Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) from Amazon

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Amazon Elastic Compute CloudAmazon has just launched Elastic Compute Cloud (or EC2), a "Tier 0" service in the same vein as S3 (Simple Storage Service, launched earlier this year), but for processing power instead of storage. Amazon describes EC2 as "a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud ... designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers." Developers can run anything they want on EC2--web servers, database servers, game servers, 3D renderers--though currently only Linux is supported. The way it works is this: You create an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) which contains your environment, programs, data, and so on and upload it to EC2 (or choose one of Amazon's "pre-configured, templated images), then use the EC2 web service to configure its security and network access. Then you can programatically "start, terminate, and monitor as many instances of your AMI as needed" on the fly. According to Amazon, 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," which is, well, a whole lot of power.

For what you get, EC2 is fairly inexpensive, though that's to be expected having seen the pricing for S3. Here's the rundown:
  • Pay only for what you use.
  • $0.10 per instance-hour consumed (or part of an 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 images (charged by Amazon S3).
If you're using it 24/7, that comes out to about $74 per month per instance, which isn't bad when compared to a dedicated server with similar specs. And if you're not using it constantly, the deal is even sweeter. The biggest advantage, though, is that you can start and stop new instances on the fly: Whereas setting up an additional dedicated server can take days, with EC2 it takes minutes, and since it can be controlled programmatically, you can set you programs up to automatically start or stop instances without your interaction.

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