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Amazon's Linux cloud computing out of beta, joined by Windows

Amazon Web Services now offers online access to Windows servers, and Linux gets a reliability commitment. Also: new features coming in 2009.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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  • Shankland covered the tech industry for more than 25 years and was a science writer for five years before that. He has deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and more.
Stephen Shankland
3 min read

A central part of Amazon's online computing foundation is growing up.

The Elastic Compute Cloud, a service that gives customers on-demand access to Linux servers, is now out of beta testing, said Jeff Barr, evangelist for the collection of online options collectively called Amazon Web Services.

"Amazon EC2 is now in full production," Barr said in a blog post Thursday. And as promised, EC2 now offers Windows in a beta test, joining Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris and Solaris Express Community Edition.

Along with those moves, EC2 now comes with a service level agreement, a formal commitment that the service will be available at least 99.95 percent of the time. This type of agreement makes it easier for businesses to place faith in the service. Previously, only the only AWS component with a service level agreement was the Simple Storage Service (S3), which provides online data storage.

Customers pay for AWS according to how much they need: more servers, more storage space, and more network capacity means more charges. But unlike with computing infrastructure built in-house, when customers don't need it anymore, they can stop paying for it. AWS has had outages, but it continues to gain in popularity, and Amazon has been lowering some AWS prices.

Amazon collects multiple gigabits of monitoring data each second for its Elastic Compute Cloud servce.
Amazon collects multiple gigabits of monitoring data each second for its Elastic Compute Cloud servce. Amazon.com

Barr also described features that signal growing sophistication for AWS overall in 2009 that should make it easier to administer AWS--either manually or by letting it run itself better. Barr listed four areas:

• 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, multidimensional monitoring of host resources across any number of EC2 instances, with the ability to aggregate operational metrics across instances, Availability Zones, and time slots.

In a separate blog post, Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogel described some of Amazon's work in ensuring reliability and efficiency.

"We relentlessly measure every possible resource usage parameter, every application counter, and every customer's experience. Many gigabits per second of monitoring data flows continuously through the Amazon networks to make sure that our customers are getting serviced at the levels they can expect and at an efficiency level the business desires," Vogel said.

Among the customers using the Windows version of EC2 are Autodesk, RenderRocket, and Eli Lilly, Amazon said.

"This is a huge step forward in maximizing our results relative to IT spend, and now that Amazon EC2 runs Windows and SQL Server, we have even greater flexibility in the kinds of applications we can build in the AWS cloud," Dave Powers, an Eli Lilly associate information consultant who uses the service to process research data, gushed in a statement.

Autodesk uses EC2 for back-end data processing tasks, said Mike Haley, a senior architect of search engineering, and RenderRocket uses the service for 3D film and TV graphics work for TV and movies, Amazon said.