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Amazon Betas 'Elastic' Grid Computing Service 78

RebornData writes "I receieved an e-mail this morning inviting me to participate in a limited beta of Amazon EC2: the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. It's a grid computing service that allows you to create and upload your own Linux-based machine images and run them in Amazon's system, starting at $.10 per "instance hour" (each machine instance being equivalent to a 1.7GHz Xeon with 1.75GB of RAM, and 160GB disk). You can use their tools to create and start new instances dynamically to meet whatever your particular capacity needs are at any given moment. Fedora Core 3 and 4 are explicitly supported, but any distro based on the 2.6 kernel should work. The service documentation provides more technical details. Unfortunately, it appears that the beta is limited to existing Amazon S3 users, and is already full."
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Amazon Betas 'Elastic' Grid Computing Service

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  • Burstable Servers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peterdaly ( 123554 ) * <petedaly@ix.ne t c om.com> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:02PM (#15971060)
    At $.10 per hour, that makes a single server instance about $72 per month. If you have minimal storage needs, it can compete with a low end leased server, plus it has other advantages not present in the physical leased box world.

    Personally I don't have any need for a scalable system such as this, but it certainly opens the possibility for products or projects that may not otherwise be feasible.

    Have a CPU intensive batch job that can broken up and distributed? Use these boxes during the run then eliminate them when it's done. Only pay for the time you use.

    At a previous job I had a task that would have been perfect for a burst-able cloud like this. Example:

    Every evening we had a large number of scanned tiff images that needed to be manipulated, and a short time window in which to do it. Tiff image manipulation takes a lot of CPU resources and time. We ended up purchasing a bunch of blade servers that sat idle for the 22 hours a day they we not running images. Something like what Amazon is offering may have been a very high performance and cost effective solution to that type of problem. The control via web services could automate the whole process.
    • by cmeans ( 81143 ) *
      I put idle machines to work on SETI@Home [berkeley.edu] (with permission of course).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iluvcapra ( 782887 )

      It seems like the only serious problem would be getting the 20GB TIFF (or 8 GBs of WAV files) over to the server instance in the first place.

      Having to move all your data over to the server and back adds significant set-up overhead, particularly if you only need the monster for 2 hours at a time. When you need the numbers crunched on demand, you don't want to have to wait 6 hours while the data set squeezes its way to the bay area and back over routers.

      I'm sure that there are applications for this, but qu

      • Use Amazon S3 (Score:3, Informative)

        by RebornData ( 25811 )
        This service is paired with the Amazon S3 storage service, which has a high-bandwidth connection to the servers. Data transfer between EC2 and S3 is free.

      • There's some interest in doing this same sort of thing at my current employer. Of course, we're a telecom and we'd be providing not just the Utility Computing service but the bandwidth to the customer as well...

        I can see this as working *very* well, for companies that can deliver both with reasonable cost.

        BTW - I want a datacenter full of these [egenera.com] so bad I can taste it!

    • I used to work on grid computing at a Japanese technology incubator. The project eventually got shelved because there were just not enough applications which honestly benefit from it when you consider the pain involved in programming the application to distribute over the grid (I gather our American competitors are having the same problem), but the idea was taking your company's totally-idle-at-night fleet of desktops and turning them into a virtual Beowulf cluster. I think our biggest success, if you can
      • by ispeters ( 621097 ) <ispeters&alumni,uwaterloo,ca> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @03:50PM (#15972808)
        The downside, aside from the 100% solvable issue of being able to wake up 1,000 computers in the middle of the night without needing a staff of 80 (which was what it took for our "successful" run), is that programming for a grid is hard and tedious, and none of the frameworks that I am familiar with really take it down to the level where it needs to be for "regular" programmers to be able to do it.

        You might want to check out Starfish [rufy.com]. It's Google's MapReduce implemented in Ruby, kind of. It makes distributed grid computing possible in six lines of code. Unbelievable, but true.


        PS I've personally got nothing to do with Starfish. I read the author's blog--that's it.

        • by qwix ( 962550 )
          Google's Map/Reduce is not an answer to everything (in the same way map() and reduce() do not make a generic programming system/language by themselves). Some problems fall into this category, but things can get trickier if you want to make it generic. Saying that this "makes distributed grid computing possible" is an overstatement.
          • Perhaps I should have used an <em> tag because this is what I meant:

            [Starfish] makes distributed grid computing possible in six lines of code.

            (Aside: why don't actual <em> tags do anything inside <blockquote> tags?)

            Anyway, my point is that the ease with which you can distribute some programs across a grid with Starfish is amazing, at least to me. Also, my naive understanding is that the best problems for solving with a grid are so called "embarassingly parallel [wikipedia.org]" problems and that such

    • Network storage, a few wrapper scripts and you're away. Kick off pretty much any GUI app on "the grid" and have it plonk it's interface back on your display. With something like GridEngine you can designate some of the machines as OpenOffice servers, others as Thunderbird servers to take better advantage of shared libraries, filesystem buffers and CPU caches, or you can just have everything kick off on the least loaded machines. The result is that the user's GUI apps could be running on a dozen different ma
  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:02PM (#15971071) Journal
    Compromised Amazon grid being used as a botnet to send spam. Letting people upload their own OS image is really asking for it.
  • Say... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Doctor Memory ( 6336 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:04PM (#15971082)
    Amazon EC2: the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.
    This isn't one of those wearable computers, is it? If so, I hope they're being very choosy about who they "let into the beta"... <shudder/>
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:04PM (#15971090)
    Ok, so what is just me, or do the first to links on the post point to the exact same spot?
    Maybe they meant the Technical Documentation [amazonwebservices.com]?
    • Can anybody provide any pointers to information regarding the underlying infrastructure? What it is based on etc. (I presume it is not VMware). Churz Bogster
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:05PM (#15971095)
    Could I buy some server time to get my initial compile to under a week?
    • by Surt ( 22457 )
      Could I buy some server time to get my initial compile to under a week?

      I'm sorry, but their grid isn't that big.
  • by dontbflat ( 994444 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:07PM (#15971122) Homepage
    what? So they are building computers for you and letting you use them for whatever you desire? Hmm. 0.10/hr thats $2.40/day. Thats $876/year. Not a bad deal. Heck its even cheaper than some website services that give you a dedicated server for $200/month.
    • They are hardly building computers. They are using massive servers that are then virtualized to run thousands of desktop sized computers. I havn't RTFA but can anyone tell me if you can purchase a virtual image of greater stats than the 1.7GHz Xeon .. Or is your only option to purchase several and cluster them?
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:09PM (#15971136) Homepage Journal
    This is the umpteenth grid service where anybody can buy huge gobs of computer time. The question is, is there really anybody out there who needs to do this and doesn't have their own hardware? Sun's grid effort has pretty much laid an egg. Perhaps I have the economics wrong, but isn't it more cost effective to build your own cluster out of discarded PCs?
    • by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:15PM (#15971196) Journal
      Perhaps I have the economics wrong, but isn't it more cost effective to build your own cluster out of discarded PCs?

      No, what if you need to do a one-off job. Which is cheaper $.10/hour or paying somebody full time, buying supplies, paying for labor to put it together, paying for power to run it, and then letting it sit there gathering dust.

      There's no way you can get parts for the systems and labor for an admin to ~$72/month/server
      • by fm6 ( 162816 )
        But who does one-off jobs? If you have the expertise to program this kind of massive computing project, you're going to employ that expertise continually.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Doctor Memory ( 6336 )
          I wonder if there will eventually be a dependent subculture built around grids. Companies who sell pre-written (and customizable) solutions that require a grid to run. Companies might buy/license them and run them quarterly, to (say) update/analyze their data warehouse. Or if somebody develops a "killer app" for grids, then they might set up their own and rent it as a distributed computing solution. Maybe develop some kind of adapter for Mathematica, let people run their huge econ simulations, then truc
        • Agreed, and most people who need to do these one-off jobs do them often enough that they have spare hardware to run them on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joto ( 134244 )

      Perhaps I have the economics wrong, but isn't it more cost effective to build your own cluster out of discarded PCs?

      You've got the economics wrong. Building your own cluster out of discarded PCs is not economic. Building your own cluster out of brand new PCs might be.

      Still, leasing is attractive for many reasons. Such as predictable costs, complying with yearly budgets, etc... If you build your own cluster, and find it doesn't work as expected, or you didn't really need it, or whatever, you are pretty

    • Perhaps I have the economics wrong, but isn't it more cost effective to build your own cluster out of discarded PCs?

      How long would it take you to round up a few PC and build a cluster and get it connected to a high badwidth Internet connection? How much do you want to be paid per hour? What are the payrol taxes on your hourly rate. Add this all up. Assume the old PCs are free. OK now you have the buy-in price. How many hours a month will yo need to keep this system running? At what hourly rate?


  • You can also... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

    You can also go fart around with Amazon's Web Services [amazon.com] for fun and profit.

    They rolled this out a few months back, when I was one of the brave few to sit through the presentation at a programmers conference in Santa Clara (for a free t-shirt and pen.) It was actually amazingly cool and I'm planning something of my own with it. (but I ain't telling you because I wouldn't want anyone tempted to swipe my neat idea, like thinkgeek did to me once already.)

  • Great Pricing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kognate ( 322256 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:15PM (#15971195)
    I like their pricing a great deal. It's much, much, much cheaper than many of the alternatives (notable the Sun one) AND you do not have to build your apps to use some proprietary IPC that's no good outside of their cluster.

    For example, lets say I had a MPICH (or even a custom) application that I wanted to run. I'm just some joe schoe, so I
    can't use the cluster in my (academic) department. I can run my application for one hour using 1000 "computers" for about $100 USD.
    That's pretty good. It would cost me $1000 to use the Sun N1 stuff AND I would have to use the N1 grid-engine to develop my app.

    Can't wait to see what comes out of the Beta. People give Amazon a bad rap because they're not Google, but make no mistake: they are innovators too.
  • by w33t ( 978574 ) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:17PM (#15971213) Homepage
    The concept of virtualization is so seductive.

    In our server room we have recently begun virtualizing servers and as a result have begun to think not in terms of physical servers and hard disks anymore, but in terms of resource pools of storage and processing.

    It's like we have been able to smelt our physical machines and from the molten resources forge anew.

    The recoverability and fault-tolerance is amazing as well - if a physical box dies there is basically no interruption in service. If something goes awry with an image we can just pull it and restore from yesterday.

    Seeing Amazon offering what seems to be more of an ocean of resource than a pool is very tantilizing.

    I'm certainly not the first, but I wonder if indeed local operating systems and cpus will become something of an anacronism, and that most processing will someday occur via the internet: that it will become the world-wide-mainframe.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Where's the obligatory link to where Barnes & Noble has it for cheaper?
  • Cost sheet (Score:3, Informative)

    by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @01:25PM (#15971294) Journal

            * 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).

    Data transferred within the Amazon EC2 environment, or between Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3, is free of charge (i.e., $0.00 per GB).

    Amazon S3 usage is billed separately from Amazon EC2; charges for each service will be billed at the end of the month.

    (Amazon EC2 is sold by Amazon Web Services LLC.)
  • Either that, or "Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud" is the name of a new nanobot swarm threat that came out of Brazil.
  • I'm surprised that Amazon isn't using any of the existing methods of creating virtual machine images, especially since it seems likely that they are using some sort of VM technology to do all of this. VMs are the easiest way to provide identical hardware to all of the instances; VMs also provide the tools to efficently load and unload images on demand. I wonder if we'll see different pricing depending on how CPU intensive an instance is. I can see using an instance as a server for less-popular online gam
  • Whoa!

    "Amazon EC2: the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud."

    Say it with me: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

    For God's sake, it's like a Tom Wolfe [wikipedia.org] book!
  • gah? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
    1.7Ghz Xeon?

    tom@bigbox ~ $ cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep "model name"
    model name : AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 885
    model name : AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 885
    model name : AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 885
    model name : AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 885

    1.75GB of ram?
    tom@bigbox ~ $ free
    total used free shared buffer
  • I remember when Sun's grid was out. I tried for days to get pricing, and eventually I was quoted something like $1000 per hour, except I couldnt get one hour.

    I was trying out different parameter combinations in the uCLinux kernel to check compile sizes and functionality, and wanted horsepower to compile every iteration of the kernel. But The Sun deal was a joke, I could build a few Athlon beige boxes and do it cheaper.

    This deal sounds good enough for me to take it out on a spin of a day or two, but I really
  • It seems it is the right moment to revive the Multics [wikipedia.org] project.
  • Maybe that would explain why the last few times I been to the Amazon website that it was unavailable. The grid is sucking up all the available CPU cycles. So much for customer service.
  • This is cool. The ultimate silent machine.

    And think of the possibilities...run a virtual
    machine inside your Amazon VM, totally encrypted
    with ssh tunnels in and out...

    Sorry, I appear to be drooling!

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.