I asked 40164 IT Professionals: Anyone using Amazon Cloud Services (EC2) – Introducing the first pack of answers

IT Professional Report - Read here the answers I got asking thousands of IT professionals around the globe.

Firstly  Amazon EC2 is part of Amazon's AWS services and it allows you create and run computer instances on Amazon's huge computer farm (cloud).

You can run pre-build images of Windows, Linux, Solaris with a host of pre-set applications and databases. There are alternatives as well mentioned here... The lowest single CPU machine Amazon EC2 provides could sum up to ~$1200 for a full year 24X7 instance. This sum could be non-trivial to take compared to a similar machine that you could buy. That is unless you take into account the fact Amazon actually saves you money for electricity, cooling, maintenance, etc which could sum up quiet a bit, specially since using Amazon allows you to use it only when you need it...

Here are the responses I got so far (please do post a comment if you have something to add...)

  • AppZero runs Windows Server Apps in the Cloud ( EC2, Gogrid ) - http://zone.appzero.com You can spin up a Server 2003 32 bit AMI on Amazon. visit , and select one of the 3 tier ( web/appserver/database ) virtualized apps - and in a couple of clicks - they just run with Zero install. AppZero handles many Windows server apps e.g. commercial ERP software that otherwise takes a long time to set up - can be instantiated on EC2 in a couple steps that take minutes.
  • A quote from one of our members that reminds me of the early days of Client/Server and other new technologies..."Cloud computing is fantastic on paper. In the real world, I'm not sure how it works out"
  • A reference to a very successful project including OCR scan of more than 17,000 WhiteHouse diaries in 26 hours only! - "EC2 made it possible for this project to happen at the speed of breaking news. I used 1,407 hours of virtual machine time for a final expense of $144.62" More info here
  • Go to http://www.cloudclimate.com for a comparison between several leading cloud computing providers such as Amazon EC2 as well http://www.newservers.com As to NewServers - These are dedicated servers...so it might look as if it does not match EC2 ability to provide dynamic expansion of computing power. However in the end, it depends on what you're trying to do and how you define 'expandable'.
  • Citrix, Vmware and XEN have all jumped on the cloud wagon, but we still have to try it out. For now it looks like Amazon got a foot in the door first. As to Microsoft, they have Azure, but not sure they will go beyond their offering of API's and infrastructure services and into actual computer instances.
  • Another IT Professional said: "Amazon EC2 is great. It has nice interfaces and it's well documented. We have deployed several applications to EC2 including an infrastructure monitoring solution for systems and applications. Many software vendors are making AMI's (Amazon Machine Images) available to EC2 customers that have their software already deployed and configured. IBM is an example. All you need to do is to read the licensing terms, but some stuff can be run for free in Test/Dev".
  • There are challenges as this IT professional reports: "Unfortunately, the setup to select the instance, launch it, and set up storage for the instance, if you want to save changes seems kind of complicated for a newbie user trying out cloud virtualization. There's also a small player called WitsBits.com that offers a similar solution to Amazon EC2 but is based in Europe
    and billing is done through prepaid account balances instead of monthly billing.
    I looked through the docs, and it appears simpler to use as well. Pricing is similar to Amazon as well. The one challenging part with this service, is that they don't have prebuilt Windows instances. You'll have to build your own as with local virtualization (VMWare, MS Virtual
    PC/server, etc.). They do have prebuilt instance for Linux, one based on Ubuntu. But it is
    likely a lot easier to use than EC2, even though you have to initially build your
    Windows image first".
  • Another response: "The big game players in the industry today as for VMware ESXi and Citrix XEN, Amazon gives just a taste of it - among its limitations: no save upon restart, no snapshots. XEN has an advantage - its free version includes the equivalent of VMware's Virtual Center". My thoughts about this response:
    • Not sure XEN now supports Windows guest without relaying on full virtualization (which runs slower compared to the state where the host and guest kernels communicate with each other). Maybe SuSE XEN has this integration...thanks to the Microsoft/SuSE co-operation.
    • Using XEN - you still have to maintain the hardware, electricity, cooling while Cloud services will allow you to kind-of-avoid those expenses.
    • Theoretically one can use Amazon EC2 to host a Vmware or Hyper-V server and this instance will run in it a full VM with all the snapshot and other capabilities...
  • I asked Moshe Kaplan, a cloud expert (http://top-performance.blogspot.com) "I'd like to be able and launch a varying number of instances for ad-hoc testing. I already heard that Amazon lacks the snapshot/reset/suspend feature... I am wondering what are the main lessons learned using Amazon as well as other solutions." And Moshe (who works for http://www.rocketier.com) says: "It can be done. However, you should be very creative to implement it. Basically you should save an image and load it from scratch every time and attach it to storage. If you are interested, we developed an entire product around this concept that enables software vendors migrate to SaaS approach without rewriting a single line of code". For now I still have to figure out How does Amazon insure you get locality of communications between your own machine instances on EC2 as well as to their shared storage (say on Amazon S3)
  • Another new Amazon EC2 related service allows you to send your pre-loaded images via snail mail on DVD or USB stick and have it preloaded to your Amazon EC2 machine image (AMI). This Amazon service will save you time and money loading it via the internet...
  • Pini from STKI, a major Israeli IT consulting company says "One of our client from the financial sector has tested products on Amazon EC2 instead of virtual of physical servers". Pini could not expand on this yet, but we hope to hear more details about this soon...
  • Sun have 2 new resources related to their cloud solution: Sun's Cloud doc: https://www.sun.com/offers/details/CloudComputing.xml
    and the signup page for Sun's Cloud Beta tester program - https://www2.sun.de/dct/forms/reg_us_2409_516_0.jsp

All in all, it looks like Amazon EC2 and similar solutions are becoming a reality and although they do have lacks, companies who wish to save money and time on their computing infrastructure should consider a small project that verifies the validity of cloud computing for their needs and creates, slowly but surely, the proper adjustments to company's procedures.

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The IT Professional Master Mind Team.