Amazon launches Xen-powered virtual datacenter on demand

Following a trend started by Sun with its Grid (and evaluated by many other companies like Nortel), Amazon launched a public virtual computing facility: Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

The facility is powered by Xen, granting customers flexibility:

Amazon EC2 enables you to increase or decrease capacity within minutes, not hours or days. You can commission one, hundreds or even thousands of server instances simultaneously. Of course, because this is all controlled with web service APIs, your application can automatically scale itself up and down depending on its needs

and full control:

You have complete control of your instances. You have root access to each one, and you can interact with them as you would any machine. 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

courtesy of Cast Blog

In other words whole the Sun Grid permits customers to run submitted applications in the grid computing facility without direct access to Solaris Containers configuration, Amazon EC2 grants full control over virtual hardware, guest operating system, installed applications and even virtual network between virtual machines (as stated in the preliminary documentation).

The whole thing is remotely configured, launched and managed by web services, so I expect community made GUIs to appear very soon.

Exactly like the Sun Grid, Amazon EC2 has a pay-per-use model:

  • $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)

Amazon isn’t new to mass-scale virtualization projects since already launched its storage virtualization facility Simple Storage Service (S3) earlier this year.

Create an account to use EC2 here.

Personally I was expecting VMware to be the first launching such service, considering the company have all pieces to provide a similar offering:

  • a datacenter-class virtualization platform (ESX Server 3.0)
  • a datacenter-class management tool (VirtualCenter 2.0)
  • a very promising automation solution, gained after Akimbi acquisition (Virtual Lab Manager 1.0, formerly Slingshot)
  • a plethora of datacenter-class storage solutions, granted by its owner EMC

In no cases VMware could have a better chance to prove reliability of its own products.