Early Look: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Update @ 2:45pm: Jon Udell has a quick word on EC2, complete with a screencast demo. His one word review: “Wow”.

Like Chris Pirillo, I received an email from Amazon last night inviting me to try out the beta of Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), their newest web service offering. Here, I’m going to tell you a bit more about it.

Remember when I talked about Amazon S3 a couple of weeks ago? That’s the company’s “pay only for what you use” online storage web service. It solves one piece of the utility computing puzzle by giving you data storage capacity when you need it. EC2 solves what I think is a more difficult problem: giving you computing power on demand when you need more (or less) of it.

Here’s a short description straight from Amazon:

Just as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) enables storage in the cloud, Amazon EC2 enables “compute” in the cloud. Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction. It provides you with complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon’s proven computing environment. Amazon EC2 reduces the time required to obtain and boot new server instances to minutes, allowing you to quickly scale capacity, both up and down, as your computing requirements change. Amazon EC2 changes the economics of computing by allowing you to pay only for capacity that you actually use.

So by using EC2, you can create one or more (up to 20 during the beta) virtual Linux servers and run them on Amazon’s infrastructure as you need them. Each server instance gives you the equivalent of a computer with:

  • A 1.7Ghz Xeon CPU
  • 1.75GB of RAM
  • 160GB of local disk
  • 250Mb/s of network bandwidth

For a price of:

  • $0.10 per instance-hour consumed
  • $0.20 per GB of data transferred outside of Amazon (i.e., Internet traffic)
  • $0.15 per GB-Month of Amazon S3 storage used for your virtual server images

You can learn more in the Amazon EC2 Beta FAQ. The possibilities created by Amazon S3 and EC2 are huge, and gives start-ups access to really cheap computing power and storage, freeing up cash to spend on people.

I’ll end this post by noting that utility computing isn’t the right fit for every business out there. Some are willing and able to spend lots of money up front to purchase servers, bandwidth, power, a systems administrator, etc. It might save them money in the long run, but I struggle to see how. But for others who want to stay bootstrap, stay lean, and have their resources grow with them, this might be exactly what’s in order.

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