New things in Amazon's Cloud

Amazon AWS made a big announcement yesterday regarding Windows on EC2:
big-day-for-ec2.htm

There are now a number of Windows 2003 server ami options: Amazon Machine Images

Why does any of this matter to GIS markets? GIS distribution has been revolutionized by a battle of the titans Google Map vs Virtual Earth. The popularity of mashups and the continuing spread of location into enterprise business workflow has moved GIS into a browser interface model. However, the backend GIS is still there on servers. Utility cloud computing makes that back end service more affordable to businesses of all sizes, small to large. Even fortune 500 enterprises can make use of auto-scaling load balancing features for ad hoc distribution of location either internally or public facing.

Here are the Amazon Windows AMI offerings:

Amazon Public Images – Windows SQL Server Express + IIS + ASP.NET on Windows Server 2003 R2 (64bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows SQL Server Express + IIS + ASP.NET on Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Authenticated (64bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows SQL Server 2005 Standard on Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Authenticated (64bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows SQL Server Express + IIS + ASP.NET on Windows Server 2003 R2 (32bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows Server 2003 R2 (32bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows Server Enterprise 2003 R2 (32bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows Server 2003 R2 (64bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise (64bit)

Amazon Public Images – Windows SQL Server 2005 Standard on Windows Server 2003 R2 (64bit)

Pricing:

Standard Instances Linux/UNIX Windows
Small (Default) $0.10 per hr $0.125 per hr
Large $0.40 per hr $0.50 per hr
Extra Large $0.80 per hr $1.00 per hr
High CPU Instances Linux/UNIX Windows
Medium $0.20 per hr $0.30 per hr
Extra Large $0.80 per hr $1.20 per hr

Windows prices are only slightly higher than the Linux counterparts and cheaper than GoGrid’s. The small windows instance at Amazon EC2 is $0.125/hr ($3 per day) and includes:

Small Instance (Default) 1.7 GB of memory, 1 EC2 Compute Unit 1 virtual core with 1 EC2 Compute Unit), 160 GB of instance storage, 32-bit platform

A similar GoGrid instance with 2Gb RAM + 160Gb Storage will run 2x$0.19 = $0.38/hr in the "Pay as You Go Pricing", considerably more than the Amazon instance. GoGrid does offer the newer Windows Server 2008 and prepaid plans are less expensive at $0.16 to $0.24 per hr for a similar configuration. Also the slick user interface at GoGrid shows the utility of a visual monitor.

Speaking of user interface, in addition to all of the Windows AMIs there are announcements of future features for EC2:
new-features-for-amazon-ec2

"Management Console – The management console will simplify the process of configuring and operating your applications in the AWS cloud. You’ll be able to get a global picture of your cloud computing environment using a point-and-click web interface."

"Load Balancing – The load balancing service will allow you to balance incoming requests and traffic across multiple EC2 instances. "

"Automatic Scaling – The auto-scaling service will allow you to grow and shrink your usage of EC2 capacity on demand based on application requirements."

"Cloud Monitoring – The cloud monitoring service will provide real time, multi-dimensional monitoring of host resources across any number of EC2 instances, with the ability to aggregate operational metrics across instances, Availability Zones, and time slots."

These will make EC2 easier to use. The Load Balancing and Management Console have been part of GoGrid’s cloud service for awhile now. They do make life easier. Auto-Scaling will be a great help too. Prior to this scaling has been a more or less manual process at EC2. The Windows market is not as used to command line Bash shell scripting so the introduction of visual UI monitor and control makes sense for this new cloud market.

Here is the lowest cost Windows AMI that will be popular with developers:
ami-3934d050
Amazon Public Images – Windows SQL Server Express + IIS + ASP.NET on Windows Server 2003 R2 (32bit)

It includes the basics for ASP .NET 2.0 web apps on IIS 6.0 with SQL Server Express 2005. Of course once on the system it is easy to upgrade to the newer .NET 3.5 and install all of the GIS stack items required.

Here is the procedure I followed for getting my first Windows ami started:

First sign up and pick up a private/public key along with X509 Certificate at EC2.

Download the latest version of ec2-api-tools

Installation includes setting additional environmental variable as described in the ec2 Getting Started Guide.

EC2_HOME
EC2_CERT
EC2_PRIVATE_KEY
EC2_URL

Add to path variable %EC2_HOME%\bin;

After installation verify that the correct ec2-api-tools are installed:
    ec2ver 1.3-26369 2008-08-08

Now we can use the ec2-api-tools:
   ec2-run-instances ami-3934d050 -k gsg-keypair
   ec2-describe-instances <resulting instance id>

Once your instance is running make sure remote desktop service port is open, at least for the default group:
   ec2-authorize default -p 3389

Also you will need to get the randomly assigned administrator password from the new instance using the instance id returned from ec2-describe-instances and the keypair generated earlier:
   ec2-get-password <your instance> -k <full pathname of the gsg_keypair file>

Now it is possible to Remote Desktop to the url furnished by ec2-describe-instances:
   ec2-**-**-**-*.compute-1.amazonaws.com
   User: administrator
   Pass: *********


Fig 1 – Amazon EC2 Windows 2003 basic instance

Summary:
Amazon continues to expand its utility computing cloud. Virtual Windows OS has been a big hole out there, and Linux has grabbed a big lead in that market between Google web compute engines and Amazon EC2. Windows on EC2 opens Amazon utility computing to a much broader segment of the market and pushes deeper into the small business community. The economic turmoil of the times and consequent cost savings imperatives should make utility computing even more attractive to businesses large and small. It remains to be seen if Microsoft’s RedDog announcement at PDC will open a new competitive front in the utility computing world.

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