Thoughts on Amazon EC2/EBS and the "cloud computing" bandwagon

Amazon EBS is something that I've been waiting for ever since EC2 was announced. Dare Obasanjo rightly pegged it as the final piece of the puzzle.

Right now, "cloud computing" is the buzzword of the moment. This doesn't help create clarity when discussing exactly what it is. So, my definition is:
  • an API to dynamically start, stop & manage instances
  • per-CPU-hour and per-GB billing
This is the epitomy of "computing as a resource". Right now, plenty of people are offering cloud-computing-backed solutions, such as Google AppEngine, Joyent and Rackspace/Mosso. Other people have different parts of the puzzle - for example, 3Tera seem to have imaging sorted out. I'm sure I've missed other companies.

But nobody has what Amazon has. Want 500 servers for an hour? There's no place else to go but Amazon. So, despite all the hype about cloud computing, right now there's only one real market player that has a developed, mature product, and that is Amazon. Nobody else even comes close, and that includes Google.

(And no, I don't own shares.)

I was reading an article about how MS are basically building their new datacenters around shipping containers full of server kit that were constructed directly by manufacturers in China or thereabouts. I can almost guess they've built a standard umbilical cable & docking mechanism for the containers for power, bandwidth & airco. Roboticise the docking/undocking, then all you'd have to do is have a small control center and a foreman to operate the gantry.

To get all hand-wavey, sci-fi and "thereof I cannot speak with clue" for a minute, assuming the containers are airtight, and given that they'll never be open to humans until it's time to scrap/recycle them, why not look at using CO2 as a coolant instead of standard air conditioning? Automatic fire suppression comes free. And given that CO2 is still a gas at -70°C, why not overclock your CPUs to increase your ROI (of course, the energy you spend on cooling and the reduced lifespan of your CPUs due to overclocking is an opposite factor).

If you scrub the CO2 from the atmosphere, and dispose of it safely, you may even make your datacenter carbon neutral and reap tax credits as an additional benefit... (coming soon to a cognizant country near you.)

Fna fna fna.


kmunse said...

One thing Joyent has that Amazon does not have is the ability to alleviate the fears of clients regarding security issues. For example, Joyent uses the same Solaris kernel that banks, insurance companies and health care providers have used and trusted for years, where as, Amazon’s EC2 relies on a completely different “hypervisor” technology based on XEN. This means that every time you bring up an EC2 instance, you get a new IP address. We have found that clients like the fact that Joyent can lock down access to these specific IP addresses via a Tagged VLAN that is defined and controlled in our Force 10 routers. Security is a big issue surrounding the "buzz" regarding cloud computing and I'm not so sure Amazon is the "final piece of the puzzle".

Ian said...

Hi KMunse, thanks for commenting.

Your point about locking down access to specific IP addresses is well taken. However, is it something that your customers can do for themselves via an API? That's what cloud computing is all about.

I've said it before on the blog, but it's worth repeating that there's nothing very cloudy about Joyent except it's internal infrastructure. I'm staying tuned for updates, however :-)