Saturday, October 25, 2008

Amazon cloud computing goes fast

Right now, I have my own (virtual) server running in the Amazon data center. Getting such an Amazon server running has really become very easy. With Elasticfox, a plug in for Firefox, everything can be configured in a trivial and user friendly way. No more need to use command line tools or write your web service calls yourself. Just follow the Getting Starting Guide.

July of this year, I read the book "Programming Amazon Web Services" by James Murty. Great book, with lots of Ruby code explaining how to invoke the low level Amazon web services. The book was published in February 2008 and already a bit outdated during summer when I read it, but getting more and more behind. Amazon is implementing new features at such a rapid pace:
  • Public IP address (Elastic IP address), earlier one needed a computer elsewhere with fixed IP address to forward clients to server located at Amazon (e.g. through HTTP 302 or other)
  • Local, permanent file system (Elastic Block Store), earlier one needed to leverage S3
  • Lower prices
  • Windows support, before there were only *nix distributions available
  • Database support with Oracle on Linux and now SQL Server on Windows
  • No more beta but full production with SLA
  • Elasticfox plug-in along with good documentation
So now I have my own simple Windows 2003 server with a fixed IP address and DNS name. Accessing the server goes fine with Remote Desktop. The responsiveness is not always top, but similar to a local VMWare instance. By the way, this is a perfect alternative for VMWare and a serious competitor! I have the smallest server instance (AMI) running, which is obviously virtualised at Amazon. But it looks like dual-core Opteron with 1.66 GB of memory. And bandwidth is phenomenal: downloading Acrobat at more than 8 MByte/s.

Amazon is already announcing future features such as load balancing, monitoring and automatic scaling (automatically launching extra server instances). Strange that charging is still done via credit card. But I assume that big users can get a real invoice with payment terms.

Extra remarks:
  • On Friday Dec. 12, the Amazon evangelist Simone Brunozzi will give a talk at Devoxx conference.
  • Running the server instance during a couple of hours had a cost of 70 dollar cents, mostly because I left the elastic IP address unused for a while

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