Last April, Amazon organized a well attended half day presentation about AWS components: S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) and EC2 (Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud). They also featured some of the customer success stories. Companies such are SmartSheet, SmugMug, are using AWS’s S3 as an expandable infrastructure to store their customers documents and images.
As of April, about 240,000 developers have registered to use S3 to store 5 billion data objects, up from 800 million in July 2006. End users reported major hardware and operation cost savings. However this type of infrastructure services may well be the defining factor between success and failure when you are faced to scale massively storage, bandwidth and CPUs in a matter of days.
While S3 is limited to store documents, EC2 enables users to store their own machine image in the cloud and pay running instances as they need. Amazon guarantees that a VM will be up in less than 10 minutes (when in some IT organizations it might take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks). You have complete control over the image which may contain applications, libraries, data as well as configuration settings. Amazon also provides preconfigured Linux based template images.
Images themselves are stored in S3. The EC2 web service API allows you to configure security and network access, as well as start, terminate and monitor instances of your machine image.
Amazon is not the only company to have its head in the clouds. It is likely that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will enter this ethereal battle with advanced business models and value add tools and services. Recently Steve Ballmer declared:
"We are in the process today of building out a services platform in the cloud," … "We have a lot of news and things that we'll be talking about and unveiling...this year."
After being a first mover, Amazon is now seeking to increase its competitive advantage. It unveiled a couple of weeks ago a marketplace that aims at creating a community of image developers to help their customers get the best variety of pre-packaged services and web applications. Klaas Bals has created an AMI (Amazon Machine Image) with Dupral 5.1 an open source Content Management System. Paul Dowman is offering a pre-configured Ruby On Rails AMI.
In his blog, Chris Petrilli, speculates that the idea that you could basically "buy" [an image] means that it’s possible people like RedHat, etc., might step in to provide "official support" for that kind of grid deployment.
Because virtualization is one of the top IT initiatives these days, it is likely that within a few months or a couple of years at the most, we will see large corporations using EC2 for the development, test and possibly production of mission critical applications. I don’t see today why any small to mid-size ISVs would not use AMIs for their routine development activities, one of the key feature of EC2 is of course the ability to create an environment for scalability testing activities.
I would not be surprised if "virtual appliances" start emerging from EC2 such as XSLT transformation engine. Why not an ESB too? It could well be that Shai Agassi, the former VP of Product and Technology at SAP is going to be right when he sais that EC2 "[is] the most important industry development in the last 10 years".
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