Amazon Web Services - EC2 - Wow! by jgn on Friday, September 28, 2007 in Technology and Kendall Square

Yesterday afternoon I went to Amazon's presentation for their "Start-Up Project," where the main event was a set of presentations by companies that are leveraging Amazon Web Services, and in particular EC2, Amazon's "elastic cloud." It was at the MIT Hotel (oops, Hotel@MIT). There was good attendance. Some of the usual suspects were there (hi, Chris Marstall).

EC2 provides for provisioning a Linux system from the command line. After a 30 second wait (ymmv), you can log into it, prepare it, and then save a copy for later use. Then, if you like, you can fire up 20 of these babies and create your own server farm. If you contact Amazon, you can provision a lot more. One of the presenters talked about provisioning 100 in 5 minutes.

The pricing is $0.10 per instance hour, which isn't bad. You also have to pay for storing any custom instances.

In any case, the convenience is the incredible part. Only do regression testing 3 days a week? Fire up the instances, do your work, and only pay for server utilization during that period.

Need to create a new multi-server staging environment without destabilizing your current operation? Provision your new test instances and get to work!

There was also a lot of creativity leveraging EC2 to support production environment. Geezeo, located in Boston, have put everything on EC2: Front-end, app-servers, and database. Because MySQL replication and clustering is relatively easy, they could set up a small MySQL farm and then do frequent off-site backups to S3 (Amazon's Simple Storage Service -- you pay for that, but it's not too expensive). Geezeo is sort of a mix of Quicken and Facebook. I'd been very leery of Geezeo because I don't think I want my bank data up in the cloud. But after this presentation, I think they may have a good architecture for security; I might actually try them now. Which is saying a lot, because if you had told me their service was in EC2 before I saw their presentation, it would have actually increased my worry. They have SSL in the right places, and, apparently, private IPs running in EC2. Nice job.

Another company that presented was AideRSS. First off, I had encountered this product shortly after their launch, and it's great. It will check your feeds for the good stuff (based on their own metrics based on net-wide readership), and then you can subscribe to their filter. They also have some neat widgets.

Their footprint in EC2 is significant. I'm hoping they send me a copy of their slides, but I believe they said that at times they have had as many as 100 instances running (this was before optimization -- now they run on 20-30 instances), which they needed shortly after getting slashdotted. They also have some compute-intensive spidering operations, and they also leverage the Amazon queuing service.

Yet another neat thing I saw was the lastest offering from RightScale. I'd used them before and liked the product. They provide a web-based interface for setting up and managing your instances (for raw EC2, you use command-line tools). Slick. Their newest thing is a pre-built cluster, so you can launch a set of instances running, say, MySQL replication on 3 servers.

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