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EC2 out of Beta: Now with Windows Support & More

Lucas Chan

Amazon announced today that EC2 is dropping “beta” status and is now production ready. On top of this they are now committing to a 99.95% uptime SLA. If you have yet to consider EC2 as a legitimate alternative to traditional managed/dedicated server hosting, now is a good time to do so.

At SitePoint we design and build our apps with the expectation that they’ll run on hardware that fails early and fails often. Our actual experience with EC2 has been that instance failure is a relatively rare occurrence. The beauty of EC2 is that the cost of recovering from failure (both in time and money) is significantly less than what we’d experience with the traditional (OK, I’ll say it, “legacy”) data-centre model.

Also announced today was beta support for Microsoft Windows Server in EC2. You can choose between running 32 or 64 bit installations and have the option of running Microsoft SQL Server too. Upon launching a Windows instance you can connect to it using the Windows Remote Desktop client and you’re all set. Bundling a Windows instance currently works a little differently and actually involves shutting the instance down as opposed to a Linux instance which stays online during the bundle process.

The next few months will be really interesting for users of Windows Server as its ability to run and perform well in a cloud environment becomes better known and further details of the Windows Cloud OS come to light.

Amazon’s announcements don’t stop there however. To be released in 2009 are a Management Console, Load Balancing, Automatic Scaling and Cloud Monitoring systems. I expect these features will significantly reduce the barrier to entry for new EC2 users because managing the cloud can sometimes be a difficult task.

At SitePoint we developed our own load balancer and cluster management and monitoring tools which gave us some really good knowledge of the EC2 environment, but it’s also been the source of the odd headache and war story (ask me over a beer). Developing your own management systems gives you ultimate flexibility and control but it also means you need to redevelop them in order to take advantage of new EC2 features (like a new instance size, or a new feature like Elastic Block Storage).

Armed with an SLA and a renewed commitment to supporting business critical systems, in addition to offering a broader range of features and operating systems, Amazon has again reinforced its position as leader of the pack in cloud computing.

Image Credit: Mirna Abaffy