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Amazon EC2 Now More Ready for Application Hosting

jamie posted about 6 years ago | from the in-my-humble-opinion dept.

The Internet 149

For months now, I've been geeked about Amazon's EC2 as a web hosting service. But until today, in my opinion, it wasn't ready for prime time. Now it is, for two reasons. One, you can get static IPs, so if an outward-facing VM goes down you can quickly start another one and point your site's traffic to it without waiting for DNS propagation. And two, you can now separate your VMs into "physically distinct, independent infrastructure" zones, so you can plan to keep your site up if a tornado takes out one NOC. If I were developing a new website I'd host it there; buying or leasing real hardware for a startup seems silly. If you have questions, or especially if you know something about other companies' virtual hosting options, post comments -- let's compare notes.

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IPv6 (4, Interesting)

rubeng (1263328) | about 6 years ago | (#22883202)

Nice, don't suppose there's any chance of IPv6 support - give each instance, running or not, a unique address.

Re:IPv6 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883228)

That would be Cuntacular!

Re:IPv6 (3, Insightful)

tolan-b (230077) | about 6 years ago | (#22883386)

I suspect only tunneled over IPv4.

What I'm personally waiting for from EC2 is European datacentres, as I have an application that's latency sensitive. :(

Re:IPv6 (2, Informative)

nacturation (646836) | about 6 years ago | (#22883554)

What I'm personally waiting for from EC2 is European datacentres, as I have an application that's latency sensitive. :(
You can use Amazon's S3 Europe [amazon.com] for serving static files from their European datacentre.

Re:IPv6 (2, Insightful)

tolan-b (230077) | about 6 years ago | (#22883664)

Yeah I need low latency to the server running the app. Hopefully the fact that they've opened a Euro datacentre for S3 is an indication they might do the same for EC2 though.

IPV6? How about an SLA! (2, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 6 years ago | (#22883766)

"More ready" is wonderfully relative.

"Less unready" is just as accurate, and perhaps more precise.

Without an SLA, EC2 or SimpleDB, or "Head in The Cloud" is an experimental platform.

Re:IPV6? How about an SLA! (1)

Phurge (1112105) | about 6 years ago | (#22884348)

is that true about no SLA?

That would make me pretty nervous committing my company's business to Amazon without an SLA....

Re:IPV6? How about an SLA! (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 6 years ago | (#22884550)

Hmmmnn. I been looking. The DB is definitely no SLA. Looks like EC2 and Storage got one, six months ago.

It's too proprietary (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 6 years ago | (#22883230)

If you're using Amazon for hosting, you can't switch hosting services; their system is too nonstandard. Do you want to be in a position where they can raise prices or cut off your air supply?

Re:It's too proprietary (3, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | about 6 years ago | (#22883330)

If you're using Amazon for hosting, you can't switch hosting services; their system is too nonstandard. Do you want to be in a position where they can raise prices or cut off your air supply?
EC2 allows you to setup your own servers on their infrastructure. Ultimately, this is as standard as getting a virtual or dedicated server at any one of thousands of other hosting providers. Switching is as easy as replicating the environment you've created for yourself (which is likely a standard LAMP stack anyways) and then doing a DNS change.

Re:It's too proprietary (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22884260)

Yes and no. Since it's not persistent, you have to set up some kind of backup/replication from day one -- S3 being the common choice here. My startup uses EC2+S3, and just getting a Linux image serving a webpage is completely standard (yay), but setting up all the replication and monitoring and whatnot that a real server actually needs is kind of a pain. You end up with a lot of EC2/S3-specific fun, at least on the administration side.

As just one example, we don't do full backups, but rather have our images install everything on startup (which is rare, and fast anyway), and simply hot-sync our RDBMS while it's running. Simple and fast! Then we wanted to install a blog, so we installed Wordpress. Later we discovered that Wordpress uses our database for posts (so it replicated them just fine), but *also* writes to the filesystem for file uploads. So we needed to install the "Wordpress S3" extension, so file uploads got backed-up to S3 too.

Were we stupid to assume that web apps that use an RDBMS use only the RDBMS? Or to use Wordpress? Or to hotsync only and not do full backups of our image? Maybe all of the above. But it seems about equal to me to say "EC2 is standard Xen" as "Perl is cross-platform": it's certainly possible to use it that way. You can also tie yourself down to a platform really easily, if you don't make portability a priority. We don't think EC2/S3 is going away soon, so we took the easy way.

True, we could just move our image somewhere else. It would probably run, mostly. Things like "back up EC2 to S3" we'd need to spend time changing, because I don't think anybody else in the world uses the same interfaces there. That, I assume, is what the GP was speaking of.

Re:It's too proprietary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883442)

Forgive me for being uninformed if that is the case, but aren't these simple virtual machines running linux ? It should be no harder to move to a different hosting place than it is to move any hosted linux. I have done "brute force" migrations by literally copying every file from a hosted system (RedHat) to an in-house server, and jumping through hoops with editing fstab and grub.conf and etc until it booted and ran, and then fixing driver issues. I have also done the same from a hosted system into a VMWare image. Of course you could do it "right", if a deadline wasn't breathing down your neck and your business had properly documented the initial setup, then you would take the opportunity to put all the latest versions on the new place, and migrate a module at a time doing what code and config updates were needed.

But seriously, what is the proprietary lock-in in a Linux virtual machine ?

Re:It's too proprietary (3, Informative)

LukeCrawford (918758) | about 6 years ago | (#22883484)

it's pretty much a standard i386/PAE Xen image... I've not tried, but if you take a image of your filesystem, you should be able to move it to another Xen hosting provider that supports i386/PAE. Of course, most competitors don't have Amazons wiz-bang provisioning technology. Uh, not to whore out my own links, but I run a small Xen hosting provider [prgmr.com] (btw, ec2 kicks my ass when it comes to price per megabyte of ram) - and I (and I assume many of my competitors [xensource.com] ) provide a read-only rescue image where you can mount your partitions without booting them up, meaning that if you have a dump or tar of your old filesystem, you could move your image fairly easily.

I do think that another host using an automated provisioning system that is compatable with EC2 would be a good thing- If I wasn't absolutely swamped by my dayjob, I'd try to implement such a thing.

Re:It's too proprietary (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 6 years ago | (#22884742)

Uh, not to whore out my own links, but I run a small Xen hosting provider
Can you drop me a mail if you start offering FreeBSD domUs? I have a dedicated server running OpenBSD at the moment, but I'd be interested in a backup host.

FreeBSD under Xen (1)

LukeCrawford (918758) | about 6 years ago | (#22884988)

FreeBSD support for xen hasn't been merdged into mainline just yet (acutally, last time I looked there was a patchset for FreeBSD 7 that was broken by xen 3.0.3 that had been idle for a while.. looking again, Kip Macy looks to have updated it to work with FreeBSD-Current: http://wiki.freebsd.org/FreeBSD/Xen [freebsd.org] , so maybe I'll look into it again when I get a chance.)

NetBSD/Xen is quite stable on i386/non-PAE and netbsd-current has i386-PAE and x86-64 support for xen... If you like OpenBSD, NetBSD might be a better choice than Free (OpenBSD is very close to NetBSD) Any xen provider that can handle i386-non-PAE should be able to give you good NetBSD images. (I won't have a non-PAE box available for 3 weeks or so)

Within the context of ec2, last time I looked ec2 was i386-PAE, so you should be able to run netbsd-current (or even freebsd-current according to the above link) on it.

E-mail me if you want to continue this discussion within the context of my hosting company.

Re:It's too proprietary (3, Informative)

dogas (312359) | about 6 years ago | (#22883782)

Your comment makes it apparent that you really don't understand how hosting a website works.

My company uses EC2 (plus a few other amazon services, which I find to be spectacular) for hosting our application. If we wanted to move to another server or company or datacenter, it's just a matter of setting up the new server and repointing the DNS. Also what is nonstandard about their servers? You basically set them up however you want. You want to run linux? cool. FreeBSD? awesome. Basically you can run any *NIX clone you please. Fortunately lots of people provide excellent templates, so rolling your own is not really necessary.

Re:It's too proprietary (2, Informative)

mr_da3m0n (887821) | about 6 years ago | (#22884868)

>You basically set them up however you want. You want to run linux? cool. FreeBSD? awesome. Basically you can run any *NIX clone you please.

No you don't. You have to run Linux. And they pick the kernel. It runs on Xen after all.

Also, why does everyone seems to ignore the fact that the virtual machines are automatically wiped/reset to base image state whenever they terminate?

While inconvenient, their API is simply fantastic. My EC2 machines boot, add-remove certain components, and then deploy data from S3 on boot.

You just have to build your thing with one thing in mind: EC2 Virtual machines are one shot, disposable machines.

I have a question: (5, Insightful)

Megaweapon (25185) | about 6 years ago | (#22883240)

Is this a Slashvertisement?

Re:I have a question: (5, Interesting)

jamie (78724) | about 6 years ago | (#22883372)

Just in case you were serious... :)

Slashdot, and the company that runs it Sourceforge Inc., aren't using Amazon Web Services for anything that I know of. Slashdot runs on real hardware, not VMs, and we're not planning on changing that anytime soon. I don't know anyone using AWS, which is part of why I'm looking for Slashdot reader feedback. My experience with it is limited to starting up some instances and playing around with installing Apache to see how it all works, and I did that on my own nickel. I chatted with someone at Amazon about AWS last year, but I didn't sign an NDA so I learned about today's news through their public mailing list.

Re:I have a question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883658)

That is avoiding the question. The question is if Slashdot is getting some sort of kickback or favor for running this article. Nobody asked what hardware Slashdot runs on. In fact, I suspect that most things that get advertised are not actually used by the people running the advertisement.

Re:I have a question: (1)

dyefade (735994) | about 6 years ago | (#22883934)

Even if it is an advert (and I suspect it isn't, though I have no proof), it's still an interesting discussion. I've been looking at the AWS line-up, and it'll be interesting to see what this thread throws up in terms of for and against.

Re:I have a question: (4, Informative)

jamie (78724) | about 6 years ago | (#22883966)

That is avoiding the question. The question is if Slashdot is getting some sort of kickback or favor for running this article.
The answer is: of course not. We never do that.

Re:I have a question: (1)

KillerBob (217953) | about 6 years ago | (#22884176)

*grins* Slashvertisements don't necessarily have to be paid to /.... Just a submission coming from somebody who works for the company, if it's interesting enough to get posted, could be called a "Slashvertisement". The Slashdot Effect is well known, especially in IT circles.

Re:I have a question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22884226)

Good joke! Sure not on company accounts, but the odd money wire some of the slashdot staff gets doesnt count ;)

Re:I have a question: (2, Interesting)

Metaphorically (841874) | about 6 years ago | (#22883684)

Doug Kaye from IT Conversations has been doing some pretty heavy stuff on EC2. He did a podcast with an Amazon guy on Technometria where they got in to a lot of detail have a listen [conversationsnetwork.org] .

Re:I have a question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883444)

No, it's MoreReady(patentpending)!

No (2, Interesting)

I Like Pudding (323363) | about 6 years ago | (#22883520)

Amazon just has a very interesting service architecture. This is why you keep seeing articles all over the place about it.

Re:No (0, Troll)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 6 years ago | (#22883602)

Doesn't look very interesting to me. Nothing novel, just Amazon "Now with hosting"

Why would anyone choose to leave their data on someone elses server when the price of owning your own hardware has become so low?

Pretty boring Me Too kind of stuff.

Re:No (3, Informative)

tolan-b (230077) | about 6 years ago | (#22883704)

Because having your own hardware you can't scale up to 50 server instances for half an hour and then scale back down to 1 when traffic decreases, just as one example.

Re:No (2, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | about 6 years ago | (#22885508)

Yes you can. Nothing stops you using EC2 for "overflow". EC2 for instances you use most of the time isn't cost effective compared to a number of other hosting providers, which is no surprise since you pay for Amazon to keep a huge amount of spare capacity to handle surges.

Re:No (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883738)

Why would anyone choose to leave their data on someone elses server when the price of owning your own hardware has become so low?

The hardware is the least of my company's worries. The fact that ISPs like comcast and at&t are actively threatening "content providers" (that is: everyone with a server) over "using their bandwidth" (that the ISPs are being paid for by their customers, in addition to our ISP paying them (directly or indirectly) for transit, and for which we pay our ISP) make it more and more difficult to justify hosting any sort of serious application in a closet hanging off of a leased T1 line. Hosting with Amazon (or any other large consolidated data center, virtualized or not) at least brings collective bargaining power to the table when these large ISPs finally decide to break out the crowbars and say "ok, give us a million bucks or nobody will ever see your site again".

Re:No (2, Insightful)

jamie (78724) | about 6 years ago | (#22883776)

For me, it'd be more about hassle than price. If I'm developing a new service, it starts with just one server and I don't want the hassle of figuring out where the best host is. I want the flexibility to cancel the whole thing with no contract (billed by the hour) and just walk away if it turns out not to be a good idea. I also want the flexibility to scale quickly from 1 machine to 10 and 100 without having to worry about picking out the hardware, billing, power, cooling, network architecture, backup, fixing dead machines, and of course whether the host has room for me to scale.

When the VCs want to know what issues are involved with my service scaling to 100x its current size, they would much rather hear that the single hardware issue is "dollars," rather than that whole long list of unknowns. Dollars are easy.

And from what I can tell, EC2/S3 would scale from one server up to Slashdot size and beyond without much problem. Probably not to Wikipedia size, but I wouldn't be surprised if it could get close. And as someone else noted, they don't have data centers anywhere but the East Coast... but I wouldn't be surprised if they're working on that too (I don't have any inside info, I didn't sign an NDA).

Re:No (1)

Metaphorically (841874) | about 6 years ago | (#22883800)

Amazon's angle is that it scales up and down with the application demands. That's the 'elastic' part. It's more cost-effective than owning your own hardware for many applications. Suppose you had a web application that did some image processing. If you only get a handful of visitors then any decent hosting will do the job. When you get a traffic spike then your app can bring down the server or at least get your site cut off due to CPU quotas. Otoh if you design it to take advantage of EC2 then you can scale up as you get more visitors very quickly (dunno if it's seconds, minutes or hours) and only pay for the extra computing power while you're using it.

Re:No (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#22885128)

What's the downside of that though? Say your site gets slashdotted, and now, instead of having your site taken down, you get a huge bill, for all the resources you used. What provisions are in place to ensure you don't get a giant bill at the end of the month that you can't afford to pay, because someone linked to you on slashdot?

Re:No (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | about 6 years ago | (#22885370)

What provisions are in place to ensure you don't get a giant bill at the end of the month that you can't afford to pay, because someone linked to you on slashdot?
If you want more servers on EC2, you (or some code written by you) has to tell Amazon to start them. So you could choose not to "go elastic" if you can't afford it.

Re:No (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | about 6 years ago | (#22884838)

Funny you should say that. Just today my boss was telling us at work how he'd bought a Dell PC for about £170, including VAT and shipping. Pretty damn cheap. The problem is that there are other costs involved if you want to turn that PC into a web-facing development platform, which is what I'm currently using EC2 for - mostly man hours, but also stuff like electricity, backup solutions, a reliable internet connection, and physical space. To a company with five employees, these costs aren't insignificant.

We use virtual servers hosted by Pipex Webfusion at the moment, but their current Linux offering is a version of Fedora Core that's years out of date and quite inadequate. We've also had one major outage with them, where our server was inaccessible for a number of days. Last week I finally snapped, and dived head-first into EC2; fortunately EC2 is one of my boss's 'new toys', so he didn't seem to mind that I'd added several days onto the length of the project.

The advantages to us are that the servers are there when we need them, and costing us absolutely nothing when we don't. They're cheap, and much, much more flexible than our Webfusion service.

Bandwidth Limits/Costs? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#22883350)

How much bandwidth transfer a month can I get there, and how much does it cost? What's the max sustained bandwidth that I can get from one of their servers?

And if I'm competing with Amazon by running a popular streaming radio station (even paying the required royalties, but of course not to Amazon), will they start shutting me down?

Re:Bandwidth Limits/Costs? (2, Informative)

brunascle (994197) | about 6 years ago | (#22883466)

pricing and bandwidth is oulined here [amazon.com] about halfway down the page. and a nifty pricing calculator here [amazonaws.com] .

looks pretty reasonable to me, but i dont really have anything to compare it to. no minimum fee. it's completely based on bandwidth, resources, and usage.

Re:Bandwidth Limits/Costs? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#22883838)

The calc shows that data transfer costs $0.18:GB out ($0.10:GB in), with no maximum (or minimum) charge. It doesn't show max bandwidth, but I'd expect Amazon to have some fat connectivity, though I'd want a CIR (Committed Information Rate, or guaranteed minimum rate) for any real pro application.

But I can get data transfer (in or out) for $0.05:GB up to 2TB:mo, with root access on an actual dedicated server, not VPS ($0.03:GB for VPS). At a datacenter I've used for a couple years, with good support, >99.99% uptime, never any bandwidth capping, on fast machines with good amounts of storage. With years of experience. GB after the cap are expensive, like $1:GB, but I use geographic diversity already, so I split my loads across multiple servers, pooling their caps across the balanced loads. Transfers within the hosting WAN are free.

So while Amazon looks interesting, I think I'll keep my existing hosting company, which is anywhere from 2-6x as cheap as Amazon's new, relatively untested service, with potential competition from Amazon's own services.

Re:Bandwidth Limits/Costs? (1)

gfilion (80497) | about 6 years ago | (#22885006)

It doesn't show max bandwidth, but I'd expect Amazon to have some fat connectivity, though I'd want a CIR (Committed Information Rate, or guaranteed minimum rate) for any real pro application.

They don't have a CIR, but I remember reading in the docs that they have 250 Mbps per virtual machine.

So while Amazon looks interesting, I think I'll keep my existing hosting company, which is anywhere from 2-6x as cheap as Amazon's new, relatively untested service, with potential competition from Amazon's own services.

It's true that Amazon is more expensive than a dedicated server, but the idea is that it's elastic: you could run 3 servers during peak time (let's says 4 hours per day) then scale down to one the rest of the day. This is cheaper than 3 dedicated servers.

Re:Bandwidth Limits/Costs? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#22885356)

Well, 250Mbps is (250 * 30.48 * 3600 / 8) 82.296TB:mo max. That would cost $12,439.28 per month at Amazon, and (at $0.05:GB->2TB/$1:GB@2TB+) $79,896 at my "cheaper" host, but only because the punitive per-GB cost of exceeding the 2TB cap at my host. Since I load balance already, the 82.296TB would be split across 41 or 42 $100:mo servers, which would cost $4200 at my host.

Spending that $4200 at Amazon gets 23.3TB, which at my host would cost $1200. That $1200 at Amazon would get 6.7TB, which would cost $400 at my host. $400 buys 2.2TB from Amazon, which is just a little more than what I get for $100 now.

So the 3-4x cost of Amazon buys me instant scaling to the (more expensive) bandwidth tiers, without the lead time to buy and start up a new server. Conversely, my bandwidth has to drop to 1/3-4 at Amazon before I'm spending less there than at my cheaper but oversupplied host.

So if I know far enough in advance to deploy new servers that I'm going to grow more than 3-4x (or drop extra ones if I shrink that much), then my current host is cheaper. But spikes are a different story, because I do have to buy a whole month at least (and there's startup fees, but that's probably matched by all the other fees other than bandwidth at Amazon, which are included in my current host costs cited here). If my bandwidth spike doesn't consume at least 25-33% of the cheaper bandwidth, I'll have bought too much extra bandwidth, and could have saved at Amazon.

It's good to have the options. And maybe some of the customers at my current host will be tempted over to Amazon, because that choice is better for them. Which could spur my host to offer similar spike pricing models, at the current lower price rates. So, GO AMAZON!

I might move my website over (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883384)

If the prices are good I might go with them. I don't know if you guys know but I invented the roller blade. Someone stole the idea from me and get a patent on it before I could. I would have been rich beyond my wildest dreams. My new website will be for helping people get their ideas patented. If anyone has any information on who stole my roller blade concept, please let me know. Thanks and god bless.

Re:I might move my website over (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22884398)

I heard it was Monsieur Petitbled. He must have stolen it around 1819 when he patented the inline skate.
You should have a serious talk with him.

Some more about EC2 (5, Informative)

jamie (78724) | about 6 years ago | (#22883434)

So here's a little about what EC2 actually is, for those of you who don't know. You don't have to reply here, start your own comments ;)

The Elastic Compute Cloud was originally designed as a way to host applications that needed lots of CPUs, and the option to expand by adding more CPUs. It's a hosting service that lets you start up virtual machines to run any software you want: they have a wide variety of pre-packaged open-source operating systems you can pick to start up your VMs with.

Starting up a VM takes just a minute or two, and it's point-and-click thanks to the Firefox extension [amazonwebservices.com] . Each VM comes in one of three sizes [amazon.com] : small (webhead), large (database), and extra large (bigass database). They cost respectively $72, $288, and $576 a month (billed by the hour), plus bandwidth ($0.18/GB out, somewhat cheaper for data going in and there's a price break at 10 TB).

One of the concerns everyone raises with hosting on virtual machines is that if a VM instance goes down, you lose everything on it. It comes with hard drive storage (160 GB on the small size), but if something goes wrong, that data's gone.

I think the rejoinder here is that, on real hardware, if something goes wrong, your data's gone. You never set up an enterprise-level website on the assumption that any particular hardware has to survive. Single points of failure are always a mistake, and backups are always a necessity. When any machine explodes - real or virtual - the question is how fast your system recovers to "working well enough" (seconds, hopefully) and then how long it takes you to get it "back to normal" behind the scenes (hours, hopefully). Those answers shouldn't depend on whether there's a physical drive to yank out of a dead physical machine that may or may not retain valid data.

Which brings up what I think is one of the selling points of EC2: free fast bandwidth to S3 [amazonwebservices.com] , Amazon's near-infinite-size, redundantly-replicated data storage platform. That's a nice backup option to have available. That's part of why, if I were starting a new web service, I wouldn't host it on real hardware. I'd like not having to worry about backups, tapes, offsite copies... bleah, let someone else worry about it.

Slashdot hasn't run many stories on EC2 (none that I know of) because until now it's been a niche service. Without a way to guarantee that you can have a static IP, there had been a single point of failure: if your outward-facing VMs all went down, your only recourse was to start up more VMs on new, dynamically-assigned IPs, point your DNS to them, and wait hours for your users' DNS caches to expire. That meant that while it may have been a good service for sites that needed to do massive private computation, it was an unacceptable hosting service.

Now with static IPs, you basically set up your service to have several VMs which provide the outward-facing service (maybe running a webserver, or a reverse proxy for your internal webservers), and you point your public, static IPs at those. If one or more of them goes down, you start up new copies of those VMs and repoint the IPs to them. No DNS changes required.

I know there are other companies offering web hosting through virtual servers. Please share information about them, the more we all know the better.

Re:Some more about EC2 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883556)

There are other options for web hosting through virtual servers. I use Mosso ( http://www.mosso.com/ [mosso.com] ) for several of my small sites and have always had 1st rate support from them. The sites I host there are just personal sites but have had zero hosting problems of any kind in the year plus I have had the account. Disclaimer: I have my Mosso account as Rackspace employee company perk so not sure of pricing. However with that being said if for some reason I were not employed at Rackspace any longer I would keep my Mosso account.

Re:Some more about EC2 (1)

sugarmotor (621907) | about 6 years ago | (#22884214)

>> One of the concerns everyone raises with hosting on virtual machines is that if a VM instance goes down,....

I don't quite understand this one. I've heared it before and was puzzled. Do these VM's "go down" more frequently than regular hardware would?

Or is it just the dynamic IP that makes it more problematic?

Thanks --


Re:Some more about EC2 (1)

42forty-two42 (532340) | about 6 years ago | (#22885004)

It's not that they go down particularly often, but if there is a hardware failure, amazon generally will not take heroic efforts to recover your data - your instance is terminated, hope you had a backup. Sometimes they'll try to reboot it temporarily, but they won't put the drives in another machine or anything like that. So make sure your app can recover from a complete and permanent server failure, with total data loss on that server. Also, previously, there was the IP problem, and also you couldn't ensure your instances were hosted at different locations. With these new changes, you could have a backup instance sitting at an independent datacenter, and move your IP over in a matter of minutes (possibly less; it seems to take longer when you're actively watching how long it takes to move, based on my testing)

Re:Some more about EC2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22885404)

This makes no sense. The definition of infinity makes nearness to it impossible. If you mean "very large" say so; if you mean there are limits that are in practice unreachable then say something like "practically infinite" or "effectively infinite". "Near-infinite" is meaningless.

Re:Some more about EC2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22885556)

You forgot to mention that the system is based on the Xen [trinamosolutions.com] virtual machine software, the commercial sponsor of which was recently snapped up by Citrix.


Showing My Age (1)

Rary (566291) | about 6 years ago | (#22883452)

Okay, I really feel old now. Do "The Kids These Days" really say things like "I've been geeked"? And if so, why? Where the fsck did such a stupid saying come from?

Oh, and get off my lawn.

check out Mosso (4, Interesting)

tnhtnh (870708) | about 6 years ago | (#22883492)

I use Mosso - they are inexpensive and are hosted and owned by Rackspace. Therefore the service is fantastic!

Re:check out Mosso (1)

ibookdb (1199357) | about 6 years ago | (#22883580)


Re:check out Mosso (4, Informative)

lb746 (721699) | about 6 years ago | (#22883938)

What's also interesting about Mosso is their billing method being based on requests and not on the type of requests/media or demands your applying to the servers. What would cost you $1.89 a month on S3, costs you $100 on Mosso. You can easily max out your monthly request amount on Mosso with 3 small websites, so make sure you look into this factor carefully before considering their services.

A Few Basic Questions (5, Interesting)

smackenzie (912024) | about 6 years ago | (#22883516)

The more I learn about Amazon's AWS offerings... the more confused I get. I've read a TON of material, reviewed the APIs, looked at sites built on this platform and have read many blog entries. I feel like I "know" a lot, but understand very little. Someone help?

1. What is a perfect "typical" application for AWS? (And don't answer, "one that needs to scale...". I'm looking for a realworld example.)

2. Anyone here on Slashdot using these services? Nervous about single point of failure? (And I don't mean just technical, but also financial, legal, security, business continuity, etc.)

3. EC2 / S3: is there any value in using just one? I've noticed there are additional services now, too

4. In the days of SOx / PCI / CISP compliance, is it even possible to set up a financial app on AWS?
5. Also, finally, maybe a question to Amazon... why? Someone did the financials recently and it was a fascinating study. The short of it is that at max capacity, the net income from all of AWS for Amazon is so tiny, you have to wonder why they even bothered... [need citation]

A classic case of wanting to like the technology, but not really sure how to use it. Thanks.

Re:A Few Basic Questions (1)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#22883816)

I'm pretty sure that the Amazon store represents a good real world application. Or really, they need similar technology to run the store, so they just have it lying around.

I like the theory that they are mostly running it on their "Christmas capacity" as far as explaining why they are doing it.

Re:A Few Basic Questions (1)

Skidge (316075) | about 6 years ago | (#22883990)

I like the theory that they are mostly running it on their "Christmas capacity" as far as explaining why they are doing it.

If that's the case, what happens when Christmas rolls around?

Re:A Few Basic Questions (1)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#22884218)

I don't know.

Superficially, it seems like they should be able to set things up so that ec2 increases their hardware utilization without really requiring a whole lot of extra hardware beyond what they are using at peaks.

It could just be that the extra hardware is nearly free compared to what they have to spend maintaining what they need for the store.

Re:A Few Basic Questions (3, Informative)

PsychoKiller (20824) | about 6 years ago | (#22883984)

1) Don't limit your ideas about using EC2 to hosting. You can run whatever you want on their instances. Think about a company that does some kind of data acquisition/processing. You could set up a system for them that does a run in 1 hour (since that's the minimum billing slice) instead of their current process that takes a month on a single workstation (or even cluster of workstations in their office). The results get stored on S3 where they download them over an encrypted connection.

2) Yes, very nervous. Especially with the privacy laws in the States. I'm Canadian, and I would be talking to lawyers about data storage issues before having sending customers' data down South.

3) EC2 is useless without S3, since your images are stored on S3. S3 is useful without EC2, as you can use it for static storage and BitTorrent hosting.

4) See my response to #2.

5) I don't work for Amazon. :P

Re:A Few Basic Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22884146)

2. Anyone here on Slashdot using these services?

Yep. I'm using S3. I use a custom app to sync up most of my data to S3 nightly (custom only because at the time I started using it there wasn't anything out there configurable enough for my needs, there might be now). It's actually fairly cool, and has saved me from one machine crash so far. Not only that, but since S3 gives me infinite bandwidth, I can quickly pull down documents in a secure fashion when I'm away from home using a little GUI app I wrote.

Nervous about single point of failure?

Not really nervous, but annoyed. My previous backup strategy involved prayer, so this is an improvement, even if it disappears one day, but still the API isn't perfect. It's gone down from time to time, and there's always the always lovely "We've encountered an internal error" error. The later has reduced in frequency, but still is annoying.

maybe a question to Amazon... why?

As I understand it, this is largely a subset of some of the technologies they use internally, so it's a way to try and monetize their internal infrastructure. It doesn't have to bring in a profit today, but one day it could be quite profitable.

Re:A Few Basic Questions (1)

imroy (755) | about 6 years ago | (#22884170)

As far as using S3 on its own - it would make a good store for static content. You have a site, say www.example.com, but have a separate host for static files e.g static.example.com. This has long been common practice - having a simple light-weight web server for static files (style sheets, icons and other images, etc). For S3 you setup a CNAME record in your DNS that points to s3.amazonaws.com and create a 'bucket' in S3 with the hostname (static.example.com). Bingo, cheap and scalable off-site storage for your website. I'm not sure if S3 would be best for small files though. It would probably be better suited to bigger media files like podcasts/vodcasts, FLV/MP4 videos for playing in flash, etc.

Slicehost.com (3, Interesting)

casings (257363) | about 6 years ago | (#22883594)

Cheap, affordable, reliable VPS solutions: www.slicehost.com

I have been with them for a few months, and their interface's ease of use, and the level of support they provide are just what I was looking for.

Re:Slicehost.com (1)

barryp (31185) | about 6 years ago | (#22883864)

Agreed. I've got 256MB slice running Apache, Django, PostgreSQL, Exim quite nicely. It's a Xen setup, my particular machine is an Ubuntu Gutsy server, was awfully easy and quick to setup. Lots of clear tutorials for getting your VM tuned up for firewalling and so on - I found those especially handy since I'm more of a FreeBSD guy and wasn't up on some of the Linux-isms.

Re:Slicehost.com (2, Interesting)

stevey (64018) | about 6 years ago | (#22883998)

Although recently a Debian Developer was critical of slicehost [pusling.com] , and seemingly in a valid way.

Personally I host a reasonably high-traffic antispam service [mail-scanning.com] and I think Amazon's offering looks good, but as mentioned a little pricy.

I love the idea of adding extra nodes on-demand, but I think I'm not yet at the level where it would be a worthwhile use of my time or budget.

Re:Slicehost.com (1)

Skylinux (942824) | about 6 years ago | (#22884308)

Same here, I have been using Slicehost for three months now and would never go back.
I setup a small slice running CentOS 5 server hosting all my domains for $20 a month. I have tested the site availability with hostracker set to 1 minute intervals for 5 domains and result has been 100% uptime.

Slicehost.com rocks! [sliceost.com]

Re:Slicehost.com (2)

speculatrix (678524) | about 6 years ago | (#22884754)

in the UK, bytemark.co.uk get very good ratings for service. I am not a bytemark staff member, but I am a customer!

Re:Slicehost.com (1, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 6 years ago | (#22884942)

Since this seems to be thread for whoring our hosting providers, I'd like to recommend mine [macminicolo.net] . I get a dedicated server for about the price of a VPS, and I have a human in my IM roster that I can bitch at if anything goes wrong. I've been with them now since a few months after they were on /. [slashdot.org] and have been a very happy customer. They had a few reliability issues early on, but nothing recent. The hard drive on my machine died just under a year in, and Apple refused to honour the warranty, so the co-lo company picked up the tab for the replacement.

Oh, and OpenBSD on a Mac Mini is really nice.

No persistent storage; not great value (4, Informative)

saterdaies (842986) | about 6 years ago | (#22883640)

There's still one glaring problem. There is no persistent storage (other than shuttling data to S3). That means that if your website is database-backed, you need to figure out what to do should your instance crash. Hourly backups? Mounting S3 as a slow FUSE filesystem that you can put your database on? It's all ugly.

And it's still not a great value. It seems cheap. $72/mo for a 1.7GB RAM server. Well, look at Slicehost and you can get a 2GB RAM Xen instance (same virtualization software as EC2) for $140 WITH persistent storage and 800GB of bandwidth. That doesn't sound like a great deal UNTIL you calculate what EC2 bandwidth costs. 800GB would cost you $144 at $0.18 per GB bringing the total cost to $216 ($76 more than Slicehost). That 18 cents doesn't sound like much, but it adds up. The same situation happens with Joyent. For $250 you get a 2GB RAM server from them (running under Solaris' Zones) with 10TB of bandwidth. That would cost you $1,872 with EC2. Even if you assume that you'll only use 10% of what Joyent is giving you, EC2 still comes in at a cost of $252 - and without persistent storage!

EC2 really got the ball rolling, but it just isn't such a leader. Other operations have critical features (persistent storage) that EC2 is lacking along with pricing that just isn't more expensive. I want to like EC2, but their competitors are simply better.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (4, Informative)

jamie (78724) | about 6 years ago | (#22883936)

You get database backup by replicating to another VM, presumably one in a different "zone" for physical separation. Then that backup VM every n hours stops its replication, dumps to S3, and starts replication back up (exactly like a physical machine would stop, dump to tape or to a remote disk, and restart).

Database high-availability is similar. In the extreme case, you replicate your live master to the master database in another zone that entirely duplicates your live zone's setup (same number of webheads, same databases in same replication configuration, etc)... then if the live zone falls into the ocean you point your IPs to the webheads in the HA zone and resume activity within seconds, having lost only a fraction of a second of data stream.

Having dealt with Slashdot's webheads and databases losing disk, and in some cases having to be entirely replaced, I don't see how persistent storage is a big selling point. I mean it's nice I guess, but not something that I'd sacrifice any functionality for. Applications have to be designed to run on unreliable hardware.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | about 6 years ago | (#22884494)

In all honesty, accounting for S/N ratio, how much is a slashdot post worth?

Thats what would matter for the failover time of lost data. But really, I'd be interested in how much a post is worth (it is content, albeit small).

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 6 years ago | (#22883950)

It's $72/month if you're at 100% cpu all momnth. It's $.10 per cpu hour, which is retardedly cheap, because you only pay for what you use.

I haven't used it because of the lack of a static IP. Now, it's a viable solution for the real world.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (2, Informative)

saterdaies (842986) | about 6 years ago | (#22884024)

Billing is based on instance-hours not cpu-hours. So, for every hour or partial hour your instance is running, you get charged. It doesn't matter if you're a 1% cpu usage or 100% cpu usage during that time: http://www.amazon.com/ec2 [amazon.com]

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 6 years ago | (#22884282)

Whoa, that's a change. Before they used straight CPU time. I guess they weren't making enough at that price point.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (2, Interesting)

dogas (312359) | about 6 years ago | (#22884044)

It seems like you answered your own question about persistent storage. S3 is persistent storage.

If you are running a database backed application on EC2 without a master/slave setup, and your master goes down, to me, that seems like a failure to plan for the worst on your end. It's really not an argument that even though you DO have persistent storage, your data is safe on that server. Your data is never safe. Hence, a backup/replication plan is ALWAYS needed. Services like EC2 force you to think about those plans and address them so that they are not a problem.

As for the slicehost option, we looked at them. We found that Amazon seemed to provide a much more robust service. Plus, Amazon has a LOT more resources to keep their service robust, as opposed to a startup with one datacenter.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | about 6 years ago | (#22884360)

S3 is persistent storage.
With weak (i.e. useless) semantics that are totally different from conventional storage.

Your data is never safe. Hence, a backup/replication plan is ALWAYS needed.
Sure, but if your plan involves a SAN, EC2 cannot support it. There are so many best practices that EC2 does not support; effectively you have to design your app for EC2.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (2, Informative)

dogas (312359) | about 6 years ago | (#22884524)

I think if your setup requires a SAN, you're too big and enterprisy for EC2.

S3 has been working well for us. While the semantics are different than typical storage, I would argue that they are far from useless. Since files on S3 can be made publicly accessible via a web address, we use S3 to host our assets for our website (css, javascript, images), as well as db backups and other backups.

We have not had to design our app for EC2. We do make use of S3 for storing user data, so we have S3 libraries in our app, but I fail to see where the "designing our app for EC2" comes into play.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (1)

jpnewservers.com (1263360) | about 6 years ago | (#22884068)

Newservers.com is a competitor that provides a simpler solution with better value. We offer real instead of virtual servers with regular harddrives, hourly billing, redundant hardware load balancing and a simple webapp for adding, removing, and monitoring servers.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (1)

mini me (132455) | about 6 years ago | (#22884216)

Mounting S3 as a slow FUSE filesystem that you can put your database on?

They have SimpleDB, although it's still in limited beta by the looks of it. At present you can store your data anywhere. If you're using some kind of SQL server they don't scale all that well vertically anyway, so there's not much point in using them on a EC2 type setup, even if storage was persistent.

Re:No persistent storage; not great value (3, Insightful)

dubl-u (51156) | about 6 years ago | (#22884222)

Well, look at Slicehost and you can get [...] WITH persistent storage

The Amazon machines offer storage that persists for the life of the virtual instance. That's until you kill the instance or until the hardware fails. (It does persist through reboots and OS crashes.) And unless Slicehost is running some crazy magic beyond the RAID-10 setup they mention, a hardware failure could still wipe out your data, and will certainly cause downtime during which you will have an opportunity to wonder when and whether your data is coming back.

If you run some stats, it could well be that the Slicehost "persistent" storage does indeed persist longer. That'd be my guess. But it's possible that the Amazon "non-persistent" storage is actually more stable. That depends on the quality of hardware and maintenance at both companies, factors that you cannot know. Meaning that if reliability is really important to you, you must plan for either kind of storage eventually failing. And if reliability isn't that important to you, then you're planning to depend on your backups anyhow, in which case Amazon doesn't seem so bad either.

I think the main difference between Amazon and the more typical providers regarding persistence is that Amazon's experience has taught them to assume that everything fails, and so you should engineer for that. EC2 and S3 are built around that, and are very frank about what they provide. It seemed weird at first, but now I like it better.

No virtual ip or failover (2, Interesting)

dominic.laporte (306430) | about 6 years ago | (#22883724)

My major concern (last time i checked) was fail over & virtual ips. I think they fixed this with the new elastic ip. I will have to check again.

However, another issue i had was to send traffic between 2 EC2 nodes. They don't mention (maybe i missed) nor guaranty the bandwidth between the nodes in the same availability zone. This is crucial if you are trying to run a very fast performance tests between the 2 nodes and you need minimum delays. I am not sure if the bandwidth between the EC2 nodes is caped or no as well.

Anyone Use 3Tera's AppLogic? (2, Interesting)

Trail_of_Dead (892874) | about 6 years ago | (#22883824)

We looked at the EC2 solution when we started developing our hosted offering and didn't care for the new IP address when, and if, something went down. We went with a hosting company called LayeredTech. They offer public and private VPS and VPDC solutions. The really cool thing that has impressed me is they run 3Tera's AppLogic platform. It lets you visually (through a web ui) create "applications" based on "appliances". There is a standard portfolio of prebuilt applications (SugarCRM, etc.) and templates for LAMP, etc. So, we build our application by taking a firewall appliance, a CentOS appliance, a gateway, a MySql appliance, glue them together, customize them, and then create our own template. You can specify down to the appliance level, the amount of cpu, memory, disk, and bandwidth each are assigned which let's you scale up your capacity simply by tweaking values through the UI. We can now deploy our Rails/Java hosted offering for new customers in about 20 minutes on our grid. AppLogic has automatic failover so that if anything goes wrong, it reploys your application to a new node in your grid and restarts it. It's not as cheap as EC2, but much more powerful. It's definitely worth a look.

Re:Anyone Use 3Tera's AppLogic? (2)

Wesley Felter (138342) | about 6 years ago | (#22884376)

No, no one has used AppLogic because the minimum price just to try it out is hundreds of dollars per month. EC2 is somewhat flawed but they are getting a lot of business because it is so cheap to try.

Re:Anyone Use 3Tera's AppLogic? (2, Informative)

Trail_of_Dead (892874) | about 6 years ago | (#22884434)

When you use LayeredTech as your hosting provider, it's included with no separate license price. LT's prices are very reasonable as well.

Expensive; Especially to Debug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22883856)

The small model is $0.10 per instance-hour. 24*30 = 720 * $0.10 = $72.00/month ... for a computer you don't own.
Considering today's hardware, that's a very expensive "lease".

Moreover, from TFA:

Paying for What You Use
You will be charged at the end of each month for your EC2 resources actually consumed.

As an example, assume you launch 100 instances of the Small type costing $0.10 per hour at some point in time. The instances will begin booting immediately, but they won't necessarily all start at the same moment. Each instance will store its actual launch time. Thereafter, each instance will charge for its hours (at $.10/hour) of execution at the beginning of each hour relative to the time it launched. Each instance will run until one of the following occurs: you terminate the instance with the TerminateInstances API call (or an equivalent tool), the instance shuts itself down (e.g. Unix "shutdown" command), or the host terminates due to software or hardware failure. Partial instance hours consumed are billed as full hours.

So, if your instance starts up and then crashes immediately due to software failure? That's $0.10 you just spent.

Better make sure your instance is running production quality code, otherwise crashes just after the hour mark can get pretty expensive pretty quick.

Summary: Amazon's hosting is neat, but expensive. There are cheaper alternatives.

Re:Expensive; Especially to Debug (2, Interesting)

jamie (78724) | about 6 years ago | (#22884182)

"Software failure" in that case refers to a failure of Amazon's Xen software that runs your virtual machine.

Amazon doesn't know or care whether your software is "production quality code" or not. You pay $0.10/hr whether your code is debugged or not :)

Our experience using EC2 + Rightscale (5, Interesting)

dogas (312359) | about 6 years ago | (#22883886)

My company uses EC2 + S3 + SQS + Rightscale (http://rightscale.com) to manage our infrastructure.

First off, Amazon has an excellent product. It is essentially Hardware As A Service, and the tools they provide abstract it as such.

The most common argument against using EC2 for hosting is that if your server goes down, you will lose any data created since the last time you saved a snapshot. While this is true, it forces you to bring a backup + recovery plan to the front of the table. Provided you have a backup + recovery plan in place, you no longer have to worry about fixing a server ever again. If something goes wrong with one of our application servers, I would simply fire up a new instance, link it in with DNS, and terminate the old server. With rightscale, this is all pushbutton.

Consider that scenario with running your own colo server. You could potentially spend hours diagnosing + fixing an issue with a server before you could bring it back up. Ok fine, the way to mitigate that is to have a hot backup running. But now we're talking about a ton of cash to support 2 servers on a month-to-month basis. We have found that amazon's costs to run EC2 instances are very competitive for the specs.

Note: I'm not a shill for either rightscale or amazon, I just find that these 2 companies are the forefront of where hosting is going, and their products are awesome. It's all about virtualization!

linode (1)

realmaestro (213933) | about 6 years ago | (#22884372)

I use linode for my VPS hosting. Though I only use it for blog/family photos, I love how easy it was to set everything up. Linode only lets you run linux though, but offers a choice of distribution. I use their CentOS 5 build. It comes with persistent storage, and a nice little web console to manage. It's great to play around with, as their cheapest option is $20 a month (I bought when it was at a special and only $10 a month for the lowest option).

Highly recommend it, the guy who runs it is very responsive in the forums, though I have never had a problem (don't think my site gets much traffic though ;-)).

Only thing that would potentially prevent me from using VPS for a business though is company-sensitive data. Do you guys who have used VPS for company servers do anything to protect your data? That's the one advantage of having your own hardware that I don't know if any VPS really matches. Who knows, maybe having your own box in someone else's rack gives you the same issue anyways. I think I'm probably just too paranoid :-).

Cloud Services Comparison (2, Informative)

diegoc (314681) | about 6 years ago | (#22885098)

Some days ago I posted an article [caravana.to] on my blog in which I try to compare different cloud services and also give my 2 cents opinion about the technology itself (disclaimer: I directly tested only two services, EC2 and GoGrid.)

Beyond the comparison, in my post I say that I was wrong trying to use a utility computing platform as EC2 like a web hosting platform; also, there other very interesting uses of the technology behind the clouds (e.g. creating disposable environments for application testing.)

An interesting idea, but... (1)

davmoo (63521) | about 6 years ago | (#22885374)

This is a service I find interesting and appealing in many ways, and I intend to investigate it further after reading this thread. But upon using Amazon's handy calculator, my costs for comparable services would be roughly *6 times* what I'm currently paying for leasing two physical machines and the bandwidth to go with them. For quick projects to test out something, this would be a good service. But for a day in/day out stack, I don't think this is it, at least not for me.
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