are well suited to S3 storage. Having an AMI that can be redeployed to meet the needs of common Rails apps cuts down significantly on the setup time and management issues of shared and dedicated hosting.

    Plus, S3 is so cheap (and transfer between EC2 and S3 is free) that you can snapshot a live disk image for an app server on a regular basis without breaking the bank.

    I’ve been doing these sorts of things with Xen (and VMWare) for a long time — and the drudgery is always managing the hardware end of things. With the hardware management out of the equation, and a relatively simple toolset for building virtual machines, I think we’re going to see a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon. 🙂

  3. It seems especially interesting for the SaaS type environments (like the company I currently work for) where there are often peak hours where usage spikes heavily for periods of time. The ability to *cheaply* bring up a (potentially large) number of additional hosts in a hurry makes for some interesting possibilities.

    Of course, this is going to require a lot of rethinking of the architecture that many companies have traditionally used, but I think it’s a good thing and it focuses on a general trend that’s happening in the data center. I think that products like OpenQRM ( provide an interesting opportunity for automation of this. I’m really excited about what’s happening in this space.

  4. Peat Says:

    I think the biggest disadvantage to the service is that the IP addresses aren’t static. That can play havoc with hosting situations — dynamic DNS is nice, but there are a lot of services that want a static IP.

    Anyhow. I get a kick out of the idea that I can have an on-demand render farm. I think there’s probably a good business somewhere out there for a dynamic Blender Farm. Your home CPU not up to the task? Upload your source, and get back an S3 URL for downloading the results. No muss, no fuss, and certainly cheaper than building and maintaining your own.


  5. Marcus Says:

    Yes Peat, you absolutely SHOULD build a vertical render farm solution and market it with AdWords. Jesus, I wish I were an engineer. One of these days…

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