Looking at Amazon's Cloud

There is a lot of talk about “the cloud” in the IT trade magazines and in general at IT shops around the globe. I’ve used Amazon S3 in production for some web, offsite virtual tape libraries (just a mounted location on S3) and a few other storage uses. I’m not going to say I love it for every use I’ve seen it used for, but it can definitely get the job done when used properly. I’m also not going to say that I love the speeds of S3 compared to local storage, but that’s kindof a given now isn’t it… One of the more niche uses has been to integrate it into Apple’s Final Cut Server.

In addition to S3 I’ve experimented with CloudFront for web services (which seems a little more like Akamai than S3) and done a little testing of MapReduce for some of log crunching – although the MapReduce testing has thus far been futile compared to just using EC2 it does provide an effective option if used properly. Overall, I like the way the Amazon Machine Instances (AMI – aka VM) work and I can’t complain about the command line environment they’ve built, which I have managed to script against fairly easily.

The biggest con thus far (IMHO) about S3 and EC2 is that you can’t test them out for free (or at least not when I started testing them). I still get a bill for around 7 cents a month for some phantom storage I can’t track down on my personal S3 account, but it’s not enough for me to bother to call about… But if you’re looking at Amazon for storage, I’d just make sure you’re using the right service. If you’re looking at them for compute firepower then fire up a VM using EC2, read up on their CLI environment and enjoy. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to build out a scalable infrastructure using pretty much the same topology as if they were physical boxen.

I think the reason I’m not seeing a lot of people jumping on EC2 is the pricing. It’s practically free to test, but I think it’s one of those things where a developer has a new app they want to take to market and EC2 gives us a way to do that, but then when the developer looks at potentially paying 4x the intro amount in peak times for processing power (if a VM is always on then you would be going from $72 to $288 per month per VM without factoring data transfer to/from the VM at .1 to .17/GB) they get worried and just go to whatever tried and true route they’ve always used to take it to market. Or they think that it’s just going to do everything for them and then are shocked about the fact that it’s just a VM and get turned off… With all of these services you have to be pretty careful with transfer rates, etc.

I haven’t found a product to do this yet, but what I’d really like to have is use something like vSphere/vCenter or MS VMM that could provision, move and manage VMs, whether they sit on Amazon, a host OS in my garage or a bunch of ESX hosts in my office, or a customers office for that matter – and preferably with a cute sexy meter to tell me how much I owe for my virtual sandboxes.

One comment

  • cloudberryman
    May 1, 2009 - 6:10 am | Permalink

    I always enjoy learning what other people think about Amazon Web Services and how they use them. If you want to manage Amazon S3 accounts on Windows check out CloudBerry Explorer that helps to manage S3 on Windows . It is a freeware. http://cloudberrylab.com/ (also supports PowerShell command line interface)

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