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Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud Overview (4 out of 5)

By most measures, Amazon leads in the cloud computing market. The scalable nature of Amazon EC2 services makes it ideal for

Cloud computing

developers and IT managers who need a varying amount of server capability. Using EC2 you can fire up an instance of an Ubuntu server within minutes to test an application and shut it down minutes later. Users of EC2 pay only for what they use, so as long as they don’t forget about their latest test servers, costs for the service remain manageable. EC2 servers operate independently of each other making it a safe place to develop and host Web applications.

Image Credit: wikimedia commons/ derivative work of Sam Johnston by Jburns2009

Accessibility and Flexibility (5 out of 5)

Unlike Google’s App Engine, EC2 users can literally create any server they need and do what they want with it. The Google solutions require users to use their database and Python. When you fire up a server on the Amazon Cloud, you get full root access and you can run virtual any application you want to run: it’s all up to you. This is why EC2 is tops among cloud providers when it comes to meeting fluctuating needs. When your server is up and running, you can easily invoke your own storage options or use Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service).

When you have machines configured in EC2, you can integrate them together to create powerful server farms. Amazon’s SQS (Simple Queue Service) handles all the connectivity.

Service and Support (3 out of 5)

The service and support you get with Amazon EC2 cloud computing is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. Support services that automate certain operations are available, but often at a cost of valued freedom elsewhere in the space. Some of the automation saves a lot of time, so users must balance freedom and convenience with other factors to determine what support features they want to use or lose.

Ease of Use (2 out of 5)

Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) is scalable and flexible, but that does not mean it is easy to use. In fact, novices who might typically regard EC2 as a fancy Web hosting service might be a bit intimidated once they sign on. For Linux users, the command line rules in the Amazon cloud, so those who are used to point-and-click graphical development may take a while to adapt.

The seemingly endless array of services available to EC2 servers makes it by far the most powerful cloud based infrastructure option on the market, but the complicated interface makes it very difficult for those who have never mastered the terminal.

Pricing (3 out of 5)

Pricing for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud EC2 is fairly straightforward, all things considered. Services scale from the basic on-demand server all the way up to clusters.

Windows services available on EC2 are available but cost nearly 50% more than their Linux equivalents. Service options range from the small default standard on-demand server instance that cost $.085 per hour for Linux and $.012 per hour for Windows and scale upwards for high memory on demand instances ($.50 and $.62 for Linux and Windows respectively) and high CPU on demand instances ($.17 and $.29). You can also quadruple extra large clusters (Linux-based only) for $1.60 per hour. The convenience associated with EC2 offers tremendous value, especially when compared to the features available from other cloud service providers and to physical server alternatives.

A separate price structure is in place for reserved instances and other options. Fortunately, Amazon has all its rates available in a convenient chart format.